The Presbyterian Panel began in 1973 and is an ongoing panel study in which mailed questionnaires are used to survey representative samples of constituency groups of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). These constituency groups include members, elders, pastors serving in a congregation, and specialized clergy serving elsewhere. Panels are re-sampled every three years. The main goal of this study is to gather broad information about Presbyterians in terms of their faith (beliefs, church background, and levels of church involvement), and their social, economic and demographic characteristics (age, sex, marital status, living arrangements, etc.). The May 1998 survey focuses on communications across the church.
- Data File
- Cases: 777
Weight Variable: None
- Data Collection
- Date Collected: November 1996 (Background questions) and May 1998
- Funded By
- Congregational Ministries Division, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
- Collection Procedures
- Data were collected by self-administered mail surveys. "In the initial mailing, each sampled individual was sent a 9"x 12" envelope (personally addressed) containing the following materials: a personally-addressed letter (with pre-printed signature) from the Moderator of the 1996 General Assembly, the Reverend John M. Buchanan, encouraging participation; a personally-addressed cover letter (individually signed) from John P. Marcum, Panel Administrator; a sheet (printed on front and back) describing the Panel in question-and-answer format; a 1-1/2" diameter circular wall magnet with the PCUSA seal; a postage-paid, business-reply envelope; and a copy of the questionnaire. ... Overall design of the survey and mailings followed the 'Total Design Method'." (see Dillman. 1978. Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method. New York: John Wiley & Sons.) (Technical Notes: Establishment of the 1997-1999 Presbyterian Panel)
Initial mailings to individuals in all samples began in November 1996 and were completed in January 1997. All individuals received a reminder postcard from the Panel administrator two weeks after the initial mailing, and a month after that, a duplicate questionnaire was sent to persons not responding. Finally, a third reminder with a replacement questionnaire was sent to the remaining non-respondents in the members and clergy samples.
"The Panel consists of three samples, each drawn from a separate constituency group, or population with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The PCUSA includes congregations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico." (Technical Notes)
"The member sample was drawn from the population of all active members of congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)... [However,] elders currently serving on session, members known to be living more than 50 miles from their congregation, and persons unable to complete a mailed survey [were excluded]. At the end of 1995, the total active membership of the PCUSA was 2,665,276. Subtracting the 115,663 active elders, the approximate population for the member sample was 2,549,613." (Technical Notes)
"The population of elders is defined as the subset of active members of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations (1) who both have been ordained to the office of elder by a PCUSA church (or a church affiliated with one of its predecessor denominations) and (2) who are currently serving on the session of a PCUSA congregation." (Technical Notes)
Clergy or Ministers of the Word and Sacrament
"The population of ministers of the Word and Sacrament is defined as those persons who have been ordained to this office and continue to hold it as members of a presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Retired or emeritus ministers are excluded. In 1996, the population of active ministers totaled 14,384." (Technical Notes)
- Sampling Procedures
- "Three representative samples were drawn, one from each of the three populations above, using probability techniques.
"Lacking an exhaustive list of active members of all PCUSA congregations, [the investigators] used a two-stage sampling process, first sampling congregations, then members within each of the sampled congregations. Using proportional stratified sampling, 425 congregations were drawn from the list of 11,366 congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the end of 1995. Strata were based on membership size, using increments of 50.
"Each sampled congregation was sent a form and detailed set of instructions for sampling eight names from the membership. These instructions asked each congregation to number, consecutively, the names of all current active members using a standard list (e.g., in alphabetical or zip code order). Next, they were requested to send the Panel the names, addresses, phone numbers, and other information for the individual members whose numbers in this process corresponded to one of the eight random numbers generated for that congregation by the Panel." (Technical Notes)
"... Responses were accepted until early in 1997, although most congregations responded by the end of September. A postcard reminder and second copy of the form and instructions were sent to non-responding congregations on July 8 and August 1, respectively. Because congregations with large racial-ethnic (i.e., non-white or Latino) memberships and those with few total members (<100) were less likely to respond, in September Panel staff phoned all non-responding congregations in these categories to encourage participation. In all, 310 congregations (73%) provided completed forms. Included in this total were 5 (of the 16 sampled) congregations with majority racial-ethnic memberships, and 138 (out of 187 sampled) congregations with no racial-ethnic members.
"On average, sampled congregations that completed and returned a form listed seven eligible names. The total sample size was 2,163." (Technical Notes)
"Elders were sampled from the same 425 congregations drawn for the membership sample. A national list of current elders, based on annual reports by congregations to their presbyteries, is maintained by the Office of the General Assembly. At the time of the sampling (July 1996) this database contained names of elders from 385 of the 425 sampled congregations, and had been recently updated. Random sampling was used to draw (1) 4 names from each of the 385 congregations, then (2) 1 name from half of these congregations, and finally (3) 1 name from one-tenth of these congregations. Once duplicate names were eliminated, the total sample of elders equaled 1,759." (Technical Notes)
Clergy or Ministers of the Word and Sacrament
"A list of all ordained ministers of the Word and Sacrament is maintained by the Office of the General Assembly, based on reports from stated clerks of presbyteries. A total sample of 2,530 was drawn in three steps. First, all ministers serving as pastors (including associate, interim, stated supply, tentmaker, etc.) at the 425 congregations chosen for the member sample were included (n=666). The rest were then drawn randomly from the remaining list of all active ministers. Finally, the resulting sample was compared with the list of ministers sampled in 1993 for the 1994-1996 Panel, and names appearing on both samples were struck to reduce respondent burden.
"For most analyses, the ordained minister sample is split into pastors (those serving a congregation) and specialized clergy (those serving in all other settings, both church-related and not). This division is effected from responses to questions on current call asked on the initial survey." (Technical Notes)
Response rates in 1996, by sample, were: Members, 63 percent; Elders, 75 percent; Ministers of the Word and Sacrament, 75 percent.
"A systematic attempt to interview all member non-respondents by telephone provided evidence of partial non-response selectivity in that sample, with more active and involved members being somewhat more likely to complete and return by mail the Panel survey. However, responding and non-responding members were similar in terms of demographic characteristics, ..." (Technical Notes)
- Principal Investigators
- Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and John P. Marcum, Panel Administrator
- Related Publications
- Background Report for the 1997-1999 Presbyterian Panel. 1997. Louisville, KY: Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Social Justice and Social Welfare: Report for the August 1997 Presbyterian Panel. 1997. Louisville, KY: Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).