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American Religious Identification Survey, 2008




Kosmin, B. A., Mayer, E., & Keysar, A. (2020, May 5). American Religious Identification Survey 2008.


The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 is the third in a landmark time series of large, nationally representative surveys that track changes in the religious loyalties of the U.S. adult population within the 28 contiguous states from 1990 to 2008. The 2001 and 2008 surveys are replicas of the 1990 survey, and are led by the same academic research team using an identical methodology of random-digit-dialed telephone interviews (RDD) and the same unprompted, open-ended key question "What is your religion, if any?" Interviewers did not prompt or offer a suggested list of potential answers. Moreover, the self-description of respondents was not based on whether established religious bodies or institutions considered them to be members. To the contrary, the surveys sought to determine whether the respondents regarded themselves as adherents of a religious community. The surveys tap subjective, rather than objective, standards of religious identification. The value of this unique series of national surveys, which allows scientific monitoring of change over time, has been recognized by the U.S. Bureau of the Census The Bureau itself is constitutionally precluded from such an inquiry into religion, and so has incorporated NSRI/ARIS findings into its official publication the Statistical Abstract of the United States since 2003.

The ARDA has added five additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 54461
Variables: 33
Weight Variable: POPWGHT

Data Collection

February - November 2008

Original Survey (Instrument)

American Religious Identification Survey 2008

Funded By

Posen Foundation

Collection Procedures

The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 was based on a random digit-dialed telephone and a separate national cell phone survey. The ARIS 2008 survey was carried out from February through November 2008 and collected answers from 54,461 respondents who were questioned in English or Spanish. Results for the ARIS key open-ended question on religious self-identification indicate no statistically significant differences between the RDD sample and the cell phone sample.

Sampling Procedures

The goal of ARIS is to attain large sample sizes in order to achieve reasonable margins of error for not only low-incidence religious groups, but very small denominations as well. While a custom study would be preferred, the only feasible option in terms of cost was to insert the ARIS into an omnibus survey. Omnibus surveys are low cost usually because they share screening and demographic battery costs with other parties who have paid for their questions to be part of the omnibus, and as well, because they are fast-turnaround products with typically low effort. ICR's SSRS omnibus has set itself apart, however, by utilizing a rolling cross-sectional design that rolls samples across two to three waves, allowing samples to be "worked" for as much as three weeks, with a call rule of six attempts, and refusal conversion attempts for all initial refusals. Utilizing these strategies, the SSRS omnibus typically attains the highest response rates of any omnibus in the country.

The sampling error for the full ARIS 2008 is +/- 0.31 percent. The data collection for the ARIS series was conducted by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pennsylvania. The response rate for ARIS 2008 was 18 percent.

Principal Investigators

Barry A. Kosmin
Egon Mayer
Ariela Keysar

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