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Presbyterian Panel Survey, 2015-2017 - Background Survey, All




Androit, A., & Kopacz, J. (2021, August 9). Presbyterian Panel Survey, 2015-2017 - Background Survey, All.


The Presbyterian Panel began in 1973 and is an ongoing panel study in which mailed and web-based 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. New samples are drawn every three years. The main goal of this study is to gather broad information about Presbyterians in terms of their faith (belief, church background, and levels of church involvement) and their social, economic, and demographic characteristics (age, sex, marital status, living arrangements, etc.). Collected at the start of each new panel, the background variables provide information on all participants in the 2015-2017 panel.

Data File

Cases: 2424
Variables: 170
Weight Variable: None

Data Collection

July 14, 2015 - April 15, 2016

Funded By

Congregational Ministries Division, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Collection Procedures

Note: The description of the collection procedures below is quoted from Appendix B: Technical Notes - Establishment of the 2015-2017 Presbyterian Panel

The Panel consists of two samples, representing two constituency groups, or populations, of people affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). The PC(USA) consists of congregations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.


The Member sample, compiled between October 2014 and July 2015, includes active members (including ruling elders) and attendees of congregations affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but not including people unable to complete a survey for health or other reasons. At the end of 2014, the total active membership of the PC (USA) was 1,667,767.

Teaching Elders

The population of teaching elders (ministers of Word and Sacrament) is defined as the people 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 teaching elders are not included. At the time of drawing a random sample of teaching elders for the Panel (June 2015), the population of active teaching elders totaled 10,962.

A total of 6,812 panelists (sampled and volunteer) were invited to participate in this initial Panel background survey. Surveys were distributed via both web-based and paper questionnaires in English, and also offered online in Spanish and Korean. The paper questionnaire was mailed (along with a Communications Panel questionnaire, a cover letter, an informational sheet about the Panel, and a postage-paid reply envelope) on July 14, 2015 to 5,483 individuals who were sampled to become panelists. (This number of invitations sent does not include emailed invitations or invitations later sent to people we currently didn't have contact information for.) In addition, the entire population of worshiping communities for whom we had mailing addresses was sent invitations for their leader or a participant to join the Panel. A website was listed on the paper questionnaire, where panelists had the option to complete the survey online.

All Panel volunteers signed up to become panelists through an online form, displaying their ability to use the Internet. As a result, all Panel volunteers were only sent email invitations - not mailed invitations - to participate in the Panel. A pre-notice email was sent through MailChimp to Panel volunteers on May 28, 2015. The web survey was distributed on June 2, 2015 via email invitation to 1,072 Panel volunteers. Panel volunteer non-respondents were sent an email reminder on June 23, 2015.

Throughout the following months, additional reminders were mailed or emailed to non-responding panelists, and invitations were mailed/emailed to panelists we did not initially have contact information for, seeking their participation. Returns for both versions of the survey were accepted through April 15, 2016.

In the end, 2,424 panelists completed this survey, and the response rate (total surveys answered/total surveys sent) is 35 percent.

Sampling Procedures

Note: The description of the sampling procedures below is quoted from Appendix B: Technical Notes - Establishment of the 2015-2017 Presbyterian Panel

The sampling procedures for the 2015-2017 Presbyterian Panelists included drawing representative samples for each population, as well as inviting Presbyterians to self-select into the Presbyterian Panel.


Lacking exhaustive, national lists of all active members of PC(USA) congregations, we implemented a two-stage sampling process for members. We used proportional, stratified sampling to ultimately draw a sample of 978 congregations from 10,002 congregations across the country. Congregational strata were based on: region of congregation's location, race ethnicity of the congregation's membership, and membership size.

Sampled congregations were asked to send their entire membership list, to allow Research Services to randomly sample approximately five percent of their members to serve as panelists.

Pastors and Specialized Ministers

A list of all teaching elders is maintained by the Office of the General Assembly based on reports from stated clerks of presbyteries. A simple random sample of 2,500 active teaching elders (that is, not retired or emeritus) was drawn. This sample includes both pastors (who serve in a congregation) and specialized ministers (who serve in a school or seminary, as a hospital or military chaplain, as staff of a PC(USA) national agency or mid-council, in an ecumenical agency, or in any other (church-related or not church-related) job or position).

Principal Investigators

Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Angie Androit, Principal Investigator and Joelle Kopacz, Co-Investigator

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