Fall 2017 Articles, Politics, Religion

Religion at NCSU

In our “Big Poll” survey, we asked NC State students to identify their religious affiliations.  A comparison of the responses of NC State students with residents of North Carolina and the general US population has been tabulated below.

Over half (52%) of NC State students consider themselves to be Christians.  A similar percentage of students (49%) identified as Christian in a Pack Poll survey from 2015, and there does not appear to be a statistically significant difference in the percentage of Christians at NC State between the two surveys.  Surprisingly, over 40% of students identifying as Christian denied being associated with the Catholic Church or a Protestant denomination.

The fact that 21% of students identify as “Other Christian” is a point of interest.  As the above chart implies, Catholics and Protestants comprise an overwhelming majority of Christians in North Carolina and in the United States as a whole.  It is unclear what “Other Christians” consider themselves to be.  Perhaps many young Christians are nominal Protestants and Catholics who feel only weak attachments to their “official” denominations.  As demonstrated by the chart below, previous Pack Poll surveys that omitted the response option “Other Christianity” yielded significantly larger margins of Catholics and Protestants.

The differences in the percentage of Christians identifying as Protestants and Catholics between the two years is staggering.  Furthermore, it is not plausible that two out of every five Catholics and two out of every three Protestants at NC State converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in the last 24 months.  Religious affiliation among Christian students seems to be more fluid and amorphous than first appearances would suggest.

On another note, NC State students are far more likely to identify as atheist, agnostic, or apathetic towards religion compared to adults across the United States.  About 41% of students are religiously unaffiliated compared to just 20% of North Carolinians and 23% of Americans.

In our most recent survey, we modified the list of religious affiliations respondents could self-identify as in order to more easily compare our results with national surveys.  For example, a Pack Poll survey from 2015 asked students to identify as Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, Agnostic, or Something Else.  Almost a quarter of respondents identified as Something Else.  But in the most recent survey, we allowed students to identify as “Nothing in Particular”.  The results of the change can be seen below.

When a “Nothing in Particular” option is added to the survey, the percentage of students identifying as “Something Else” (i.e. “Something besides Christianity or Unaffiliated”) plummets from 22% to 7%.  By not including a “Nothing in Particular” option, the 2015 Pack Poll survey inflated the number of religious minorities attending NC State and under-counted the proportion of religiously unaffiliated students at NC State.  Nearly a fifth of students at NC State (18%) pay little attention to religion one way or another; these individuals have not necessarily rejected belief in God, but it would be misleading to include this group with individuals that identify as Jewish, Muslim, Mormon or Hindu.

On a less serious note, if you are wondering whether that cute classmate shares your sentiments towards the Divine, the Pack Poll is here to give you the odds!



A Toplines report for all survey questions, and results, is available here: Big Poll Fall 2017 Toplines

NOTE ON METHODOLOGY: This semesters’ “Big Poll” took place October 23-27, 2017. The survey was administered over the internet to a random sample of 4,500 NCSU undergraduates and 871 completed the survey, generating a 19.4% response rate. Assuming a 50-50 division in opinion calculated at a 95 percent confidence level, the margin of sampling error for this survey is +/-3.25% when questions were answered by the full sample; sampling error increases for estimates when three or more choices were offered, when fewer respondents were asked a version of a question, or when analyzing the opinions of sub-groups, such as when looking just at how females responded to a question.

In addition to sampling error, other forms of non-sampling error occur in surveys, such as confusion about question wording or the order of questions, and non-response bias (low response rates), but these types of error are not precisely quantifiable. We do not apply post-stratification sample weights for the slight demographic imbalance in gender because weighting the data would not have noticeable effects on the results.

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