Survey Methodology

The Religious Freedom Index is created from data gathered in an annual online poll of a nationally representative sample of American adults 18+ (n=1,000). The poll explores Americans’ attitudes on religious freedom and tolerance. Respondents for this survey are those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. To ensure representation matching the US population, the survey screens a sample that is representative by gender, age, ethnicity/race, and region matching US Census figures.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate.  Online opt-in panels such as the one used for this study do not use probability sampling and accordingly the strict calculation of sampling error is not typically done.  In the hypothetical case of a perfectly random sample and no response or measurement errors, a sample of this size (n=1000) would produce a margin of error of ± 3.1% at a 95% confidence interval. Margins of error for subgroups would be higher.

Index Construction

  • The poll includes 21 questions that contribute to the Index.  The poll also includes additional questions that are not calculated in any of the Index dimensions and may change from year-to-year based on current events. The polling is scheduled to take place each year between mid-September and mid-October.
  • Heart and Mind Strategies constructed The Religious Freedom Index: American Perspectives on the First Amendment via factor, path and conceptual analysis including second-factor modeling. The index contains 6 dimensions. Each dimension is calculated by using and scoring individual responses to questions identified on page 3. Within each dimension, the scores on individual responses are used to calculate a summated score for that dimension and re-scaled from 0 to 100. The average of all six of the dimension scores is then used to create the final Index indicator.
  • The index uses a scale that ranges from 0 to 100, where 0 indicates complete opposition to the principle of religious freedom at issue and 100 indicates complete support for the same principle.

Becket did not participate in the gathering or coding of responses, or in the scale-construction. Rather, Becket contributed its broad expertise representing people of all faiths in religious liberty cases to ensure that the polling instrument broadly reflected America’s many diverse religions and the full spectrum of religious liberty issues.


Full Questionnaire available in Appendix of full report available here.

IRB Information available here.