Survey of Youth and Young Adults on Vocations: Introduction

Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University - Washington, D.C.


In winter 2012, the Secretariat of Clergy,  Consecrated Life and Vocations of the United States Conference of Catholic  Bishops (USCCB) commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate  (CARA) at Georgetown University to conduct a national poll of never-married  Catholics regarding their consideration of vocations.  CARA partnered with Knowledge Networks to  conduct the survey in May and June 2012.  The survey was completed by 1,609 respondents. Sixty-five percent of  panel members invited to take the survey completed it. A total of 1,428  respondents are qualified for this analysis resulting in a margin of sampling  error of ±2.6 percentage points.6

Knowledge Networks maintains a  large national sample of households. Its panel (the set of participating  households) is updated frequently and has been assembled by regular random telephone  and mail survey methods, with attempts to closely approximate known demographic  characteristics of the U.S. population.7 Panel  members receive subsidized Internet access and other incentives. For those who  do not own computers, Knowledge Networks provides a television-based Internet  system (MSN TV) for free. These steps ensure that the Knowledge Networks panel  is as reflective as possible of the national population and that it is not  biased towards only those who have pre-existing access to the Internet. At the  time of the survey, 17 percent of those invited to be a part of the Knowledge  Networks panel accepted this invitation.

Knowledge Networks surveys are  conducted “on-screen” and this format allows for the display of longer lists of  information than could be used in a telephone poll.  This feature was important to this project as  it allowed for questions that listed numerous specific media titles. CARA used  the geographic county codes for respondents and diocesan publications so that  the specific local title of diocesan newspapers and magazines would appear  onscreen for respondents. The questionnaire for the survey was developed  collaboratively between CARA and a representative of the Secretariat. This  questionnaire is available in Appendix.

Where possible, this report  includes, comparisons to two surveys conducted by CARA in 2003 and 2008 which  asked questions about vocations to a national sample of U.S. adult Catholics.

As a rule of thumb, every 1  percentage point of the total sample is approximately equivalent to 245,000  never-married Catholics age 14 or older.


  1. A total  of 174 teens who were selected because they have Catholic parents indicated  that they did not themselves self-identify as Catholic. Two respondents  indicated they are currently clergy or religious. Five teen respondents were  removed because CARA determined that their survey was answered by one of their  parents.
  2. A recent  study by Stanford University researchers shows that the Knowledge Networks  panel is representative to well within one percentage point of the U.S. Census  Current Population Survey (CPS) demographics for gender, age, race and  ethnicity, education, and region (Baker et al. 2003. “Validity of the Survey of  Health and Internet and Knowledge Networks Panel and Sampling.”).