Study to Track Students’ Changing Attitudes About Faith and Diversity

A new long-term study aims to track changes in students’ attitudes and behaviors in regard to faith and diversity using surveys.

This fall, incoming freshmen at more than 130 colleges and universities nationwide will kick off the study by taking surveys regarding how students with different worldviews and religious backgrounds live, learn, and work together. Students will take additional surveys their sophomore and senior years of college.

The Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) is a collaboration between Interfaith Youth Core — a nonprofit that works with colleges and universities to foster religious pluralism and interfaith cooperation — and education researchers Alyssa Rockenbach of North Carolina State University and Matt Mayhew of New York University.

“We want to use a social science-based approach to inform decisions made on college campuses,” Mayhew said in a statement. “The long-term design of the study will help identify how we prepare students to be global citizens who understand other worldviews and are able to work productively across differences.”

Mayhew and Rockenbach hope the surveys help answer several key questions: How do experiences with diversity affect students’ attitudes and behaviors? Do students perceive their campus to be a safe and supportive place for those differing religious and nonreligious beliefs to express themselves? How do students interact with others who have different worldviews?

The 2015 survey for incoming freshmen asks questions about basic tenets of major religions, as well as personal questions about their participation in experiences such as attending worship services and studying and discussing beliefs with students of different faiths.

Each college and university will receive survey results for its campus. Participating institutions include both public and private colleges and universities, including some with religious affiliations.

“We’re trying to determine which educational experiences help students grow in their appreciation of others with diverse worldviews,” Rockenbach said in a statement. “In a society with many perspectives and religions, we will need leaders with a pluralistic orientation that gives them an appreciation of not only differences, but also values that people have in common.”

This multi-million dollar study is funded by a non-religiously affiliated organization that supports initiatives to foster constructive dialogue across differences and has chosen to remain anonymous. Data from the initial surveys will be available this fall.


*This article was written using information from a June 25 article on