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Religious Affiliation Standard

Religious affiliation assesses the religious composition of the population and can be used with a range of variables to measure cultural diversity

Reference period
2016
Released
3/08/2016
Next release Unknown
First release

Introduction

Background

The Religious Affiliation Standard codifies the concepts, definitions, and methods recommended by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for collecting, processing and presenting quality statistics about the religious beliefs and practices to which people adhere or the religious groups to which they belong.

Religious Affiliation is used to assess the religious composition of the Australian population and can be used with a range of other variables to assist in measuring cultural diversity. The variable provides a means for standardising the way data about religious and spiritual beliefs are collected and disseminated. The Religious Affiliation variable is used by various sectors of Australian society, including religious organisations (for planning their services to members), health and aged care facilities, educational organisations, government agencies and in social research.

Religious Affiliation is considered sensitive information and answering a question about it is optional in all ABS collections (see section 14(3) of the Census and Statistics Act 1905).

Name of standard

This is the Religious Affiliation standard.

Definitions

Nominal definition

Nominally, Religious Affiliation is defined as the religious or spiritual beliefs and practices to which a person adheres or the religious group to which a person belongs.

Operational definition

Operationally, Religious Affiliation is defined as the religion to which a person nominates they have an affiliation. This may include other spiritual beliefs or no religious or spiritual beliefs.

Discussion of issues

Religious Affiliation is self assessed. It is not designed to measure the level of adherence to beliefs or participation in practices common to the nominated religious affiliation.

To improve data quality, it is important to advise respondents that if they do not identify with a religion or spiritual belief, they may answer the question by selecting the 'No religion' option.

Collection of variable data

Scope

Statistical units

Religious Affiliation is an attribute of the statistical unit 'person'. The variable Religious Affiliation applies to all persons.

Question modules

Introduction to the question modules

Religious Affiliation is considered sensitive information and answering a question about it is optional in all Australian Bureau of Statistics collections (see section 14(3) of the Census and Statistics Act 1905).

There are four standard question modules for collecting Religious Affiliation:

  • two detailed question modules, comprising:
    • Alternative one: detailed question module for all persons, and
    • Alternative two: detailed question module for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
       
  • two short question modules, comprising:
    • Alternative one: short question module for all persons, and
    • Alternative two: short question module for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.


The choice of module may be informed by the following factors:

  • information needs
  • cost of processing the data
  • space available in the collection instrument, and
  • respondent burden.


Each alternative to the question modules may be accompanied by a brief explanatory note about why Religious Affiliation is collected, including instructions about how to answer the question. The explanatory note can be included with the chosen question module or in supplementary documentation. The recommended text for the explanatory note is in Appendix A.

For detailed question modules, respondents should be instructed to select one option only.

The response options listed for the detailed question modules include religious groups according to their statistical frequency in Australia, based on data from the Census of Population and Housing. These option lists may be extended to enable longer lists to be displayed such as in electronic collection drop down lists (see Appendix B). If there are space constraints on paper forms, the option lists can be reduced. The 'No religion' option should always be included.

Detailed question modules

The detailed question modules are recommended where extensive data is required on religious affiliation.

Detailed question module - alternative one

(For all persons)

Q. What is [your] [the person's] [(name)'s] religion?

(Answering this question is OPTIONAL)

For example, Salvation Army, Lutheran, Judaism, Humanism, Acts 2 Alliance, Personal Spiritual Beliefs or Taoism.
If no religion, select the last option.

Catholic
Anglican (Church of England)
Uniting Church
Islam
Buddhism
Presbyterian
Hinduism
Greek Orthodox
Baptist
Other - please specify:_________________________
No religion

Detailed question module - alternative two

(For use when collecting data from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities)

Q. What is [your] [the person's] [(name)'s] religion?

(Answering this question is OPTIONAL)

For example, Salvation Army, Brethren, Buddhism, Seventh-day Adventist, Personal Spiritual Beliefs, Aboriginal Evangelical Missions or Jehovah's Witnesses.
If no religion, select the last option.

Catholic
Anglican (Church of England)
Uniting Church
Baptist
Lutheran
Presbyterian
Traditional Beliefs
Other - please specify:_________________________
No religion

Short question modules

The short question modules are suitable when detailed data on religious affiliation is not required. In comparison to the detailed question modules, these modules will use less space in the collection instrument and may increase respondent burden and coding costs.

Short question module - alternative one

(For all persons)

Q. What is [your] [the person's] [(name)'s] religion?

(Answering this question is OPTIONAL)

For example, Judaism, Humanism, Islam, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, Catholic, Anglican, Acts 2 Alliance, Uniting Church, Personal Spiritual Beliefs or Taoism.

Please enter/write your religion or select the option of no religion.

_______________________________

No religion

Short question module - alternative two

(For use when collecting data from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities)

Q. What is [your] [the person's] [(name)'s] religion?

(Answering this question is OPTIONAL)

For example, Traditional Beliefs, Anglican, Catholic, Aboriginal Evangelical Missions, Uniting Church, Lutheran or Baptist.

Please enter/write your religion or select the option of no religion.

_______________________________

No religion

Processing the data

Coding

Australian Bureau of Statistics Religious Affiliation variables are coded using the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2016 (ABS catalogue number 1266.0).

Detailed information about the criteria used to develop the structure of the ASCRG is available in the 'Building the Classification' page of the ASCRG.

Where practicable, it is recommended that data be collected, classified and stored at the most detailed level of the classification. This:

  • allows greater flexibility for the output of data
  • enables more detailed and complex analysis, and
  • facilitates comparisons with historical data and data from other sources.
     

Input categories

    The standard categories for collecting Religious Affiliation using the detailed question modules and short question modules are the 4-digit categories in the ASCRG, including the supplementary codes.

    Coding index

    Coding indexes are tools that support categorisation of information against a statistical classification and contain terms that are not officially recognised (e.g. synonyms and misspelt terms). A coding index may be of use to anyone seeking to code responses to a statistical classification and may be requested by contacting standards@abs.gov.au.

    All responses to questions about Religious Affiliation that are coded to the ASCRG use the coding rules detailed on the 'Index for Coding Responses' page of the publication. Responses are matched with entries in an ASCRG coding index to determine the correct classification code.

    Presenting the data

    Output categories

    The hierarchical structure of the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2016 (ABS catalogue number 1266.0) allows users the flexibility to produce statistics at the level of the classification which best suits information needs.

    Requirements for data quality or respondent confidentiality may preclude output of data at the more detailed level of the classification. Under these circumstances, data can be aggregated and disseminated at the higher levels of the ASCRG.

    Appendix A - explanatory script

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    Explanatory script (this script is provided as information for respondents)

    Religious Affiliation is considered sensitive information and answering a question about it is optional in all Australian Bureau of Statistics collections (see section 14(3) of the Census and Statistics Act 1905).

    Why is the question asked?

    Data collected on religious affiliation informs religious organisations about how many people of their religious group there are in different parts of Australia.

    The data is used by religious organisations (for planning their services to members), as well as health and aged care facilities, educational organisations, government agencies and social researchers.

    Detailed question modules - alternatives one and two

    The respondent selects one option for their religious affiliation from the option list. If the name of the religion is not in the option list, the respondent enters/writes the name of the religion in the 'Other - please specify' category.

    People who have non-theistic religious beliefs or other life philosophies may record their response in the 'Other - please specify' category.

    If a person identifies with no religion at all, select the 'No religion' option.

    If alternative one of the question module is used in the survey instrument, the following optional instructions may be added to the question module or included in supplementary documentation:

    If a person's religion is an Eastern Catholic religion such as Chaldean Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Syro Malabar Catholic or Ukrainian Catholic, they record the name of the religion in the 'Other - please specify' category.

    Short question modules - alternatives one and two

    The respondent enters/writes the name of their religion in the field/space provided.

    People, who have non-theistic religious beliefs or other life philosophies, may record their response in the field/space provided.

    If a person identifies with no religion at all, select the 'No religion' option.

    Appendix B - extended option list

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    Extended option list

    Possible list extension for "detailed question module – alternative one"

    The current option list for this module is:

    • Catholic
    • Anglican (Church of England)
    • Uniting Church
    • Islam
    • Buddhism
    • Presbyterian
    • Hinduism
    • Greek Orthodox
    • Baptist


    In circumstances where it is appropriate to extend the option list, (e.g. electronic collection with drop down or look up lists) the following religious groups may be added below the current options and in the order presented here:

    • Lutheran
    • Sikhism
    • Judaism
    • Jehovah's Witnesses
    • Seventh-day Adventist
    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    • Macedonian Orthodox
    • Salvation Army
    • Serbian Orthodox
    • Maronite Catholic
    • Churches of Christ (Conference)
    • Atheism
    • Coptic Orthodox
    • Agnosticism
    • Russian Orthodox
    • Own Spiritual Beliefs
    • Australian Christian Churches
    • Brethren
    • Paganism
       

    Abbreviations

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    ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
    ASCRGAustralian Standard Classification of Religious Groups

    History of changes

    Show all

    15/06/2018 – this release updates the detailed question module response order and the extended option list in Appendix B based on the results of the 2016 Census.

    31/03/2017 – this release removes references to a coding index that was previously included with the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2016 (ABS catalogue number 1266.0) and states it is available on request.