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What Students Think About Religious Diversity

Emerging Interfaith Trends:

A New Report on Student Interfaith Experiences and Attitudes


Alongside race, gender, and sexuality, issues of religious identity and diversity are challenging higher education more and more each day. Nationally, we are experiencing both unprecedented levels of religious diversity and extreme political rhetoric stemming from that diversity. Campuses can give us a window into the very near future of interfaith relations in America, as educators gauge whether or not their students are leaving college equipped to engage across one of the most potentially divisive lines of difference in American life.

Interfaith Youth Core and our research partners at The Ohio State University and North Carolina State University are proud to present Emerging Interfaith Trends, a report of key findings from the first year of the Interfaith Diversity Experiences & Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS). You can download this free report at IFYC.org/trends.

IDEALS follows the fall 2015 cohort of first-term college students over the course of four years, gauging their affinity for interreligious cooperation, attitudes towards various worldview groups, and what they expect of their institutions when it comes to religious diversity. This first report takes a look at the perspectives of over 20,000 incoming first-years across 122 U.S. colleges and universities.

Highlights from these findings include:

  • A large majority of students (85%) say it is "important" for their campuses to provide a welcoming environment for individuals of diverse religious backgrounds and non-religious perspectives. Religious diversity is prioritized similarly to other aspects of campus inclusion such as race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
  • Despite high expectations for interfaith engagement, far fewer students actually engaged in interfaith activities prior to college, suggesting a gap between values and action.
  • Student attitudes for other worldviews vary significantly. More than half of students surveyed reported high "appreciative attitudes" toward Buddhists (55%), Jews (53%), liberal people (53%), and evangelical Christians (52%). However, impressions of certain groups are more tenuous, with less than half of students indicating highly appreciative attitudes toward atheists (47%), transgender people (45%), Hindus (46%), Muslims (43%), conservative people (41%), and Latter-day Saints/Mormons (39%).

Explore these and other trends by downloading the report today: IFYC.org/trends

We hope that these findings help you consider new ways your institution might better address religious diversity issues. Don't forget to share with colleagues and stay up to date on new findings by following us on Twitter at @ifyc.


Published: Thursday, July 20, 2017
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