People's perceptions of the Quakers
1. A survey of 1,000 people
DVL Smith Ltd, an independent market research agency run by Dr David Smith, a former Chairman of the Market Research Society, has undertaken a survey of 1,000 individuals living in England, Scotland and Wales to assess their perceptions of the Quakers. This size of sample provides a robust platform upon which to assess individual's awareness, and understanding, of the Quakers. The survey was conducted in June 2009.
2. Awareness of the Quakers
77% of the people interviewed, when read a list of different religious groups, claimed to be 'aware' of the Quakers. A further 3%, after a 'prompt', said they had 'some awareness'. Thus in total we find 80% of respondents claiming awareness of the Quakers.
3. Perceptions of the Quakers
Those aware of the Quakers were asked to recall what comes to mind when they heard the name the 'Quakers'. This shows that there is considerable confusion amongst people about the role and beliefs of the Quakers. Thus we find 59% of those aware of the Quakers mentioning (at least one) inaccuracy when asked to describe the Quakers. For instance, some people perceive the Quakers as being 'strict and puritanical' and/or as being 'old fashioned' and 'avoiding modern technology'.
4. Attitudes towards the Quakers
Respondents were asked to say whether they agreed or disagreed with number of different statements about the Quakers. This line of enquiry highlighted that three quarters of respondents realise that the Quakers are still an active, not dormant, movement. In addition, six in ten were aware that the Quakers are pacifist / peacemakers.
However, outside these two dimensions, there was a considerable mix of views about what the Quakers represent. For instance, five in ten respondents thought that the Quakers are 'very strict' in their religious outlook, and a further three in ten were not sure whether the Quakers were strict or not. In addition, there was a spread of views, coupled with considerable uncertainty, over whether the Quakers were radical / evangelical in their approach, or more liberal. For example, around one third of respondents agreed with the statement that the Quakers were 'evangelical', while one third disagreed with this idea, and one third did not know one way or the other. Similarly there were widely differing views, and uncertainty, over whether the Quakers were a closed organisation, or whether they were open and involved with social action. For example, 23% agreed with the statement that the Quakers were a 'closed group', while 39% disagreed, 38% did not know.