Favorability & Opportunity with Catholic Families for Christian Schooling: Are We Missing a Receptive Audience?

Paul NealThe CACE RoundtableLeave a Comment

In April 2018, Charter Oak Research, conducted a national survey on Christian parents of school age children. The research explored favorability toward Christian school options. This research focused on evangelical protestant options and school profiles – descriptions were clearly noted as such for respondents. The sample included both protestant and catholic respondents and they were segmented by this self identification for some of the analysis.

The following results highlight some of the findings and demonstrate a strong awareness, favorability and potential market among catholic families for the distinctly evangelical protestant school option.

This was the first national survey that Charter Oak has conducted for our own research purposes and in support of our broader work with clients. This is different from the marketing research that we do for individual schools around the country.

Here is how the 2018 National Survey was conducted:

  • 1200 person national survey
  • Self identified Christian parents of school aged children
  • Segmented by church involvement, income, denomination, etc.
  • Income quota limited respondents to viable prospects for private school

Some initial findings were interesting but not surprising:

Net Promoter Scoring is a powerful way to understand customer satisfaction and drive customer loyalty and retention. It is based on only one question, “how likely are you to recommend X to a friend or colleague?” It is easily derived by subtracting detractors from promoters. There is a great deal of literature explaining why certain scores are promoters and others are detractors. But, the brief explanation is that only a score of 9 or 10 is a promoter and any 0-6 is a detractor.

Protestant +29
Catholic +48
<$125K +35
>$125K +40

The Catholic audience is generally more likely to promote whatever their current school option is for their children than are the Protestants. No factors such as the effect of income or where they are located seem to be correlated with these scores. The Catholic audience is more likely to have their children in a private school than are the protestants – this seems to be the key driver for the score differences. Not surprisingly, income has a significant yet relatively small effect on NPS – most likely driven by high income families with the ability to live in higher performing areas and the ability to choose private school options. This is likely offset some by a generally more discriminating audience than lower income respondents.

We also asked our audience whether they had considered other options for their children.

Likelihood to have considered other options
Protestant 51%
Catholic 68%
<$125k 57%
>$125k 61%

There was a significant variation between Catholic and Protestant families on this question. There was less variation based on income categories for this question. However, income does provide opportunities for residency choices that seem to contribute to a diminished need to consider other schooling options.

Next, we asked our audience how favorable they were toward private and then Christian school options:

Favorability toward Private Education Protestant Catholic
Mean 3.5 4.0
Top 2 52% 75%
Bottom 2 16% 8%


Favorability toward Christian Education <$125k >$125k Protestant Catholic >2 Church Services/Month <2 Church Services/Month
Top 2 60% 64% 56% 69% 74% 34%
Bottom 2 13% 16% 18% 11% 7% 30%

We noticed little to no variation based on income. Catholic parents are significantly more favorable toward private education than Protestant parents (this question was a 5-point scale where 1 was not at all favorable and 5 was extremely favorable). The greatest predictor of favorability is church attendance. While little variation was seen based on income, higher income parents are more sharply divided on the favorability toward Christian education question. Catholic parents were significantly more favorable toward Christian education than Protestant parents (again, the question was a 5-point scale where 1 was not at all favorable and 5 was extremely favorable).

After understanding the audience’s receptivity toward private & Christian education, we showed the respondents a profile of an evangelical protestant Christian school. Our goal was to explore their willingness to consider this option and then learn how movable their opinions were from before seeing the profile to after. First we asked them the overall appeal of the profile:

Overall Appeal Protestant Catholic
Mean 3.6 3.8
Top 2 58% 68%
Bottom 2 18% 12%


Overall Appeal >2 Church Services/Month <2 Church Services/Month
Mean 4.0 3.1
Top 2 73% 42%
Bottom 2 7% 30%

Here, income was not a significant factor in driving appeal. Catholic parents responded more favorably toward the profile than Protestant parents (68% very favorable or favorable for Catholic parents compared to 58% for Protestant parents). However, frequency of church attendance was the greatest predictor of appeal. We then asked our sample how likely they were to consider this school for their children:

Likelihood of considering Protestant Catholic
Mean 3.1 3.6
Top 2 43% 57%
Bottom 2 31% 19%


Likelihood of considering >2 Church Services/Month <2 Church Services/Month
Mean 3.7 2.6
Top 2 62% 25%
Bottom 2 15% 44%

For this final set of questions, income effect, though explored, was not a significant factor in driving appeal. Catholic parents responded significantly more strongly than Protestant parents on their likelihood to consider this distinctly evangelical protestant option for their children (57% to 43%). Again, frequency of church attendance was the greatest predictor of likelihood to consider (62% vs. 25%).

These results clearly show a receptivity toward Christian schooling among a target audience that many evangelical Protestant schools have not pursued. I would love to hear about experiences that either confirm these finding or challenge them with data from your your own situation (including qualitative data).


  • Paul Neal

    Paul T. Neal serves as the Director of Operations at CACE. Paul brings years of experience in marketing research and enrollment management expertise to the team. Paul has presented and been published on the use of normative data in analysis, respondent motives, trends in education and online communities, and respondent quality. Paul joined the team after serving as Senior Vice President for Advancement and Communications at Cairn University. Prior to founding research firm Charter Oak Research (now part of CACE), Paul was a Principal at Olson Research Group for 15 years as well as serving as the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University responsible for qualitative research on political culture and U.S. Public Policy. Paul has served as an adjunct faculty member at several Philadelphia area universities. Paul is a graduate of Eastern (B.A.) and Villanova (M.A.) Universities and attended Temple University for further graduate study.

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