We would like to thank M. W Bro. Robert Singer PGM-
NY for putting this Short Talk together. M.W Bro. Singer
was a member of the Masonic Renewal task Farce which was
formed to gather information to help the Masonic Fraternity
in its vitally needed Renewal Program!
HOW DO NON-MASONS AND MASONS
In mid-1988, the Masonic Renewal Task Force,
a group consisting of 21 active Masonic
leaders--Grand Masters, Past Grand Masters,
heads of concordant bodies--held weekendlong meetings in St. Louis and Kansas City to
consider projects and programs that would
benefit the Craft, improve leadership and help
stem the problem of declining membership.
Early on, it was clear to all that what was
needed, as a benchmark for any future planning,
was professionally-conducted opinion research to
ascertain the views of non-Masons and Masons
The Barton-Gillet Company of Baltimore
MD, was retained to manage the research program, with Mr. Dudley Davis, who was experienced in performing similar consultative services for
several Grand Lodges, as the over-all project
director. The field research was conducted by
Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, NJ,
a leading firm in this field.
For practical and financial reasons, it was
decided to conduct two separate phases of
research: Phase I with non-Masons randomly
selected; Phase II with Masons whose names
would be furnished by participating Grand
The results of the non-Mason survey were
presented to the Conference of Grand Masters
of North America at its February, 1989 meeting
in Crystal City, VA. The Masonic survey was
completed in late 1989, and the results were given
to the Grand Masters at their February, 1990
meeting in Salt Lake City.
(MSA has available, at low cost, videotapes of
both presentations, sets of 35mm slides, and the
detailed results in a new Masonic Digest, in addition to this Short Talk Bulletin. Both Scottish
Rite magazines and several Grand Lodge publications have also published summaries of the
This Short Talk Bulletin will provide a brief
outline of the results of each survey, highlighting
the key points, but without detailed editorial
PHASE I--SURVEY OF NON-MASONS
Research was conducted among a random sample of 850 American males over 21 years of age
and 150 females. Telephone interviews lasting 14
to 16 minutes each were conducted with this
group, providing reliable data with a 95%
confidence factor (a 5% margin for error). This
sample size is viewed as being representative of
the attitudes of all American males.
The survey represented an almost perfect correlation, demographically, with available U.S.
AGE: 52% under 40; 26% 40-54; 22% 55 or
INCOME: 28% under $25,000; 44% $25-
50,000; 20% over $50,000; 8% no response.
EDUCATION: 33% high school graduates;
57% with some college.
MARITAL STATUS: The majority were
84% were not currently members of Elks,
Grange, Kiwanis, K. of C., Lions, Shrine, Moose,
Rotary, Masons. Among those who had some
current membership in an organization, most
were members of a local church or synagogue,
and devoted up to 5 hours per month to that
Among non-members, 50% stated they were
not interested in joining any of the groups listed
Among those with any interest in joining, 2%
were definitely interested in joining, while 22%
might be interested. This represents an outside
total of 16 million American men, but many of
these would not be potential Masons due to
religious restrictions and other factors. Still, it
was a large number.
When asked for reasons why they would not
join, 61% cited lack of time--too busy, their
occupation was too demanding, too much time
away from family.
Among those interested in joining, the majori-
ty were under 40 and married. Location, income
and education were not factors. They said that
they would give up to 5 hours a month in time
(their wives said 3 hours!).
Among those who were not members of any
organization surveyed and who were asked to
select from a list of possible reasons for joining,
these were the principal responses:
Chance to meet new friends and to socialize
Engage in community service and charitable
Involvement of the family
SPECIFIC QUESTIONS ABOUT
About 30% said they were familiar with the
Craft; 23% were not very familiar; 30% knew the
name only; 11% had never heard of the group.
When asked which Masonic ideas were most
similar to their own, 45% could not name a single
A majority could not name either an attrac-
tive or an unattractive idea of Masonry. About
lO% thought the Fraternity was too clannish,
secretive or ritualistic.
IMPORTANT: The problem is not dissatisfaction
or unacceptability but lack of knowledge and
SOME SIGNIFICANT CONCLUSIONS FROM
THE SURVEY DATA
Geographical location is not a factor in renew-
ing the Fraternity.
Wives play an important role in the joining
The available market of potential members is
well-defined and of more than sufficient size.
Potential members have specific expectations
The vast majority of Americans know little or
nothing about Freemasonry.
Some who might join consider Freemasonry
too secretive, but the greatest number did not
have enough information to form an opinion.
Nearly all fraternal organizations are facing membership and related problems, and since
Masonry is the largest, its problems are particularly apparent.
The emergence of television, the changing role
of the family and the impact of work and community on the life of the American family, all
play a role in membership and activity decline.
They may also be in conflict with current
Those inclined to join have a generally defined
Under 40-45 years of age
High school or better education
Membership in religious or neighborhood organizations.
A major conclusion is that a substantial number of males available for membership have no knowledge of the Fraternity.
The conclusion is inescapable that unless
American Freemasonry becomes more aware of
the needs and expectations of its potential
members and acts to meet them, possibly through
the process of change, the membership decline
of recent years will continue unabated.
PHASE 11--SURVEY OF MASONS
Research was conducted among a random sample of 1000 Masons from lists supplied by 21
Grand Lodges in the major U.S. geographical
areas. Telephone interviews lasting 14-18 minutes
provided reliable data with a 95% confidence factor (a 5% margin for error). The sample size is viewed as being representative of the nearly 2.7
million American Freemasons.
More than 50% of the membership is 61 or
older; 26% is age 70 or older. This is significantly
older than the American male population in
general as identified in Phase I research.
Nearly 60% have been Masons for 20+ years;
only 8% have been members for 5 years or less.
About 50% of the Craft is retired; the same
percentage continues to work.
Household income was comparable to the
Phase I sample. The older the Mason responding,
the lower was his income.
Only about 30% is involved with other
Masonic organizations: Scottish Rite--20%;
York Rite--10%; Shrine--17%.
The sample said 18% attended nearly every
Blue Lodge meeting, and another 25% attended
three or four times a year. This would seem to
be in conflict with actual experience, and may indicate a lack of pride in the member's not
supporting the Fraternity. If these numbers were
correct a typical lodge of 400 members would
have 72 members out at nearly every meeting, and
up to 172 out three or four times a year. It is more
likely that 10% is active, 90% inactive.
There was some correlation with age here, with
younger members attending a bit more
HOW DO MASONS FEEL ABOUT
Masons, by a very sizeable majority (87%)
reported either that they were "very satisfied"
or "generally satisfied" while only 13% reported
any possible dissatisfaction. A majority said they
were reluctant or opposed to change. Interestingly, even though Masons were satisfied with today's Craft, they did not appear to associate
"satisfaction" with the need to attend lodge.
It would appear that most Masons are content
to take their degrees, identify themselves as a
Mason, not attend lodge, but continue to pay
When asked for important reasons for being
a Mason, 94% said it "gives meaning and
perspective to life," 92% said it "provides moral,
ethical development." This would appear to be
a mismatch with prospective members' interests
(social opportunities, community service, etc.)
This is not a right or wrong question, but points
up how current members might be presenting the
Craft to prospects.
Some 72% of all Masons have no, or only
minor, disappointments with Masonry. Response
in single-digit numbers indicated specific disappointments, such as unfriendly brothers.
Major reasons for not attending lodge on a
regular basis were all time-related: too busy at
work, too busy at home. Secondary reasons, in
the 40-60% range, included points such as: "little happens at meetings, "not much was ac-
complished," "leadership was ineffective." 48%
said they could obtain all the benefits of
Freemasonry without attending meetings.)
Those who were least satisfied with the Frater-
nity (small %) were in favor of changes, such as
making meetings shorter, more interesting, offering educational programs and lodge-sponsored
activities. They rejected reducing the ritual requirements and spending less time on formal
The distance a Mason lived from his lodge was not a factor in his activity nor was the time he devoted to other organizations.
Those most in favor of a more public organiza-
tion were least likely to support advertising and
other uses of public media--an anomaly.
CONCLUSIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS
As with all surveys, one takes selectively from
the information generated depending on one's
personal views and orientation. However, some
general conclusions would seem to be clearly indicated, and are reflected in the steady membership decline of recent years.
Based on lack of public knowledge of the
Fraternity, it appears that we are an organization
largely out of touch with Mainstream America.
Emphasis on being a "secret" organization,
coupled with an ever-faster-moving society, has
hurt membership acquisition.
Questions are raised about Masonry's relevan-
cy to the community. Are we too self-centered,
too inward-turned for the 1990s?
The Craft seems to be struggling with the con-
cept of change.
It is the younger and more active member who
supports change to improve lodge attendance.
By a significant degree, Masons are inactive in
It appears that Masons do not need to attend
lodge to achieve satisfaction. They maintain
membership because of pride. Dues are not a
Masonry is among the most elderly institutions
in America today.
The concordant bodies suffer from the same problems as the symbolic Lodges and are equally at risk.
Left to its own devices, with the prospect of
little change, the Craft could be one-half its present size in 2000 and one-half less again in 2010.
The financial consequences of this loss alone are
difficult to imagine.
Certain fundamental changes need to be considered to bring the Craft in line with the needs
of future members, especially the younger man
with his time constraints and different value
system, as well as the rapidly changing role of
the family in American life.