Survey Reveals Rise in Image for Baylor in Waco

July 1, 2012
Baylor Waco PartnershipBaylor University's annual Heart of Texas Community Tailgate draws hundreds of Central Texas residents to campus for a day of free family fun at Baylor Ballpark.

Strengthened town-gown relationship, "Year of the Bear" athletic success among factors leading to dramatic increase in community pride

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Media contact: Lori Fogleman, (254) 710-6275

WACO, Texas (July 1, 2012) - Follow-up results to a 2008 survey on Baylor University's image in Waco and McLennan County show a dramatic increase how local residents rate Baylor and the extent to which Baylor's athletic success transformed the university's image in the community. The survey was conducted by the Center for Community Research and Development (CCRD) at Baylor.

From March 19 through April 21, the CCRD interviewed 701 adult residents of McLennan County, 512 via traditional landline telephones and 189 respondents by cell phone. The CCRD findings were analyzed by Phil Davignon, M.A., a CCRD research analyst and doctoral student in the Baylor Applied Sociology Program, and Larry Lyon, Ph.D., CCRD director, dean of the Graduate School and professor of sociology.

"While some change is to be expected, the magnitude of this improvement greater than I anticipated," Lyon said. "A lot of the increase is clearly due to athletics, but given the large and across the board increases, some of the other changes at Baylor -- the projected economic impact of the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), a popular new president, reconciliation among various Baylor constituencies - may have contributed as well."

Favorability and Baylor

In 2012, the percentage of McLennan County respondents who rated Baylor "very favorably" increased to 60 percent from 43.5 percent in 2008. Those responding "somewhat" or "very unfavorably" declined to 3 percent in 2012 from 6 percent in 2008.

• The change was especially pronounced among black residents. In 2012, the percentage of black residents rating Baylor "very favorably" rose to 63.8 percent from 30.9 percent in 2008.

• Among Hispanic residents, 54.2 percent rated Baylor "very favorably" in 2012, compared to 45.1 percent in 2008. In 2012, 61.1 percent of white residents rated Baylor "very favorably" in 2012, compared to 45.6 percent in 2008.

• Although both men and women gave Baylor higher ratings in 2012 than 2008, the difference in Baylor's perception by gender was reversed. In 2012, more females rated Baylor "very favorably" (62.4 percent) than did males (57.2 percent), while in 2008, a greater percentage of males rated Baylor "very favorably" (45.8 percent) than females (41.5 percent).

Familiarity with Baylor

Overall familiarity with Baylor did not change for Waco-area residents, the survey found.

• Familiarity with Baylor remained relatively constant from 2008 to 2012. In 2012, 86.5 percent of survey respondents were "somewhat familiar" or "very familiar" with Baylor, compared to 84.7 percent in 2008.

• The age group 25-34 years old was least familiar with Baylor (32.8 percent were "very familiar"), yet had the most agreement that Baylor builds community pride through athletic excellence (64.4 percent "strongly agreed").

• Males remain more familiar with Baylor (48.2 percent "very familiar") than females (37.3 percent "very familiar").

Athletic Success and Baylor's Image

The McLennan County survey suggests another reason for Baylor's enhanced image: the university's remarkable athletics success in 2011-12 now termed "The Year of the Bear." Baylor's 129 combined wins in the four major sports (football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball) set an NCAA record for wins in a single season. All 19 Baylor athletic teams competed in the NCAA postseason. The university also brought home to Waco two national championships, three Big 12 championships, the Heisman Trophy and the Honda Cup, among other high-profile accolades.

In 2012, the percentage of local residents who "strongly agreed" with the statement - "Baylor builds community pride through athletic excellence" - rose sharply to 46.5 percent, compared to 15.6 percent in 2008.

In 2012, the percentage of survey respondents who "disagreed" or "strongly disagreed" with the athletic excellence/community pride statement shrank to only 4 percent from 16 percent in 2008.

Other findings:

• In 2012, 62.1 percent of black residents "strongly agreed" that "Baylor builds community pride through athletic excellence." In 2008, only 11.8 percent of black residents agreed with this statement.

• In 2012, 52.7 percent of females "strongly agreed" with the athletic excellence/community pride statement, compared to 39.4 percent of males. In 2008, 15.2 percent of males and 15.6 percent of females "strongly agreed" that "Baylor builds community pride through athletic excellence."

"Perhaps even more telling, in 2008, Waco area residents mentioned academics first (23 percent) when asked, 'What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Baylor University?' Athletics came in second four years ago at 19 percent," Davignon said.

"In 2012, athletics moved to the top of the list, mentioned by almost half the respondents (47.6 percent) with academics now in second, holding steady at 25.8 percent," Davignon added.

Future Survey Reports

CCRD also asked additional local interest questions of those McLennan County residents surveyed, including:

1. Who chooses to fly out of Waco rather than Dallas, Austin, or Killeen? What airport is the major challenge to Waco Regional among the local flying public?

2. How satisfied are Wacoans with their community? Would they recommend it to people living elsewhere? How do our local assessments compare with assessments of residents in other cities across the nation?

3. What new businesses do Wacoans want to see come into the city? What's on top of the "wish list" for department stores and restaurants?

CCRD faculty and graduate students will analyze the findings and release reports throughout the summer.

ABOUT THE BAYLOR CENTER FOR COMMUNITY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

The Center for Community Research and Development (CCRD) at Baylor University was established in 1979 as a multidisciplinary entity with a mission of engaging Baylor faculty and students in applied social research aimed at improving the local quality of life. Over time, the CCRD has broadened its focus, sometimes engaging in statewide or national research, and the CCRD has become closely linked with Baylor's graduate program, specifically the Ph.D. in Applied Sociology. Still, CCRD's research remains multidisciplinary and many of the CCRD's projects retain a local quality of life focus. For more information, call (254) 710-3811 or visit www.baylor.edu/CCRD.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

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