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Discussion 3 to Meditation 958
Study confirms people lie in surveys on religious attendance

by: JT

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In a study of how people answer questions on church attendance comparing the question asked over the phone by a person answering an online survey,  the Public Religion Research Institute concluded that Americans exaggerate.

On a phone survey conducted by an actual person, 36 percent of Americans claimed attendance at religious services weekly or more often, while only 31 percent said the same when answering the question online. Meanwhile, 30 percent of phone respondents said they seldom or never go to a weekly service. Online, that share jumped to 43 percent.

As a caveat, I'd suggest it is possible that a different class of people are being reached through online surveys than through phone surveys. And online surveys participants tend to be more self-selecting than those reached by telephone. This may account for some of the difference.

But it is pretty clear that there is a substantial difference in the answers given to a real human being than in selecting an onscreen checkbox. According to one of the authors of the study it is because respondents feel that church attendance is the social norm, and there is pressure to live up to the norm when dealing with another person.

It should be noted that at even at the 31% level claimed online for weekly or more often church attendance, there is still significant exaggeration over the 20% level that actual church attendance statistics show.


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