Seeing Unlike a State

Paul Harvey

Just a bit more on the ARIS survey, and various responses to it, which we've blogged about it here twice already in the last few days. Deep in the lower depths of this semester it's been hard to investigate this much on my own, so thanks for those that we've linked to here for giving us useful commentary to interpret and contextualize the numbers. Here's one more, that discusses the free market of religious surveying (since the federal government does not collect statistics -- hence the result that these religion surveys involve seeing unlike a state), and how the surveyors often find what one might expect they would find: Nathan Schneider, "Seeing What They Wanna See," from Religion Dispatches, along with his more informal entry on his blog, here. Nathan has a suggestion that speaks to my own heart: that religion scholars create an NCAA-bracketology-like betting pool to bet on what numbers will go up or down as these various surveys get reported:

If you’re used to following religion news, there’s this occasional ritual that happens when one of the major polls gets released. The newspapers find the most sensational story they can in the numbers, then they pretend to freak out on the front page for a day, and then everybody happily forgets about the whole thing (except a poor handful of social scientists who actually have to rely on the numbers in their research). Come to think of it, we religion folks should start a pool and gamble on what comes out each time.


I'm glad you found that article helpful. Let me draw your attention to another piece, which I just published on The Row Boat: an essay by Darren Sherkat, one of the sociologists I interviewed. It explores the question of response rates, which in his eyes renders all the best-known, most-publicized religion surveys close to useless.
eric said…
I'll put 10 bucks on "rise of Mithraism"...