“I know what you did last Sunday,” claims the title of a new survey.
You skipped church. And then nearly one in seven of you fibbed about attending.
That’s according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released Saturday (May 17). The study, to be presented at the national meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, was designed to measure the “social desirability bias in self-reported religious behavior.”
The survey finds that many Christians — and unbelievers, too — will exaggerate about attending worship in live phone interviews. However, when asked in an anonymous online questionnaire, people will answer more realistically.
On the phone, 36 percent of Americans report attending religious services weekly or more, while 30 percent say they seldom or never go.
But online, a smaller share (31 percent) of people surveyed said they attended church at least weekly, while a larger portion (43 percent) admitted they seldom or never go.
People who don’t attend worship — but say they did — may not mean to lie, said PRRI CEO Robert Jones.
People respond to phone surveys as they think “a good Christian” would or should answer, he said. “There’s an aspirational quality here,” he said. “People see themselves as the kind of person who would go.”
Once you remove the social pressure of speaking on the phone, “you see people willing to give answers that are probably closer to reality,” he said. “People feel less pressure to conform.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Cathy Lynn Grossman