American Religious Preference: Change over time

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One of the really useful features of the new edition of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction by Genie Scott is the coverage of the socio-cultural context of the so called “debate” between Creationists and Evolutionary Biologists. This tidbit is an example:


The obvious patterns are interesting. There is a modest drop in overall religiousity over the last twenty years. This drop is entirely acounted for by a drop in Christianity specifically. And the biggest change overall (percentage wise, doing the figures in my head so this is subject to revision) is an increase in the “No religion” category.

Note also that the “Refused to state” category fluctuates dramatically. It is a small number so this may be spurious, but it is interesting. What does that mean?

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0 thoughts on “American Religious Preference: Change over time

  1. The percent of Other non-Christians more than doubled, while the percent reporting no religion almost doubled. I would like to see this in a scatter plot with years spaced to scale at the bottom. The gaps of 11 years and then 6 years make it harder to process the trends. It looks like most of the gains from 2001 to 2007 came from the Refuse to state category. I wonder if post 9/11 paranoia had anything to do with the large nuber not reporting in 2001.

  2. A couple of comments:
    1. The differences between 2001 and 2007 don’t look that great: they could just be sampling variability. What are the standard errors/margins of error/sample sizes.
    2. Were all three surveys done in the same way? i.e. same sampling strategy, same questions etc. This could have an effect on the results. Indeed, the methods for the analysis could cause a change too.
    3. Does the US census ask about religious identity? I couldn’t find anything on their site.

  3. Since the polls weren’t done by the same organization, I wouldn’t read too much into the fluctuations of the ‘no answer’ option – that’s a figure that’s bound to fluctuate between different pollsters, since a lot of it depends on the perceived trustworthiness of the pollster (which is affected by things like the pollster’s name and the age and appearance of the interviewers)and whether the interviewers are told to ‘press for’ an answer (e.g. asking a second time for confirmation). Only 0.8 % not answering seems in the Pew poll seems like an extremely good figure, in that regard.

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