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When surveyed, liberals tend to exaggerate religious ties

When surveyed, liberals tend to exaggerate religious ties

From the Public Religion Research Institute:

A new PRRI study, “I Know What You Did Last Sunday: Measuring Social Desirability Bias in Self-Reported Religious Behavior, Belief, and Belonging,” asked random samples of Americans identical questions about religious attendance, affiliation, salience and belief in God on two surveys – one via telephone and the other online – and compared the results.


The research shows that every subgroup of Americans inflates their levels of religious participation, with young adults, Catholics and white mainline Protestants particularly likely to inflate the frequency of their attendance at religious services.

The New Republic offers some perspective:

Michael Wear, the director of faith outreach for both of President Obama’s campaigns, says religion is disproportionately represented in politics because it’s equated with compassion, charity, and fairness. “People want to align themselves with those kinds of ideals. People use religion as a stand-in for a whole number of traits we deem desirable from a secular perspective.”

But does the disparity in liberals’ responses to the PRRI poll suggest that many of them are hesitant to admit publicly that they’re not as religious as they claim?

“I think there’s absolutely a level among liberals of not wanting to be defined by their lack of belief,” says Wear. “But there’s also an element of wanting to hold on to the spiritual benefits or comfort of theological beliefs that come with religion, while not wanting to be associated with a lot of the public implications of faith, including social issues.”

Why do you think liberals can’t seem to get their stories straight about whether they attend church or believe in God?

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Priscilla Cardinale

I read the report and the author of The New Republic article is, to say the least, stretching the results of the survey in a very partisan manner.

I find your headline and your question to be highly inflammatory and not at all indicative of the nuanced and detailed results of the survey.

The report mentions that liberals tend to exaggerate the importance of religion in their lives when interviewed by phone rather than when taking an online survey. Conservatives are more consistent in their answers.

The rest of the report focuses far more on categories such as age, denominational affiliation, region, and race.

The report's conclusion states:

"Yet our results confirm that, despite the shifting cultural and religious contours, there are powerful social incentives for Americans to embellish their religious résumés. Yet, if belief, belonging and behavior constitute the primary elements of individual religiosity, not all of these elements are equally likely to be misreported.

Consistent with previous research, we find that Americans continue to over- report their religious attendance on telephone surveys—although the degree to which they do so varies substantially between different religious traditions. Heretofore, research has not addressed whether other religious characteristics might also be prone to exaggeration. We find that Americans interviewed on telephone surveys also over-report religious salience, the extent to which religion is a central feature in their lives. Notably, the patterns of religious affiliation do not differ between the survey modes, nor does self-reported belief in God."

There is no emphasis on "liberals" outside the brief mention made earlier.

Is The Lead trying to become a Fox affiliate with this type of article and headline?

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