Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pray tell: Americans stretching the truth about church attendance

Date:
December 1, 2010
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
A new study finds that Americans are much more likely to exaggerate their attendance at religious services than are people in many other countries.

A new University of Michigan study finds that Americans are much more likely to exaggerate their attendance at religious services than are people in many other countries.

"Americans have long been viewed as exceptionally religious compared to other nations in the developed world," said Philip Brenner, a research fellow at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and the author of the study. "But this study suggests that American religiosity may be exceptional not in terms of actual behavior, but rather in terms of identity.

"In the U.S., and to a lesser extent in Canada, the gap between what we say and what we do is substantial, and has been so for the last several decades."

The study appears in the forthcoming Public Opinion Quarterly.

For the study, Brenner analyzed two types of evdence about religiosity for each country: conventional survey questions asking respondents how often they attend religious services, and time diary data recording Sunday activities. The data, covering a period from 1975 to 2008, came from a variety of time use studies and cross-cultural surveys, including the ISR World Values Surveys and the American National Election Studies.

In addition to the United States and Canada, the countries studied were the Netherlands, Germany, France, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Spain, Austria, Italy, Great Britain and Ireland.

While conventional survey data show high and stable American church attendance rates of about 35 to 45 percent, the time diary data over the past decade reveal attendance rates of just 24 to 25 percent -- a figure in line with a number of European countries.

America maintains a gap of 10 to 18 percentage points between what people say they do on survey questions, and what time diary data says they actually do, Brenner reports. The gaps in Canada resemble those in America, and in both countries, gaps are both statistically and substantively significant.

Outside of North America, the largest gaps are found in the Catholic countries of Europe, but even in high-attendance Ireland, the gap only ranges from about 4 to 8 points.

"The consistency and magnitude of the American gap in light of the multiple sources of conventional survey data suggests a substantive difference between North America and Europe in overreporting."

Given these findings, Brenner notes, any discussion of exceptional American religious practice should be cautious in using terms like outlier and in characterizing American self-reported attendance rates from conventional surveys as accurate reports of behavior. Rather, while still relatively high, American attendance looks more similar to a number of countries in Europe, after accounting for over-reporting.

"American religion may however, be considered exceptional in a new way in light of these findings: unlike the other countries examined, American behavior continues its consistent failure to match self-reported rates. American religiosity as an outlier is a concept that may be better applied to identity and self-concept rather than behavior," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Pray tell: Americans stretching the truth about church attendance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201124353.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2010, December 1). Pray tell: Americans stretching the truth about church attendance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201124353.htm
University of Michigan. "Pray tell: Americans stretching the truth about church attendance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201124353.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Frustration As Drone Industry Outpaces Regulation In U.S.

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) U.S. firms worry they’re falling behind in the marketplace as the FAA considers how to regulate commercial drones. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Smart Gun Innovators Fear Backlash From Gun Rights Advocates

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) Winners of a contest for smart gun design are asking not to be named after others in the industry received threats for marketing similar products. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins