Over the last 10 days I have seen at least a few dozen different articles or blog posts talking about the gap between who says they attend church and who actually attends. The sudden focus on the topic is a result of a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, which was release on May 17. More specifically, the latest inquiry finds that people are more honest about the topic when asked in an anonymous online survey than when asked by phone. Interestingly, three groups were more likely than all others to inflate their attendance. The number who said they don’t go to church for each group follows:
- white mainline Protestants: phone – 29% / online – 45%,
- Catholics: phone – 15% / online – 33%, and
- all adults ages 18-29: phone – 31% / online – 49%.
Many prior endeavors have looked at the gap between actual church attendance and those who claim they attend. “Americans exaggerate their church attendance more than anyone else” according to Philip S. Brenner’s research. It is clear that many Americans still believe the “correct” answer to give when asked about church attendance is the affirmative one regardless of actual practices.
- Are you surprised just how many people fib about their own recent church attendance when asked as a part of a phone survey? Why or why not?
- Why do you think Americans are more likely to exaggerate their church attendance than all other people?