How often do you attend church?

Church attendance remains a strong social norm in the U.S.

220px-PRRI_LogoA new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that Americans often inflate the frequency with which they attend religious services. Why? Because many still see church attendance as a positive endeavor.

Researchers asked Americans questions about religious service attendance, affiliation and belief in God in two survey methods: one via the phone and the other through an online survey.

Even among Americans who claim no religious affiliation, the social pressure to report at least nominal religious engagement is still quite strong.

Through the telephone survey, 36 percent of respondents reported attending weekly services, while only 31 percent said they attended weekly services in the online survey. Those surveyed online also demonstrated an increased likelihood to admit they seldom or never attended religious services.

“The existence of religious participation inflation demonstrates that church attendance remains a strong social norm in the U.S.,” said Robert P. Jones, co-author of the study and CEO of PRRI, via a news release. “The impact of these norms—what social scientists call ‘social desirability bias’—is that respondents talking to live interviewers on the telephone are less willing to admit lower levels of participation in an activity deemed to be socially good. Respondents completing the survey privately online are less apt to feel this pressure.”

The survey discovered that Catholics and white mainline Protestants are more likely to over-report as opposed to white evangelical Protestants.

“Even among Americans who claim no religious affiliation, the social pressure to report at least nominal religious engagement is still quite strong,” said Daniel Cox, co-author of the study and PRRI’s director of research, via the release. “Very few people are willing to admit that they never attend religious services, even though many of us don’t.”

To read the entire study, visit here


June 2, 2014

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