Americans fib about how religious they are and how often they go to church, according to a new study, The New York Times reported.
An overwhelming majority of Americans— 90 percent— consistently tell pollsters they believe in a God and about 40 percent say they go to church every week.
The new study found that while the country is becoming less religious, people still feel that it is socially desirable to inflate their religiosity. Even folks who own up to having no denominational affiliation still feel uncomfortable conceding how infrequently they attend services.
Researchers hypothesize that people are more truthful about church attendance when they fill-out anonymous online questionnaires and that they tend to overplay their devoutness when asked about it by a live interviewer over the telephone. The lack of uniformity in the results is ascribed by researchers to "social desirability bias."
In answering a telephone interviewer, only 31 percent of all Americans they "seldom or never" attend services. Online the figure jumps to 43 percent. Seventy-three percent of the unaffiliated tell interviewers they skip church, whereas 91 percent admit to it online.
"We have a long history of religious attendance being connected with all kinds of upright moral behavior, and we still see the vestiges of that," said Robert Jones, of the research institute. In contrast to Europe, America is unique in still being a very religious country. "If anything," the discrepancy "points to how strong this social norm is."
Regardless of the survey method, roughly one-third of all Americans say they go to church weekly. Over 60 percent of white evangelicals are regular church goers.
Among blacks the online to telephone discrepancy regarding weekly church attendance is 54 percent to 40 percent; for Catholics it is 41 to 34 percent, and for white mainline Protestants the figure is 29 to 21 percent.
The telephone survey— landline and cellular— covered 2,002 adults. The online poll was of 2,300 adults. Both groups were a nationally representative sample.
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