I was reading the polls at gallup.com as I often do (they’re interesting) and I found one on the subject of religious folk and charity. They had polled people who considered themselves “less religious” and “more religious” asking them if they had given to charity or volunteered in the last 30 days. The self-identified “more religious” group said yes to each significantly more often. So the conclusion was that the more religious you are, the more charitable you are.
Except… They forgot that people tend to lie to pollsters if there is a social expectation on them to answer a certain way. Imagine if you polled “more religious” and “less religious” people and asked them if they’d masturbated in the last 72 hours. Think many of the “more religious” crowd would say yes? Of course not, they answer the way they think they ought to answer regardless of the truth. A really religious person is expected to act a certain way, and that includes everything from not masturbating to being more charitable and kind and christlike in every way than the average person. So they lie. Well, some of them do.
If you’re not convinced, this can be proven with hard data as well, I did some digging and turns out the dept of labor statistics keeps records on how many people volunteer each year. 26.4% americans volunteer for charity in a 1 year period. According to the poll 39% of “more religious” people in the americas say they volunteer for charity each *month.* So either americans volunteer for charity way less than people in poorer countries (every other country in north and south america is poorer than us) or the statistics are grossly inflated.
For years, decades, polls asking americans if they’ve been to church in the last 7 days showed that 40% said yes, they have been to church this week. Then it occurred to someone to do some math and they figured out that there aren’t enough churches to hold nearly that many people. So they instead did a study where they went around to all the churches in various towns and did manual head counts.
The actual figure? 20% attend church weekly. For decades consistently when asked if you’ve been to church in the last week, 50% of the “yes” respondents were lying. Fifty percent. Big error.
So the next time you hear a poll that republicans have better sex lives or christians are nicer to kittens or something, remember that polling is an imperfect science.
Dept. of Labor Statistics: