美國宗教社會學家 Robert Wuthnow 質疑調查可靠性，與 Pew Research Center 對話
One of the many claims of today’s polling industry is that it is the source of credible evidence about religion. It tells us week by week how many Americans regularly attend religious services, whether religion’s strength in our lives is holding its own or declining, and how often we pray. We learn how various denominations are faring, whether some parts of the country are more religious than others, and which kinds of religious beliefs are most appealing, and to whom. So pervasive has this information become, in fact, that for many people it defines what American religion is.
In his essay in your August issue, “In Polls We Trust,” Robert Wuthnow highlights several important challenges researchers conducting surveys about religion face. Chief among them is the steep decline in response rates to telephone polls. This is indeed a serious issue; the response rate in a typical Pew Research Center poll fell from 36 percent in 1997 to 9 percent today.
Consumers of public opinion polls should always consider methodology and response rates when interpreting survey findings. To the extent that his essay inspires consumers of poll results to pay attention to the details of data collection, Wuthnow offers important advice.
One of the reasons polls frequently err in estimating African American religious involvement is that “easy to reach” and “hard to reach” black respondents differ on religion questions from patterns among white respondents. The studies pollsters cite to vindicate low response rates have not to my knowledge examined such variation.
My hope is that the polling industry will take up the serious challenges it currently faces by doing all it can to produce better information before polling reaches the point where its results generate no confidence at all.
Funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts for religion polling at the Pew Research Center is among the most generous from any source. Pew could be of enormous service by doing more to address the difficult questions facing religion polling.
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