How often do you go to church? No—REALLY! Show Notes

Friday, May 30, 2014 Host(s): Dr. Bill Maier
Listen Now Number of listens: 0Download File Number of downloads: 0

How often do you go to church? Wait—before you answer—be honest!

It turns out that when taking surveys, many Americans exaggerate how often they go to church. And Catholics and Mainline Protestants are the worst offenders.

According to a story on, when answering questions from a live interviewer, Americans tend to overestimate how often they attend services. Since church attendance is considered positive behavior, social psychologists call this a "social desirability bias."

When answering the same questions on an anonymous internet survey, the social desirability bias doesn’t have the same effect. So researchers compared the results of phone surveys to those of internet surveys.

Among all Americans, they study found a five percentage point difference for frequent church attendance.

People who don’t attend church very often tend to REALLY exaggerate when talking to a live interviewer—they inflate the number by about 13%

The study found some differences among denominations, age groups, and regions of the country. Catholics, Mainline Protestants, young people, Northeasterners and Westerners were more prone to exaggeration than Evangelicals, Black Protestants, elderly people, and Southerners.

Interestingly, people who don’t have ANY religious affiliation also showed the same “social desirability bias” telling the interviewer that they attended church.

Researcher Daniel Cox says "Even among Americans who claim no religious affiliation, the social pressure to report at least nominal religious engagement is still quite strong. Very few people are willing to admit that they never attend religious services, even though many of us don't."

So what are YOU doing this Sunday?

I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.
« search entire media archive