Sunday, December 5, 2010

Overstating One's Faith

With a prime church-going holiday just around the corner, new research reveals Canadians are second only to Americans in overstating how often they go to church.

The University of Michigan study looked at more than 400 surveys done over 30 years and covering 750,000 people from 14 countries, including Canada, the United States, Britain and France.

It found that Europeans report their religious attendance more or less accurately, but there's a big gap between what Canadians and Americans say and what they do.

Philip Brenner, a research fellow at the university's Institute for Social Research, compared the proportion of people in each country who responded to surveys by saying they attended religious services regularly -- two to three times a month -- with time-use diaries that ask people to record everything they do on a given day.

When people are asked a direct question about religious behaviour, they're more likely to give what they see as a desirable answer, Brenner says. But when they're simply asked to record their daily activities, it produces a more accurate portrait because nothing is singled out.

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