Lying About Our Religion, And Other Problems With Polling by Michael Schulson.
Robert Wuthnow isn’t going to say it, so I will: a lot of religion polling is bullshit.
This isn’t just an academic squabble. Polling firms like Pew and Gallup offer the principal lens through which journalists, pundits, religious leaders, and politicians observe the spiritual state of the union. Polls and surveys shape debates about policy and public morality. They help define key groups—evangelicals, for example, or the nones—that crop up again and again in the media.
They are also misleading us, Wuthnow argues in his timely, obscenity-free new book, Inventing American Religion. Wuthnow, a sociologist of religion whose work has informed a generation of scholarship, examines how polling has shaped perceptions of religion in the United States over the past century. And he argues, convincingly, that pollsters and journalists need to be more honest about what these studies can, and cannot, tell us.