By Cliff Helm
According to an LA Times report, the results of a few new surveys on Americans’ religious identity say little that is unexpected. The surveys themselves, however, are a cause for concern. The surveys asked 2,003 adults such burning questions as “which should have more influence over the law of the country: the will of the people, or the Bible?”
While the larger issues this question seeks to address are important, its phrasing reminds us that a survey can get whatever answers it wants by asking leading questions and creating dichotomies where they don’t exist. Until poll takers, and the reporters who rehash their findings, realize that the riddle of Americans’ religious identity cannot be answered with yes or no responses to previously formulated conclusions, these types of surveys will remain barely meaningful.
–Cliff Helm is a student of religious studies and political science at the University of Southern California.