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Posted by on Jan 11, 2013 in Atheism, The Media | 8 comments

The Media Is Doing It Wrong: Rise of the ‘Nones’

On Thursday, I wrote an Examiner article about the rise of the “nones.” Apparently the media loves the fact that according to the new Gallup tracking poll, the “nones” only grew .3% from the previous year. The religious are thrilled that our rise is “slowing down.” But they really shouldn’t be.

As I explained in the article, the Gallup poll didn’t account for people below the age of 18, which is probably our largest demographic. The poll showed that young people (age 18-29) are three times more likely to identify as “none” than older people (age 65+). Those below the age of 18 were not surveyed, but probably are at least equal to the 18-29 demographic if not larger.

But here is where things get interesting; the “nones” are still on the rise. Looking at the context of how the other religious identities have risen or fallen, it becomes clear that this is a win for atheism. Protestants actually shrunk by .6%. Catholics can’t brag either. They fell .2%. Jews and Muslims stayed the same at 1.7% and .6% respectively.

So, let’s look at this data another way. Instead of pointing and saying that the rate of growth has plateaued, we should be saying that the “nones” have grown half of all the Muslims in America in just a single year. In fact, according to this very same data from Gallup, the “nones” are still the fastest growing religious identity with Mormonism coming in second with a growth of .2%. Just about every other religious identity (i.e. all actual religions aside from Mormonism) have either dropped or stayed the same.

So fuck you media! Stop trying to change the narrative to make us look bad. The headlines shouldn’t be “Bucking previous trends, survey finds growth of the religiously unaffiliated slowing” (CNN), it should be, “Religiously unaffiliated still the fastest growing religious identity.” Or even better, “People are still fleeing religion.”

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  • 2ndServe

    I followed Nate Silver closely during the recent election cycle. One of the things his amalgamated data revealed was a consistent conservative bias by Gallup. Gallup is one of the reasons conservatives were surprised so on election day. I suspect they have not yet addressed the issues that slant and that those same issues skew the Gallup numbers away from “nones.”

    You are right, even if the Gallup numbers are correct, the trend continues. I suspicion the Gallup numbers minimize the “none” growth though.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      I was following all the polls leading up to election day too and even Gallup had Obama winning. The Republicans were surprised because they didn’t believe ANY polls even their own polling. Rasmussen was by far the most right wing polling and even they showed an Obama victory.

      • 2ndServe

        Actually, according to Silver, Rasmussen outperformed Gallup in the final days before the election. In popular vote, the 11 Gallup polls conducted during the final 21 days were Romney biased by an average of 7.2 points. Rasmussen was also Romney biased, but only by about half that at 3.7 points.

        Gallup’s final poll predicted the popular vote at 49/48 Romney.

        http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/which-polls-fared-best-and-worst-in-the-2012-presidential-race/

        • http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

          Popular vote doesn’t win elections. I didn’t even look at that. I was looking at the state-by-state polls for the key battleground states. It was pretty clear from those polls that Obama had it locked up even from Gallup and Rasmussen.

          • 2ndServe

            Of course, I didn’t mean to imply it did. But, popular vote does lend credence to the possibility that Gallup polls leans conservative (under use of cell phones seems to be a part of that) and therefore, like their mistaken popular vote prediction, overestimates religiosity.

            As you rightly point out, “nones” are more prevalent among youth. If Gallup isn’t adequately polling cell phone users (among other factors) their numbers could easily slant away from those most likely to identify as “nones.”

  • Zachery d Taylor

    Modern growth in Mormonism is greatly exagerated. The growth in the nineteenth century was suprising and what I would consider inadequately explained; but modern growth is almost certainly a result of inaccurate record keeping that has been partially exposed by some. They often refuse to take names off the list when people leave the Church and other problems. Mormonism may actualy be dropping.

  • DavidGaliel

    There is a much more fundamental problem, which is very wide-spread statistical-illiteracy. The margin of error of the survey is ±1 with a 95% confidence level, and the alleged “trend” is a *single year*. It’s more likely to be random noise in the survey than indicative of a real trend, anyway.

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