Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pew Study a True Representation of American Jews?


When did they conduct the survey and how did they conduct the survey? It is a very important question to ask. Did they, for example, do a telephone survey on Shabbat or during a religious holiday? This would skew the results very significantly against the religious Jewish population.

There were a total of 18 days during the window of 97 study dates, May 8-August 15, in which religious Jews could not be contacted (This includes Shavuot and Shabbats). That is a 15% chance of non-contact as compared with other groups who would answer the phone daily (I don't think there is any other group who observes Shabbat or holidays in a similar fashion). This, in itself, seems a statistically significant percentage.

In addition, the study broke up xtians into different denominations, but did not do so for other groups, and then isolated specific groups.

The report states: "To supplement the RDD interviews, an additional 547 interviews were completed from households that were initially contacted and screened out during data collection for the Pew Research Center's survey of Muslim American that was released in May 2007. Specifically, households who were identified as being Hindu, Buddhist, or Orthodox Christian were recontacted. This helped boost the sample size of these low-incidence groups" (174).

So, why didn't they strive to raise the sample size of Orthodox Jews?

As for the question, “Do you think your religion is the only true religion,” I would also have to say, “No” even though I am a religious Jew. The idea of “one way to heaven” is not our bailiwick. We are not a “conversion oriented” religion that tries to lure others. We know there are other religions, that B’nei Noach are just fine and dandy, and that Jews are just issued an extra helping of responsibility in this world, not an excusive contract.

We need more than the “results” of the survey, we need information about how the results were collected. Of course, there are also questions of how the results were compiled, who compiled them, how they were interpreted, who interpreted them, and what the political, social, religious, agenda of the survey was. Who called for the research? How was it funded? Who was on the committee? All of these issues are important.

Don’t tell me there is no angle to this survey or that they didn’t have an agenda, please. There is no such thing as objective research.

In addition, the results are being re-interpreted here from the Jpost. The same questions apply to their interpretation.

As my old stats prof would say, “There is no Truth in numbers.”

“Facts” without interpretation mean nothing, “Facts” with interpretation only tell you about the interpreter’s bias.

Religion is not very important to American Jews
By Shmuel Rosner

More from the new Pew study: very few American Jews believe that their religion is the only true religion.

One can learn many things from the new PEW study on religion in America, but my interest is mostly the things one can learn about the Jews. What I like about the way this new study is presented, is that one can compare the different religions on various matters. Here are some of the things I found:

American Jews do not have as many children as believers of other religions. 72% of Jewish homes do not have children at all according to this study. This is probably due to the fact that many of them marry late (The dialogue with Steven Cohen and Ari Kelman can teach you more about this). And anyway, Jews are older: 22% are 65+, the second highest percentage of all religions, 29% are 50-64, again, second highest of all religions. At the ages 30-49 the Jewish community has the lower percentage of all: 29%.

We know that Jews make more money than people of other religions, and the extent to which this is true is quite impressive. 46% of Jews make more than $100,000 a year, Hindus are a close second (43%) but the next group (Orthodox) is well behind (28%). If one looks at education, it is Hindus first (48% with post graduate degrees) with Jews second (35%), Buddhists third (26%) and the rest well bellow.

The number of Jews who are absolutely certain that there's a god is fairly low, 41%. Only Buddhists and Unaffiliated have even less certainty. 10% do not believe in god, the third highest percentage (also third, following the unaffiliated and the Buddhists). Only 31% say that religion is very important to them, the lowest percentage except for the unaffiliated. 28% say religion is not important to their lives (again, only the unaffiliated rank higher). No wonder that Jews rank low on attendance of religious practices and frequency of prayers. Amusingly, Jews are like Buddhists in the sense that only few of them believe that their religion is the only true religion.

53% of Jews want the U.S. to be involved in world affairs (Mormons rank second with 51%, the rest well bellow). 47% are Democrats, second only to black churches, but only 38% call themselves liberals (39% are moderates, 21% conservatives). And Jews seem to be the most reluctant group when the role of government in keeping morality is discussed: 22% say government should do more to protect morality, the highest ranking group except for "other faiths"), 71% want government to do even less (again, second to other faiths).

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