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smac97

Christianity Shrinking In U.s.; Mormon Numbers Essentially Flat

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Article in the SL Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/2500019-155/christianity-shrinking-in-us-mormon-numbers?fullpage=1

Some salient bits:

 

The share of Americans who consider themselves Christian is falling fast, while the ranks of the "nones" — atheists, agnostics and "nothing in particulars" — continue to swell, according to a major new study.

The Pew Research Center's 2014 Religious Landscape Study, released Tuesday, found the proportion of adults who consider themselves Christian fell nearly 8 percentage points — from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent last year. The share of those unaffiliated with religion jumped nearly 7 percentage points, from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent of adults during the same seven years.

Among Mormons, the proportion of the U.S. adults who claim to be Latter-day Saints was essentially unchanged, according to the study, dipping from 1.7 percent in 2007 to 1.6 percent last year.

That statistic, said Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell, is striking because it contradicts what is practically a Mormon article of faith: that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its expanding missionary force, is the nation's fastest-growing religion.

"While many Mormons are coming in the front door," Campbell said, "many others are leaving out the back door."

I wonder if this is a testable hypothesis.

 

Conversely, the figures counter a widespread notion among former Mormons that the LDS Church is hemorrhaging to the point its membership is shrinking dramatically.

Hmm. I was also reminded of this statement from Elder Quentin L. Cook during April's General Conference: "Some have asserted that more members are leaving the Church today and that there is more doubt and unbelief than in the past. This is simply not true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past."

I do not doubt Elder Cook's statistics, but I think he overlooks people who do not seek to formally have their names removed from the membership rolls of the Church, but who nonetheless cease to self-identify as LDS (as measured in the Pew poll).  Nevertheless, the Church appears to be at least keeping pace with overall population growth in the U.S. (and growing substantially in many other places).

 

The 0.1 percentage-point slip is seen as statistically insignificant, given the fact that fewer than 700 LDS were among the 35,071 surveyed by Pew.

How do the pollsters know that there were 700 Latter-day Saints amongst those surveyed, when the poll is about "the proportion of the U.S. adults who claim to be Latter-day Saints?"

 

Also, this article from the Deseret News states that this poll, due to its "massive sample size" has a "margin for error of plus or minus .6 percent."  So how can a .1% change in self-reporting Mormons be "statistically significant" when the poll's margin of error appears to significantly larger than that .1%?  Isn't is possible that the number of self-identifying Mormons has increased substantially, but that this number is obscured by the margin or error, that that the number of self-identifying Mormons is substantially worse that a .1% drop, but that this number is obscured?  The number of self-reporting Mormons could be as high as 1.13 (plus .6%), or as low as 1.1 (minus .6%), right?  As the D News puts it: "The study found that LDS Church numbers held steady. Its share of the rising U.S. population was 1.6 percent in 2014. Though that was down slightly from 1.7 percent in 2007, the difference was within the study's margin for error. 'It's also striking, and you see this in other national studies, that the percentage of Mormons doesn't really change, and that's interesting,' said David Campbell, co-author of 'American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.'"

 

I could really use some help from someone who understands polling data and statistics.  Is the Trib's above comment (it's editorializing, really - "the 0.1 percentage-point slip is seen..." by whom?) statistically valid or not?

 

Among the survey's results:

...

• Mainline Protestant denominations continue a long slide in membership, but the world's largest Christian faith, the Catholic Church, also is losing members in a big way. (Previous studies were mixed on that). Overall, 46.5 percent of U.S. adults now say they're Protestant (evangelicals included), down from 51.3 percent in 2007. Catholics comprised 20.8 percent of adult Americans last year, down from 23.9 percent in 2007.

Wow! That is an alarming decline.

 

• Among U.S. adults, 3.1 percent say they are atheist, up from 1.6 percent, and 4 percent say they are agnostic, up from 2.4 percent.

So the number of self-identified atheists, while statistically still small, has nearly doubled in 8 years. Atheism is growing at a faster rate that Mormonism.

 

"Is it bad news for organized religion? Well, yes, for some," Green said. "On the other hand, there's tremendous opportunity to convert people and recruit people if you have a religion that meets their needs."

Notre Dame's Campbell said he, too, expects churches to react. "Across traditions, we'll see folks try to win them back to the pews.

"Whether they'll succeed is an open question," Campbell added. "It would be a fool's errand to try to project too far in the future. America religion is extremely dynamic and responsive."

Interesting. Whether these trends have longevity is not yet certain.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

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Buckeye started a thread on this study (if not the exact topic) in the discussion forum.  Just an FYI.  :)

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I could really use some help from someone who understands polling data and statistics.  Is the Trib's above comment (it's editorializing, really - "the 0.1 percentage-point slip is seen..." by whom?) statistically valid or not?

 

It's not editorializing.  The margin of error for the study is +/- 0.6% so a difference/change that is smaller than that (0.1%) is statistically insignificant.  Thus their quote:  "The 0.1 percentage-point slip is seen as statistically insignificant."

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It's not editorializing.  The margin of error for the study is +/- 0.6% so a difference/change that is smaller than that (0.1%) is statistically insignificant.  Thus their quote:  "The 0.1 percentage-point slip is seen as statistically insignificant."

Ah! Thank you. I misread the article (I thought they said "statistically significant").

Thanks,

-Smac

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I suspect given the societal reaction to the politicization of religion in America, that the Church will have to put forth a massive missionary effort simply to maintain its membership, but that it will survive as other non-missionary denominations fold.

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The loss of identification among Christians appears to be largely due to ambivalent or socially Christian individuals no longer feeling the social pressure to identify themselves as Christians. Those that strongly identified with Christianity did not experience significant losses at all. So... Utah might have a problem but otherwise we shouldn't need too much different :).

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