Inventing American Religion: Polls, Surveys, and the Tenuous Quest for a Nation's Faith

ISBN : 9780190258900

Robert Wuthnow
256 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Nov 2015
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A billion-dollar a year polling industry claims to tell us not only which political candidates will win, but also how we are practicing our faith. Polls and surveys on American religion tell us how many Americans went to church last week, whether Americans have been born again, if there is a war on Christmas, if atheists are winning, if miracles happen, and if Jesus is as popular as Harry Potter. No matter the topic, pollsters always seem to have the answer. Robert Wuthnow questions why it has become easy to take all of these results for granted. Response rates have plummeted, push polls done by robotic-calling machines have become more frequent, and sampling has become more difficult. A large majority of the public doubts that polls can be trusted. Inventing American Religion argues that the time has come for serious questions to be asked about the polling industry's role in American religion. The book contextualizes the place of polls and surveys in American religion, stepping back in time and looking at how this method of seeking information began. By tracing its history, examining the powerful rise of polling, and tackling the difficult questions of how polls and surveys should be thought of in American religion today, Wuthnow's book looks into how these factors have made the industry what it is today.


1 Introduction
2 The Survey Movement
3 Measuring Belief
4 Scientific Studies
5 Pollsters as Pundits
6 In Polls We Trust?
7 Talking Back
8 Taking Stock

About the author: 

Robert Wuthnow is the Gerhard R. Andlinger '52 Professor Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.

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