Monday, September 15, 2008

Evangelical's reputation is getting better since 1994

I've been posting a lot these past few months about statistics produced by Christian researchers that claim to show that Christians have an image problem and that it's getting worse over time. See here and here.

Inspired by David's comment, here, I used the Roper Center iPoll data base to find survey questions that asked respondents their view of Evangelical Christians. I found eight such surveys.

The question wording usually went something like this: "Would you say your overall opinion of Evangelical, is it very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable." For parsimony, I combined the "very" and "mostly" categories to make the ratings just favorable or unfavorable. For clarity of presentation, I dropped the "don't know " or "haven't heard of" responses, and this is what I found:

For example of interpretation, in 1994, 57% of respondents viewed Christians favorably, 43% viewed them unfavorably.

What should we make of these data? Well, there's no evidence that Christian's reputation in general society is getting worse, and in fact it seems to have gone up since 1994--perhaps with Evangelicals being less associated with politics. If I get ambitious, I'll download the data and separate out the views of non-Christians, but at this level it doesn't look like Evangelicals are suffering from the supposed reputation crisis.

Data sources
1994: Times Mirror
2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2007: Pew
2004: US News and World Report


Anonymous said...

Or, in spite of their involvement with politics; or perhaps because of their involvement with politics; or because of their involvement with politics on a wide range of issue representing 'immutable values' in a time when being a flip-flopper is a valid and common accusation that is taken quite seriously...

Mat said...

With regards of the problem of Christians using statistics badly....could it be that the "trust me" approach of Barna/Reveal/Lifeway and other Christian researchers betray a "Christendom" worldview (even as they attempt to undermine Christendom), wherein the Church held a privileged position in society? It's almost as they are saying, "do as we say (be transparent Christians on a level playing field), not as we do!"