Polling results don’t always reveal the whole truth | SummitDaily.com

Polling results don’t always reveal the whole truth

I’ve always been a little suspicious of polls. They often tend to support the arguments of the pollster who happens to be doing the polling.

Not too long ago, although I can’t remember exactly where, I read the results of a poll that indicated more than half of Americans claimed they attended worship “at least once a week.”

With the merest amount of research, and with the help of the U.S. Census Population Clock, that would mean that around 145 million people were attending the church, synagogue or mosque of their choice last weekend.

Although we had pretty good attendance at our local Lutheran Church last Sunday, by my reckoning it would take another 580,000 similar places of worship to satisfy the enormous demand from our pious fellow citizens.

My denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, currently consists of a grand total of 10,766 congregations. The Methodists have more than 35,000 congregations. The Southern Baptists, the largest protestant denomination, have 42,000. Since the Roman Catholic Church is the largest of all, I’ll add a couple hundred thousand local congregations for them. That still leaves somewhere around 300,000 congregations to serve the millions yearning to worship each week!

A recent Harris Poll announced that 94 percent of Americans believe in God. Imagine all those folks are trying to get into the too few churches, synagogues and mosques. No wonder we have road rage!

Could it be that someone isn’t telling the whole truth?

That’s why I was more than a little skeptical when I read the recent Princeton Review poll that rated our own beloved University of Colorado as the No. 1 party school in America. I can’t help but wonder if the good folks at the Review decided to do their surveying late on a Saturday night on the Boulder mall. Bound to skew the results.

My skepticism grew even greater when I read that little Colorado College was rated right up there with the big boys when it came to diminishing an undergraduate’s faith in God.

As the proud parent of a child who recently graduated from CC and who is now a student at the Harvard Divinity School, I couldn’t help but cast a cynical eye toward this latest bit of market research.

Still, I succumbed to the temptation to see if my own alma mater, Pepperdine College, managed to make it among the elite 371 institutions of higher education that are listed in the survey.

And there it was. Among those schools rated as most likely to enroll “Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution,” my college ranked No. 19, ahead of Duquesne University but way behind Brigham Young.

In addition, the school that introduced me to all kinds of nefarious activities was ranked No. 9 in “Students who pray on a regular basis.” The only praying I remember doing was right before finals. (Discovering that such divine entreating was of no value when it came to Professor DeWalt’s philosophy class was the first of many theological crises I’ve faced in my long life.)

I’ll bet the parents of students at California Institute of Technology are particularly pleased with this survey’s results. Cal Tech is rated No. 1 in “Students who never stop studying.” I can hear the kids at the institute laughing from here.

One can’t help but wonder if the undergraduates at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon decided to take a few years off their parents lives by depicting themselves as No. 1 at being “Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, clove-smoking vegetarians.”

This from the offspring of parents who probably had to be conservative, hard-working conformists in order to save enough money to send their children to this pricey, private school.

I’ll always be hesitant to hop on the latest poll-taking bandwagon – especially after reading another survey that claimed 73 percent of Americans believe in hell but 0 percent thought they were headed there.

Columnist Rich Mayfield, a Lutheran pastor, takes a poll of himself and writes about the results every Saturday in the Summit Daily News.

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