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Journal Article

Data Collection Mode and Social Desirability Bias in Self-Reported Religious Attendance

Stanley Presser and Linda Stinson
American Sociological Review
Vol. 63, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 137-145
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657486
Page Count: 9
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Data Collection Mode and Social Desirability Bias in Self-Reported Religious Attendance
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Abstract

Compared to conventional interviewer-administered questions about attendance at religious services, self-administered items and time-use items should minimize social desirability pressures. In fact, they each reduce claims of weekly religious attendance by about one-third. This difference in measurement approach does not generally affect associations between attendance and demographic characteristics. It does, however, alter the observed trend in religious attendance over time: In contrast to the almost constant attendance rate recorded by conventional interviewer-administered items, approaches minimizing social desirability bias reveal that weekly attendance has declined continuously over the past three decades. These results provide support for the hypothesis that America has become more secularized, and they demonstrate the role of mode of administration in reducing measurement error.

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