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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The PEW Study on Religious Knowledge (09/28/10): Only the Mormon Results

The PEW study is all over the news today and everyone seems to be giving the results their own spin. However, I decided to go back to the source and evaluate the PEW study myself. I've extracted all the Mormon results and they are below. I only extract enough information to determine the Mormon results and avoid including the comparisons unless I need them to complete a thought or others results are higher. The term, "Mormon" is in bold. I quote extensively from the actual results.

From the Executive Summary:
Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
Most of the news analysis I've read covers this basic point. However, the details are more interesting to me.

Mormons bested Evangelicals just slightly on Bible knowledge:
On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge.
Sadly, I doubt Evangelicals will ever cease claiming we don't believe in the Bible or its teachings, but they certainly cannot claim that we don't KNOW it or its teachings.
On the full battery of seven questions about the Bible (five Old Testament and two New Testament items) Mormons do best,
Religious knowledge cannot be wholly explained by educational attainment. The PEW study points out that Mormon knowledge of the Bible is high regardless of education.
However, even after controlling for levels of education and other key demographic traits (race, age, gender and region), significant differences in religious knowledge persist among adherents of various faith traditions. Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons still have the highest levels of religious knowledge,
Under other findings in the study:
Around four-in-ten Americans know that the Mormon religion was founded sometime after 1800 (44%) and that the Book of Mormon tells the story of Jesus appearing to people in the Americas (40%). About half (51%) correctly identify Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a Mormon.
Mormons often read about their religion in books and online. This finding won't surprise Mormons since we have extensive Church-exclusive materials and expansive web sites.
Mormons, black Protestants and white evangelicals are the most frequent readers of materials about religion. Fully half of all Mormons (51%) . . . report that they read books or go online to learn about their own religion at least once a week. 
From Section 2 of the study entitled "Who Knows What About Religion" we learn the following:
Mormons outperform Jews as well as atheists and agnostics on questions about the Bible but do not perform as well as the other two groups on questions having to do with world religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. 
Mormons answer almost six of the seven Bible questions correctly on average.
From the survey results:
Nearly two-thirds of the public (63%) correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible when asked this question in an open-ended (not multiple-choice) format. More than eight-in-ten white evangelicals (85%), Mormons (85%)
A slim majority of the public (55%) correctly says that the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is not one of the Ten Commandments. More than eight-in-ten Mormons (81%) answer this question correctly, 
Of the three Old Testament figures asked about in the survey, Americans are most familiar with Moses. Overall, more than seven-in-ten Americans (72%) know he was the biblical figure who led the exodus out of Egypt; 92% of Mormons and about as many Jews and atheists/agnostics answer this question correctly. 
Slightly less than half of those polled (45%) can name all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). An additional 6% correctly name between one and three of the Gospels in this open-ended (not multiple-choice) question. Mormons and white evangelical Protestants do best (73% and 71%, respectively, correctly name all four Gospels).
Overall, Mormons score best on these items, answering an average of 5.7 of the seven Bible questions correctly. 
Fewer than one-in-five people (16%) correctly identify Protestantism as the faith that traditionally teaches that salvation comes through faith alone. Most people get this question wrong: 9% say this teaching is traditionally associated with Catholicism, 38% say it is traditionally associated with both Protestantism and Catholicism, 10% say it is not normally associated with either faith and more than a quarter (27%) say they do not know the answer. White evangelicals (28% correct), Mormons (22%) and atheists/agnostics (22%) perform better than other groups on this question. However, even among these groups, many more people get the answer wrong than get it right.
Just 46% of those polled correctly identify Martin Luther (1483-1546) as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant reformation. Familiarity with Martin Luther is highest among Jews (70%), atheists/agnostics (68%) and Mormons (61%). 
Combining these five items on elements of Christianity with the seven questions about the Bible into a single scale makes it possible to compare religious groups’ overall knowledge of Christianity. Mormons score best on this scale, getting an average of 7.9 of the 12 questions about Christianity right. 
In addition to the five items about the Old Testament, the survey included two other questions about elements of Judaism – the Sabbath and the identity of Maimonides. Overall, 45% of those polled correctly identify Friday as the day on which the Jewish Sabbath begins. Three-in-ten say the Jewish Sabbath begins on Saturday, which actually is the day it ends, while 7% select Sunday, and the rest say they do not know when the Jewish Sabbath begins. Among Jews, 94% get this question right. Most atheists/ agnostics (56%) and Mormons (55%) in the survey also answer this question correctly, 
Jews on average correctly answer five of the seven questions pertaining to Judaism (the five Old Testament questions discussed previously and the two questions discussed here). Mormons also do well on these questions (4.8 correct on average), though many more Jews than Mormons get all seven questions right (29% among Jews, 6% among Mormons).
In total, Jews and atheists/agnostics do far better on these questions about elements of world religions than do members of any other group. On average, Jews answer 7.9 of these 11 questions correctly, while atheists and agnostics answer 7.5 correctly. Mormons also score better than the public overall, getting 5.6 questions right, 
Roughly nine-in-ten Mormons (92%), Jews (91%), white mainline Protestants and white Catholics (88% each) also know what the term “atheist” means. 
Fewer people know the definition of an agnostic than the definition of an atheist. Overall, 62% correctly say that an agnostic is someone who is unsure whether God exists; 12% incorrectly say an agnostic is someone who does not believe in God, 5% say an agnostic is someone who does believe in God and 22% volunteer that they do not know the answer. Among atheists and agnostics, 86% get this question right, as do roughly three-in-four Jews (76%) and Mormons (73%).
Atheists/agnostics and Jews perform better than other groups on questions related to the role of religion in public life. On average, atheists and agnostics get 2.8 of these four questions right, and Jews get 2.7 right. Mormons and white evangelicals average 2.3 correct answers 
Atheists/agnostics (7.2 out of nine correct on average) and Jews (7.1) perform best on these general [religious] knowledge items. Mormons answer six of these questions correctly on average.
The Quiz

The PEW site includes fifteen questions from the the quiz the results were based on. The entire quiz includes 32 questions. You can complete the quiz and compare your results with the survey's results. I'll admit I got 14 out of 15 questions correct -- better than 97 percent of the quiz respondents.

The following questions include the option, "Mormon". 
Was Mother Teresa Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or Mormon?
Which religion aims at nirvana, the state of being free from suffering? Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam?
Is the Dalai Lama Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic or Mormon?
 Elements of Mormonism (3 questions)
When was the Mormon religion founded? After 1800, between 1200 and 1800, or before 1200 A.D.? 
The Book of Mormon tells of Jesus appearing to people in what area? The Americas, Middle East or Asia?
Was Joseph Smith Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu?
So, what do others know about Mormons based on these three questions? The full results are below:
The survey included three questions about Mormonism. Overall, 51% of Americans identify Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saints, as a Mormon, and 44% know that Mormonism was founded after 1800. Four-in-ten know that according to the Book of Mormon, Jesus appeared to followers in the Americas.
Mormons clearly know more about their own faith than others do about Mormonism. On average, Mormons get 2.7 of the three questions right, with eight-in-ten Mormons (81%) answering all three questions correctly. Atheists/agnostics (2.1) and Jews (1.9) each get an average of roughly two of these questions right, with members of other religious groups exhibiting significantly lower levels of knowledge about Mormonism.
Section 3 of the study is entitled, "Factors Linked With Religious Knowledge." The Mormon results are below:
Religious affiliation also remains a good predictor of religious knowledge in these models. Even after education, race and other factors are taken into account, atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other religious groups on this survey. Atheists and agnostics get an additional 2.9 questions correct compared with the national average, Jews do 2.3 questions better than average and Mormons get 1.9 more questions right over the national average. Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons are followed by evangelicals, who do 0.9 questions better compared with the national average. 
The above section evaluates data grouped in categories other than religion. So, the Mormon specific data is sketchy although inferences about Mormons can be drawn. I chose to limit this blog to Mormon-specific references.

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