Pointless poll or serious survey?

I’m going to give you a choice today.

  • If you’ve only got a moment and want to click a button and be done with something fairly trivial, vote on whether to impeach Bush.

  • For a change, if you’ve got a half hour or so and would like to contribute data to serious research, take Elisabeth Cornwell’s research survey. I think we could add a large dollop of godless attitudes to her work.

(Hmmm…I should do a poll on who would rather crash a poll vs. take a serious survey!)


  1. student_b says

    I dunno. Does declaring my race as “Air Force” mean that I’m not honestly filling out the survey? I mean, that’s what I regard myself, after all…

  2. AngusBeefheart says

    I especially liked the part where I could identify my race as “Air Force”

  3. Wicked Lad says

    Baseline for the bill of impeachment:
       Support: 78%
       Oppose:  19%
       Not sure:  3%

  4. David Marjanović, OM says

    Unfortunately I had to cancel the serious survey because it asks too many questions that just don’t apply. Some even seem to assume a culture where “so, what church do you go to?” is smalltalk.

  5. says

    voted not sure for the bush impeachment. seems like too little too late. it would take months to accomplish and a new pres will be voted in nov. overall it would be a massive waste of time and resources for congress. theyre doing a fine job of wasting time and resources as it is without worrying about a pointless impeachment.

    2005-2007 would have been the time to impeach

  6. Malcolm says

    Yeah I couldn’t get through the serious survey either. It needed more “N/A” and “I don’t accept the premise of the question” options.

  7. Mongoose says

    Thats one of the worst designed surveys I have ever taken.

    If I feel “rejected by my family for my agnostic beliefs”, it is assuming that my family are religious, yet in never asks.

    It asks when did I “abandon religion”, assuming that I was at some point religious. I did not abandon religion, I was never religious to start with.

    Seems very much like it is imposing religion as the default state of mind of humanity, and atheists and agnostics as those who have abandoned humanity, when it is of course the exact opposite.

  8. says

    Cornwell’s survey isn’t too bad – I ran through it and answered it honestly. I think there are a few questions where to answer honestly I’d have had to give an answer along the lines of “this question does not make sense because…”

    Constructing a survey that works well is really hard, and she did a pretty good job with this. Could have been better, but it sure could have been a LOT worse.

    Aaah, the joy of self-selected samples!

  9. Comstock says

    I stopped the survey after it became clear that the assumption for atheist was that you stopped believing in God at some point in your life, told your parents, told your friends, etc. Some of us were raised in atheist households, you know.

  10. Andreas Johansson says

    In the section where you’re supposed to chose which statement you agree more with, a lot of the time the statements were pretty much unrelated. It’s like answering what do you prefer, ice cream or Red Dwarf?

  11. Serena says

    I just got through the survey. It’s from UCCS! Hey, I almost went there!

    They asked a few questions that I didn’t like answering, or I just didn’t like the way the question was phrased. Like: Are you a spiritual person? or Do you feel a spiritual connection to nature? Right out I would say no. But, do I feel the same things that other people feel, and describe as being spiritual? Yes, I am sure that the feeling is the same. It just has nothing to do with a “spirit” or something supernatural. So I answered no. I wouldn’t call it a “spiritual connection”. It’s on the atomic or molecular level really.

    There were some odd questions at the end about believing in aliens or mind reading. The one that stood out to me was:

    true or false?
    I have had the momentary feeling that I might not be human.

    Tee hee. I don’t know what that means. (I said false BTW)

  12. alex says

    i got most of the way through the survey and then my internet bloody well stopped working and it wants me to start from scratch now. bugger.
    good survey though, i thought.

  13. MarkW says

    Serena @ #16:

    true or false? I have had the momentary feeling that I might not be human.

    Heh I had to answer true for that. When I was a kid I was convinced I was an alien for a while. I can’t remember why.

  14. zer0 says

    I completed the survey, and yes, the last page seems like it’s a test for paranoid schizophrenia. The questions are really odd in the last section. Some questions were a little loaded, but I don’t think it’s that far out of line to assume a religious baseline in America. We’re easily the most religious country in the world, and I don’t find it that absurd to ask the questions from that POV. I do happen to fall into that group of going to church when I was little, with a somewhat religious home etc so the questions suited me fine. If you were raised in a nonreligious household, just consider yourself lucky and close the survey.

  15. says

    Technically, this is two different questions

    “Creationism and/or Intelligent Design should NOT be taught in our science classes; only evolution, which is grounded in science, should be taught as part of the science curriculum.”

  16. Richard Harris says

    MarkW, I’ve also had that feeling. Might it be an Asperger’s thing? I mean, I felt I was surrounded by a load of …. weirdos, freaks, or members of a different species. That was because of the difference between what they like & what I like, & what they believe & what I believe.

  17. tony (not a vegan) says

    I agree with DM others – the survey is definitely US-centric in its foundational assumptions, and presumes that your are, by default, religious.

    Also – I found the questions on ‘spirit’ – just wierd. Certainly I can look at a sunset or a flower or a waterfall and feel awe-at-nature. I can look at my kids playing in the sand and feel all warm & fuzzy inside. BUt is that ‘spritual’? Hell no! It’s empathetic humanity.

    Mostly I disagreed with ‘spirituality’ as in woo, and answered i the negative.

    The last set – regarding aliens and ghosties and such – I was very tempted to answer frivolously! I did not succumb to the temptation, but this is Science! We do not pollute the data!

    Generally a reasonable job at a survey, but woefully us- & religion-centric. Hopefully that does not introduce significant bias in the results…

    Maybe (if she reads this) she could create a parallel set of questions – but with all ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ referents removed and replaced by more technical terms. Then randomly, with a 50% weighting, use one of the other version. Just a thought.

    regarding the BUSH survey. Impeach the bastard. I am not at all ‘retributionist’, but his legacy needs to be honest – impeachment is the only way that future historians will know that we really truly recognized that he was a total fuckwad.

    If possible, I’d draft the bastards and send them to iraq – on the front line.


  18. Richard Harris says

    Zero, talking about the States being “easily the most religious country in the world”, I’m working with a Seattle-based Engineer at the moment, & received a copy e-mail, sent to our client who’s got terminal cancer, that reads, “I’m praying for you on your trip to Mexico.

    From my Canadian/British perspective, that hit me as really weird.

  19. Moggie says

    @ #19:

    I don’t think it’s that far out of line to assume a religious baseline in America. We’re easily the most religious country in the world

    Really? More religious than the Vatican City? Or, say, Iran, where more than 90% of the population are Shi’a? I’d say the US is anomalously religious, given its status in the developed world, but it’s far from being the world’s most religious country.

  20. Trykt says

    Took the research survey. I agree that many of the questions were worded badly. Also it was rife with typos.

    And some of the questions…I have to wonder about the person that answers yes to them. You think strangers are reading your thoughts? Really?

  21. Muffin says

    Hmm. The second survey’s interesting, but the radio buttons for the questions concerning your current income relative to other people your age and your family’s relative income when you were a kid are in the same group, so you can only answer one of these questions.

    “Pantheism” is also misspelt in the second section, and “luck” in the third, and “behaviours” (as “behaiors”) and “certain” (twice) and “agree” (9 times) in the sixth, and “able” in the seventh, and “get” in the ninth, and so on… some more proof-reading and testing would’ve helped with this. :) And there’s the occasional problem with grammar, too.

    Other than that, though, it was interesting.

  22. windy says

    The serious survey’s questions are way restrictive.

    Do you mean the “How many sexual partners have you had throughout your life” question? ;)

  23. Jacques says

    Damn, how many sections are in the serious survey, I’m starting to get bored with my views already.

    I voted with the right block wrt the impeachment survey, bush in chains.

  24. says

    I took the UCCS survey and had a hard time with it, too, especially the questions about my life’s meaning and purpose. I don’t believe that I have any real purpose here, but I do believe my life has meaning (at least it does to me). And I’m not searching for purpose, but am always looking for meaning (things to feel good about). That whole section gave me a headache.

    Also, I grew up in a household that didn’t really practice any religion, but allowed me to seek out my own religion. My parents were very supportive if I felt I wanted to go to church or meditate or talk about the non-existence of god. So, we didn’t have an atheist, agnostic or religious household. I didn’t see an option I liked for that question.

  25. Serena says

    MarkW #18

    Really? Your weird. ;)

    I used to have a mixed fear of aliens and demons when I was younger. I tended to think they were equally evil and fearsome. But then I was told demons were real and I should fear them. It seemed equally likely for aliens.

    Maybe yours was a version of an orphan phantasy?

  26. debaser71 says

    Regarding that survey…No wonder these social science folk as often so wrong. They base their ideas on horrid surveys. I mean how do I “somewhat disagree” to statements with words like “always” and “never”.

    Do words not mean anything anymore?

    /long time lurker, first time poster

  27. debaser71 says

    Darn I wanted to make another comment but there is no edit feature.

    Again regarding the survey.

    Another thing that bugs me is when they ask a question with an “and” or “or” in it. What if I agree with one thing but not with the “and” or “or”?

    Just sayin, because these sort of surveys interest me greatly but I am always left disappointed. Once, I’d like a decently worded survey without these basic problems.

    Oh and never mind the spelling mistakes and typos.

  28. Yttrai says

    Any question in the survey that was unanswerable due to the lack of applicable choices i skipped. I’m not certain how that will affect the outcome, but at least i didn’t have to misrepresent myself, or force my round self into the square hole questions.

    Also, in the “religions you grew up with” section there was no Druid ;) That made me very sad.

  29. frog says

    Moggie: Really? More religious than the Vatican City?

    Oh, we’re way more religious than Vatican City! They’re professionals — prostitutes don’t really love their Johns!

  30. Aquaria says

    Funny, just last night I read the Atheists book by Bob Altemayer, the guy who did the Right Wing Authoritarian survey up in Canada. In the atheism book, he examined zealotry, dogmatism, and authoritarian leanings (or unleanings) of atheists, among other things. Conclusions: We’re dogmatic but not zealous (we believe strongly, but aren’t particularly inclined to force our views on others), and anti-authority (big surprise!).

    Anyhow, it looks like the “serious” survey here is trying to do what he was, but with less fairness and objectivity. This survey was insulting at times, and tedious, too.

  31. says

    I accidentally answered that I was raised both Catholic and Orthodox Jewish. Hail Mary full of matzoh, I wanted to change my answer, but Oy vey! *makes the sign of the cross*, I couldn’t!

  32. Aquaria says

    And I don’t want Bush impeached unless we get Cheney out of there first. He’s scarier than Bush. Or maybe it could be a package deal that would make Pelosi President. That might be the first occurrence of a mass epidemic of head explosions. Sort of like Scanners. Only real, and self-inflicted.

  33. Dennis N says

    I notice there’s a range of sexuality to choose from. That seems not quite so conservative. I expected the choices to be “heterosexual” and “heterosexual deep down but in need of reparative therapy”.

  34. thorn says

    “When introduced to strangers, I rarely wonder whether I have known them before.” that had a true/false answer. I don’t think that was appropriate.

  35. KC says

    I noticed the typos, but not the loaded questions. I thought it changed the questions based on previous answers; I don’t think I was ever asked about going to church.

    I don have a gripe about how you can’t sign up, at the end, to hear about the results that come from the study. Tit for tat, I spent 45 minutes answering questions, I want to know what they found!

  36. Dennis N says

    I didn’t know what to pick here:

    Children get into trouble because their parents punish them too much


    The trouble with most children nowadays is that their parents are too easy with them

    Both are wrong. Children get into trouble because they’re children, that’s what they do.

  37. Hank Fox says

    Cool survey.

    In my opinion, anyone who thinks impeachment would be a waste of time is a brainless ditz who has no sense of history, or the nature of precedent.

    If the Republicans get away with it all, if they go off to continue to lead their rich, powerful lives, if they leave the White House and get $50,000 speaking fees, and write books in which they twist history, if the Democrats refuse to ever hold them responsible …

    In my opinion, America and all its ideals have ceased to exist, and it’s just a matter of time before things get REALLY nasty.

    To let Bush and company get away with all they’ve gotten away with is exactly the same as saying “Oh, that rape/molestation/assault/murder happened a long time ago, and it’s unlikely that we could get a conviction anyway. Let’s just let it go. Why bother? This stuff happens all the time.”

    Government and society exist only as long as the lot of us act as if they exist. If the people who make the laws are thieves and liars and killers, eventually people will ask why they should bother obeying them. And there goes your society.

    Kings should obey the same laws as peasants, and be subject to the same penalties … WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

  38. says

    Has anybody mentioned that THE SURVEY IS BROKEN?

    In addition to being able to list your race as “Air Force”, at least one of the radio button groups are miscoded – the question about family income during your childhood and the one about income level for your age group clear each other’s answers when filled in (that is, they’re part of the same button group).

    Somebody should notify them to fix this, assuming they’re interested in getting correct results at all.

  39. Holbach says

    Just finished that survey. Seems a lot of the questions were religious in nature. Got a sneaky suspicion that the Templeton Foundation is behind it!

    And on the Bushwacker- impeach the religious dolt! He’ll be out soon and it pisses me off that he never did anything serious to warrant impeachment, such as traitor, rape, murder or anything that would evict him to a prison term. Now he’ll get a nice pension for the rest of his life, have Secret Service protection, franked mailing privileges, a library built at taxpayers expense and other benefits that the working stiff has to be lucky in obtaining at a reduced living comfort. In there for eight years and I had nothing to do with it! Damn, I am pissed!

  40. JSW says

    I think this entry should have been titled “Pointless survey or serious poll?”. I got to section IV of the survey before I had to stop since I was being forced to put in answers I didn’t agree with, simply because there was no available answer that I did agree with, and I did not want to submit information that was contrary to what I actually thought.

    The poll, on the other hand, asked a simple, straightforward question that I was able to answer in such a way that I could easily stand by my choice, which is much more useful.

    Of course, both the poll and the survey are inherently worthless due to having a self-selecting sample, however at least the poll was easy while being worthless.

  41. David Marjanović, OM says

    Some questions were a little loaded, but I don’t think it’s that far out of line to assume a religious baseline in America. We’re easily the most religious country in the world, and I don’t find it that absurd to ask the questions from that POV.

    At first I thought it was only meant for the USA, but then it let me write in anything for country of birth and country of current residence. It seems to be meant for the whole intarwebz.

    If possible, I’d draft the bastards and send them to iraq – on the front line.

    Not before they’ve had all of their days in court.

    Just sayin, because these sort of surveys interest me greatly but I am always left disappointed. Once, I’d like a decently worded survey without these basic problems.

    Oh yes. It’s like with university exams: astonishing amounts of people are incapable of asking an understandable question, even though that is supposedly part of their job description.

  42. debaser71 says

    I am always glad when people when people know what my name tag refers to.

    Anyone play Rock Band? I’m hooked…anyway Doolittle is coming out for it. Cool.

    on topic: I am glad lot’s of people are seeing some of the things I saw in that survey? Has anyone seen a good survey? One that actually acknowledges language? I really like to take them but I am always disappointed.

  43. David Marjanović, OM says

    Latest poll results:

    Chimpeachment: 81 %
    No chimpeachment: 17 %
    Not sure: 3 %

    Total votes: 7297

  44. Alcari says

    Hmm, in adition to the lack of a “This question is bullshit” answer, It had quite a few other mistakes, the “Air force” as race is one.
    If I have 2 brothers, and i’m the youngest, does that mean I was born third? or last?
    Asking people in what category their income is? Why not just ask how much they make? That’s much less biased.
    And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual? is that like being a little pregnant?

    Also, you can’t unselect a relion…

    luckily, you can leave an answer open

  45. Anna says

    Short poll = EASY
    Long thing didn’t make sense to me. A lot of the questions didn’t make sense and didn’t have a “Does not apply to me” option… Sorry. I tried…

  46. Moggie says


    I accidentally answered that I was raised both Catholic and Orthodox Jewish. Hail Mary full of matzoh, I wanted to change my answer, but Oy vey! *makes the sign of the cross*, I couldn’t!

    Good grief, can you imagine a Catholic/Jewish mother? The guilt!

  47. negentropyeater says

    I say impeach the bastard.
    Even if it’s too late, even if it fails, even if there’s Dick, it doesn’t matter, that’s still the best signal America can send to the whole world that you want to clear your conscience from this regrettable mistake of having elected twice this monster.

  48. says


    Just so you know: “asking an understandable question” really isn’t on the job description for hiring faculty… Sure, departments need to make some attempt at determining that new hires will be willing to work with graduate or undergraduate priority. But at least at research-oriented universities proven teaching ability is not always regarded as one of the primary requirements for new faculty (especially when compared to proven publication and/or successful grant records).

    There are, of course, exceptions to this. Once in a while departments do make the teaching element a priority.

  49. Sara says

    When the survey asks things like ‘have you ever felt rejected by your family for your atheist/agnostic beliefs’ it assumes that my family *knows* about my atheism. They don’t. I haven’t told them (or my religious friends) yet because being rejected by them is exactly what I’m afraid of. Several questions went along the same vein, assuming my atheism is out in the open for everyone in my personal and work life to voice an opinion on it. It doesn’t take into consideration many of us are still “closeted,” making those questions painfully unanswerable. Rather insensitive, I think.

  50. Sara says

    @ Moggie, #58

    — You wrote:
    Good grief, can you imagine a Catholic/Jewish mother? The guilt!
    — end of quote —

    Welcome to my childhood… My mother is Catholic, with all the stereotypical “Jewish mother” traits in addition to that. The talent to both feel and induce incredible guilt is mind-blowing.

  51. says

    @#56 Alcari —

    And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual? is that like being a little pregnant?

    While much of the survey was silly, it actually is quite possible to be somewhere between homosexual and heterosexual — ie, being bisexual. Though some bisexual people identify as having equal preference for both genders, many have a tendency to prefer one gender over another. (Additionally, some people who identify as homosexual or heterosexual may in fact have some slight inclinations in the other direction.) See the Kinsey scale for more.

  52. Holbach says

    Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I was hoping that they would allow at the end of the survey your quick response to this question: “What is your evaluation of religion?” Ha, that wouldn’t be hard to express in a few choice words!

  53. says

    Anyone play Rock Band? I’m hooked…anyway Doolittle is coming out for it. Cool.

    I haven’t yet, but it looks like I’m gonna have to now.

  54. Peter Ashby says

    Those criticsing the survey seem to have no idea how to design one. I thought it a very good survey with a good range of corrobaritive questions. It showed a great deal of thought. IIRC there was an option in how you were raised to choose atheist. I wasn’t so I didn’t choose it, but it was there.

    I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t ask about where you had lived between birth and the present day. MIne looks like I am completely Scottish, my New Zealand background featured not at all though I have spent most of my life there.

  55. says

    The toughest question on the survey for me was the one about whether I feel I’ve been discriminated against because of religion. Gee, does the fact that I pay taxes on my acres while the church up the road pays nothing count?

  56. devnulljp says

    I say balls to both those polls.
    Your serious poll seems ot have been designed by a 12-year-old church kid projecting into what a white ex-church kid might be like as an theist as a Sunday school project. Too many bogus assumptions. Whole thing seems like an exercise in rationalisation. Oh, and the spelling?

    But I wonder if the NBC poll on the impeachment thing might be a better one to crash…not that it needs it. The great beast really does seem to want to impeach the bastard…not that the dems are going to do it, spineless jackasses that they are. You lot really need to fix your political system. It truly sucks.

  57. says

    Peter Ashby writes:
    Those criticsing the survey seem to have no idea how to design one.

    Really. It’s hard – one of my undergrad psych classes was all about testing methods and survey-making and it was one of the most difficult classes in the curriculum. It turns out it’s pretty easy to make a survey that measures something but controlling what that something is, is really hard.

    The survey design is pretty good, which makes me think that she knows what she’s doing enough to understand self-selected sample bias. My guess is that the internet version of the survey is just a test to make sure the survey is reasonably sorted-out and the results won’t actually be used for anything.

  58. EntoAggie says

    I had some trouble as well. For one, I am an atheist, but also a member of the local Unitarian congregation. When I am stressed out I do tend to seek out fellow members (friends), go to the service (routine), and I also volunteer through them. But does that mean I “turn to my religion” when I’m stressed? And what percentage of my volunteer work could be considered “religious”? I was kind of stuck. I finally decided “no” and “0%”, because even though I may do these things through a religious organization, I do not do them because they are religious.

    The income/financial questions were bizarrely and vaguely worded. I agree also with the poster above that the survey should have just asked income (if known), rather than some self-imagined category that we think we fit into. The researcher can do the work on figuring out how the various incomes fit into the cultures and standard salaries at the time.

    Also, income throughout all of childhood AND adolesence? That’s a period of almost twenty years! I remember that we were quite poor when I was young, but quite financially comfortable by the time I graduated high school.

    Finally, I wasn’t even quite sure about my own income. Was the question referring to only my income? To the household income? Eh?

    The “pick the one you most agree with” section was idiotic. Often I not only disagreed with both statements, but was creating mental arguments about why they were both flat-out WRONG. Sometimes it seemed as though (as someone else noted) the two were completely unrelated, other times it seemed as though they were both flimsy, strawman versions of what the researcher thought conservative/liberal people “should” think.

    And the typos…oh the typos…..

  59. Epinephrine says

    The “serious survey” was full of holes. It makes a ton of assumptions that the questions are valid or have meaning, and I can see issues with analysis/interpretation – for example, I have 3 children, but only 1 is old enough to have come to any conclusions about the existence or not of gods (she’s 5, and has decided not) – the 1 year old and 2 year old haven’t given it any thought. Yet, it’ll likely make the assumption that if I have 3 children and one shares my beliefs, the other two don’t.

    What about the wonderful question about the Loch Ness monster? Was that a test to see if you understand that you cannot disprove the existence of something by failing to observe it? What possible anwers can anyone give? If you thing Nessie exists, you answer “Strongly Disagree”. If you understand how proofs work, and that the non-existence of Nessie can’t be proven by lack of observation, you also answer “Strongly Disagree”. What a useless question. How the heck do you differentiate between someone who thinks they met Nessie in the rain at a little bistro and a skeptic who is rational enough to know that one can’t possibly claim to be sure without a doubt that Nessie cannot exist?

    Oh, and (in case Peter Ashby, above, comments) my work is currently largely health survey analysis. I look at surveys all day.

    It wasn’t the worst survey I’ve seen, but it was lacking.

  60. Aquaria says

    Peter Ashby:

    Surveys are difficult to word correctly, but, again, I saw one just yesterday for gauging the viewsand attitudes of atheists that was much clearer and more objective, not to mention less prone to errors. This one looks like amateur hour next to it, even though it is much more comprehensive.

  61. Jase says

    The poll question should have a follow up: “Do you think Darth Cheney, Rummy and Turd Blossom should be a)shot, b)hanged, or c) drawn and quartered?” Well, perhaps that would be a might loaded for a US poll.

  62. Jase says

    “And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual?”
    You’re kidding right? Or is your world composed of polar opposites such as black/white, up/down, liberal/conservative? You can’t love dogs AND cats? You must choose SURF OR TURF! We don’t allow AND on our menu. Can you say “false dichotomy”?

  63. says

    The second one was long and boring. Many of the questions were poorly worded making answering them difficult as there are nuances to my thought processes that left the “either/or” response incomplete.

  64. says

    Serena @ 16:

    Like: Are you a spiritual person? or Do you feel a spiritual connection to nature? Right out I would say no. But, do I feel the same things that other people feel, and describe as being spiritual? Yes, I am sure that the feeling is the same. It just has nothing to do with a “spirit” or something supernatural. So I answered no. I wouldn’t call it a “spiritual connection”. It’s on the atomic or molecular level really.

    Exactly. I have no spirit, therefore no “spiritual connection.” I do have an EMOTIONAL connection based solely on my preferences. For example, I love the western mountains (US), forests, lakes and waterfalls, Pacific-Ocean winter storms, blizards, snow, glaciers and the northern oceans.

    But I hate the desert, jungles, plains, wide-open spaces, thunderstorms, suburbia’s sprawl and the eastern mountains (US). I despise the wet, gloppy eastern snow. And southern food.

    Ooops, I ramble.

  65. David Marjanović, OM says

    And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual? is that like being a little pregnant?

    In the middle of that scale it says “bisexual”…

    Just so you know: “asking an understandable question” really isn’t on the job description for hiring faculty…

    Oh, I know. It’s just sort of implied in “can teach”.

    (However, now that students don’t have a say anymore in hiring faculty, “can teach” is no longer a requirement in Austria…)

    It doesn’t take into consideration many of us are still “closeted,” making those questions painfully unanswerable. Rather insensitive, I think.

    It also doesn’t take into consideration the fact that there are places where people simply don’t ask each other for their innermost deeply held beliefs or lack thereof. That’s what I alluded to in comment 7.

    My own mother knows I don’t go to church, but that’s it. She hasn’t ever tried to find out anything beyond that.

  66. David Marjanović, OM says

    To hell with the impeachment!

    Send the bleedin’ Shrub to den Haag!

    One thing after another. First impeachment of Richard the Lying-Hearted. Then chimpeachment. Then the Hague.

  67. David Marjanović, OM says

    Or, actually, first impeachment of all Busheviki together. Then the ICC.

  68. Sarcastro says

    “Pantheism” is also misspelt in the second section…

    Hey! Don’t be denigrating my worship of the great and sublime Pa.

  69. Epinephrine says

    #42 – Come to join us in slicin’ up eyeballs, did you?

    Hehe, are you serious? The lab I was in did some stuff on chronic ischemia (2VO model) and retinal degeneration in rats, way back when I was doing my undergrad. Funny having a box full of eyeballs in wax cubes.

  70. Jase says

    My wife, my Dad and a couple of friends know of my lack of belief in god/gods. My mother would simply go into denial and probably prate on about more evangelical pap than she does now (Love ya Mom! but…) My wife is uncomfortable with my contempt for people who attribute any and all phenomena to god, but she has eased up on her criticism.

    Atheism is anethema to my wife’s very evangelical family as well They’re good people but not prone to sophisticated discourse, especially on religious views. I would not be welcome at family gatherings if I made my views clear, or my presence would make everyone uncomfortable and invite unwelcome proselytizing.
    I care very much for my wife’s family (well, most of them, anyway) and I understand their fear since I was raised in that environment. My Dad’s best friend is a Veterinarian who’s a YEC; he swears the Earth isn’t over 6000yo.. Sad, so very sad.

  71. SC says

    I made a poll on whether to crash polls or take serious surveys.

    He really did!

    Rock Band is the greatest game on the planet.

    I second this.

  72. Nemo says

    I’m not seeing the impeachment poll on that page. Is it just me? Did they take it down?

  73. Nemo says

    Never mind, I’m being stupid — it’s the Flash thingie at the bottom. Didn’t see it because I have FlashBlock, and didn’t unblock because I assumed it was an ad.

    82/16/2 right now.

  74. Malky says

    I did the survey. It looked to me very like a Meyers-Briggs personality test dressed up with religious clothing.

  75. CalGeorge says

    Impeach the frigging bastard yesterday.

    People like Bush only succeed because other people in power are too chicken-shit to oppose him.

    By taking impeachment off the table, Pelosi basically said: the corruption and lies and the violations of the law perpetrated by BushCo are acceptable.

    Shame on her. We need better from our Congress.

  76. says

    It looks like other people have already made all the complaints I was going to make, including the “income during childhood” bit. Well done!

  77. noodlesoup says

    RE: “And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual?”

    I selected one step down from Hetero but not Bi.

  78. MarkW says

    Richard Harris @ #21:
    Yes, I guess it might be an Asperger thing, several of my friends with experience in the area have suggested I might be undiagnosed with Asperger’s.

    In other words… Serena @ #34:
    Yes, I’m weird. :-D

    There are several answers I made, that if zero is right at #19 with “the last page seems like it’s a test for paranoid schizophrenia”, I’m starting to get worried.

    For example, I frequently get the impression that a situation I’m in is something I remember from a dream; I know that in all likelihood it’s just a “brain-fart”; I’m well aware of the proposed mechanisms for deja-vu.

    I’m not going to come on all Kenny-esque and demand that it’s evidence for anything. It doesn’t stop it from freaking me out though.

  79. Kant light says

    I really appreciate Moses’ and Serena’s comments. Since I am a philosopher, I felt compelled to answer that I do think about spiritual-and-or-philosophical questions everyday. I didn’t really appreciate, however, looking like I think about spiritual questions (I’m pretty comfortable with my answer to that whole rigamarole). Same goes for the question as to whether science can answer everything. Again, probably peculiar to my profession, but I actually think there are questions science can’t answer – What the laws of logic are, for example, seem to fall fairly squarely within philosophy and not science. (I’m not a reductivist about normativity, what can I say). But I’d hate for that answer to be taken as implicit support for ID, or religion, or any such thing.

  80. MarkW says

    Addendum to previous post:

    This is why I have a great deal of sympathy for the “Fortean” world-view. Although, in terms of my scientific training I know that un-reproducible “weirdness” that I frequently seem to experience is in all likelihood my own misperception, I just can’t help myself from thinking “and yet…”

    Blah, I probably shouldn’t post when I’ve been drinking….

  81. says

    I too struggled through the survey, wondering all the time whether it was a psychologists’ test of how long you can get internet users to answer meaningless questions. What really got to me was the “pick the one you most agree with” section. I started out trying to play along, but soon gave up. These are complicated phenomena that in every case are the result of complicated interacting variables and picking one variable above others does not make sense.

    I’m surprised nobody else picked up on this, because one of the items we were asked to proclaim upon was:

    Heredity plays the major role in determining one’s personality
    It is one’s experiences in life that determine what they’re [sic] like

    I believe there is a reason the false dichotomy is known as a “fallacy”.

  82. Epinephrine says

    re: the heredity vs. experience question.

    No kidding. It’s an interaction between the two; one can’t make bread without both ingredients and heat. Which is more important? Neither, both are necessary.

  83. says

    So far the results of the most important (ahem) poll in this thread are:

    Would you rather crash a pointless poll or contribute data in a serious survey?

    30% (36) Crash! Crash!
    10% (12) I are serious cat. Do the survey.
    47% (57) I’ve got no life. I’ll do both.
    1% (2) Doing either is far beneath me.
    10% (12) I’m agnostic.

    It’s made even better by adding up to a total of 98% :D

  84. says

    Dollop added!

    I noticed the problems with a few questions as well, but picked answers for them that were most in line with what I ‘believed’ (get it?). I find most surveys don’t have the answer I would give anyway.

    I liked the kook section about aliens and mind control and stuff – that was fun!

  85. says

    I agree, there were questions on the “serious” poll that were really not answerable since I viewed them as irrelevant, but I picked whatever was closest and let it stand.

    It’ll be interesting to see what comes from the research. I wish they had given an option to have the results e-mailed to you.

  86. mothworm says

    Made it all the way through the longer poll, but I always wish each question would come with a comment box. None of the answers I can pick from ever portray anything accurate about me.

    Even something as seemingly straightforward as “how many sex partners have you had” causes trouble. I’ve only had penetrative sex with one woman, but I did do some hands-on, under the clothes fooling around with a high-school girlfriend, which I certainly consider “sexual” by any definition. So do they want me to answer 1 or 2?

    And again with the income question. I honesly have no idea where my income falls in relation to anyone else’s. Maybe they were trying to measure our perception of our income (or our assumptions about everyone else’s), but without asking for your actual income, they have no way of comparing that, so it was a completely pointless question.

  87. CanadianChick says

    in my limited experience, EVERY survey is chock full of bias and badly written questions that pose false dichotomies.

    that said, I didn’t think this one was as bad as some, and I’m a regular survey-taker for Ipsos-Reid.

    The typos and errors in the drop downs – those were what nearly made me give up in frustration.

  88. Crickit says

    “And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual?”

    I selected one step down from Hetero but not Bi.

    Yeah, I selected one step up from Homosexual. By far, most of the people I’m attracted to are guys, but I do find myself attracted to the same sex occasionally.

  89. Nothing Sacred says

    PZ, are you a member of the Center for Inquiry, by any chance? Because I know they were promoting a “Non-Religious Identification Survey” sponsored by professors at Grand Valley State University. I think the lead researcher is named Dr. Luke Galen, if you would like to look it up. I took the survey and will take the other one when I have some time. I’m happy to do it; hell, I wish more people would ask me about being non-religious. …No pun intended.

  90. Leigh says

    I made it through the first page on the serious survey, clicked continue, and got an error that said the “the server could not load the html” (not a 404). Oh, well. I will say that I had a lot of trouble with the religion questions on the first page.

    “To what extent do you believe in a personal God, that is one who takes interests in individual, hears and answers prayers, is concerned with sin and transgressions, and passes judgment?”

    Well, agree with two and strongly disagree with two. And then I have to answer on a scale from “To no extent at all” to “a great extent”. So I answer w/ a three, “to a mild extent”.

    How in the world can ANY valid conclusion be drawn from that datum?

  91. says

    And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual?

    Well, the simple mechanics would say the heterosexual goes on the bottom of the stack, and then you, and then the homosexual on top. I think I got that right.

  92. mandrake says

    PZ, can we assume you’ll post occasionally letting us know how this research is doing and when/if it’s published?

    I was quite happy with the Kinsey-scale-esque sexuality question. Saying “bisexual” sounds too 50/50 when it’s more like 95/05 with me. Also, it’s just so *trendy* for women to say they’re bi, & I hate being trendy.

    as far as Alcari@56’s comment-

    A few years ago I was hanging around with a group that included some high school males. Their opinion was “you suck cock or you don’t” (sorry, their words). What they meant was, a male engaging in homosexual activities is a homosexual, regardless of the number of females he might be shtupping on a regular basis. Sadly, the conversation didn’t turn to the equivalent in females, because I would have liked to hear that.

  93. scooter says

    And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual?

    It’s not linear question, there is a Y axis as well. My Gay friends say the difference between a straight guy and his gay side is a twelve pack.

    So you would have to plot Heterosexual < -> Homosexual on the x axis, and number of beers on the y axis, then plot a curve.

  94. dogheaven says

    The survey asked for too much information and I became paranoid and backed out. After reading the thread, I am glad I did.

    Impeach? Well yes if we care about our Constitution, that cute little irrelevant document.

    Our soldiers are doing their jobs, we civilians need to do ours. Impeach this runaway commander and get our men and women home.

  95. lylebot says

    I have to say, it sounds like some of you are bringing your own baggage to this survey. I certainly didn’t pick up on any implication that saying you’re not spiritual is in any sense akin to lacking humanity. I didn’t like all the questions, but it lets you skip anything you want. I was just happy to be able to self-report being a happy, successful, and moral atheist with a fairly positive outlook on life—there are too many people out there who think it’s impossible to be any of those things while being an atheist.

  96. says

    Like lylebot #113, I didn’t find the questions intrusive, since it was a research study and they repeated that you could skip questions. I answered them all.

    Most of the questions, once you identified yourself as an atheist, were obviously geared to determine a) how moral a person you were, b) whether you were involved in other minority groups as well as to see how your views stacked up against self-described religious people’s and c) to test your statements regarding evidence vs belief, facts vs belief, etc. It seemed fairly obvious, actually.

    What made it kind of fun was the number of questions with possible answers that were not quite on the mark, so it was tough to choose – no shades of grey, in other words.

    Since anybody who does the questionnaire is faced with the same kinds of dilemmas, it’s likely as fair as possible.

    Maybe the test was to see how many questions people wouldn’t answer, for all we know.

    It will be fun to see the final results, especially if enough atheists participate.

  97. debaser71 says

    So over on richarddawkins.net Richard Dawkins made this comment regarding the survey.

    “I strongly support this research. It is being carried out to the highest standards, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the results when they are all analysed. I shall be filling in the Survey myself and I urge others to do the same.”

    from here…note comments are disabled…must have been really negative reactions


    I wonder how PZ and Dawkins feel about the survey after taking it? To me the study was an example of why social sciences are so weak…and if this survey is an example of one with “the highest standards” makes me wonder what less rigorous studies look like.

    For the record I didn’t think the survey had hidden biases or anything..at least nothing out of the ordinary. I had issue with the poor phrasing of questions, limited reasonable answers, etc. Had I known I could leave things blank (maybe I failed to read all the instructions) I would have left much of the test blank. I ended just answering “neither agree or disagree” to lots of the survey. Like that whole part on purpose and meaning. OK ranting now…carry on…just shocked.

  98. Caz Fan says

    As a sociologist/survey researcher who takes human subjects rights very seriously, I have a few comments on the Cornwell survey and its approval by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs IRB. To summarize, I feel the IRB was probably too lax in terms of protecting respondent confidentiality.
    There are two magic words survey researchers try to use in their cover letters and in the introduction to any survey: anonymity and confidentiality. Actually, we’d like to use anonymity in all cases, but since we often can’t, we fall back on confidentiality. If I promise my respondents anonymity, I promise that neither waterboarding nor Eliot Spitzer’s hottest nor a subpoena or anything else can screw out of me any information any particular respondent gave me because I simply cannot connect respondent to response. If I promise confidentiality, I promise that though for at least some period of time I could if I wished connect respondent to response, I will not in fact yield the information up to anyone, though the codes of ethics I’ve checked seem to allow yielding to legal subpoenas (after you’ve squawked).
    Regarding the survey there are several points. First, anonymity is not possible in an online survey of this type. Your IP address always shows up. This is probably why my trophy wife (TM) was able to vote to impeach Cheney’s proxy only once :-). Second, the “cover letter,” such as it was, never used either word, despite the American Psychological Association’s code of ethics “suggestion” 4.02(b) “(u)nless it is not feasible or is contraindicated, the discussion of confidentiality occurs at the outset of the relationship and thereafter as new circumstances may warrant” (http://www.apa.org/ethics/code2002.html). (As members of the UCCS Department of Psychology, the investigator and the IRB chair both show signs of being psychologists.) Third, the survey asked for much more detailed personal information than was warranted. Your birthday??? I’m shocked the IRB let that ride. (It’s also considered bad form in the survey biz to start with demographic information as a) it tends to drive respondents away and b) if people quit in the middle of the survey, you are probably less interested in that than in answers to real questions. Of course if age is your most important independent variable, you might want to get it early.) Fourth, the survey asks questions about illegal behavior. Now, these questions are quite common, but they make confidentiality all the more important. To be sure, I have never heard of any local constabulary subpoenaing responses in hopes of snaring admitted druggies, but I still don’t trust them, especially if there is a chance of easy matching of names and answers. Also, it might be amusing to know PZ’s drug and sexual partner history even if you were just the PI and not the authorities. Fifth, the survey sample design is lousy. What this has to do with confidentiality is that it minimizes the possible scientific benefits that we are trading off with threats from poor confidentiality. (This is the old tradeoff between discovering a cure to atheism — er, cancer — and risk of harm to the subject; if there is a high chance of success, we will be more willing to subject the subject to harm.)
    In defense of Cornwell and the IRB, whether or not she made an explicit promise to respondents concerning confidentiality, she is subject to the APA code of ethics and may well have given the IRB a detailed accounting of how she will protect confidentiality. Some sociologists are grateful that these days IRBs seem to be allowed to let questionnaires through with minimal scrutiny. The chair may have been the only one who saw the proposal.
    Though it was riddled with typos and poor question wording, this was probably the best internet survey I’ve taken. Sadly this is not a compliment but more a comment on the state of the art. I usually figure nine drafts to get a clean questionnaire; this looks like it made it to five. Unfortunately, it also seemed to lack help from someone who knows questionnaire design. The sample design — some hash between haphazard and, once PZ got the Pharyngulights involved, snowball — makes firm conclusions difficult to justify, but it could give very suggestive preliminary results for more rigorous follow up.

  99. says

    To join the chorus of people disappointed with the survey, I had to give up on page 2.

    I’m not so fussed about loaded questions, or even strange options in multiple choice (like the hilarious “Air Force” race option); but if you’re going to build a survey in HTML, the HTML needs to be valid!

    – Two of the income questions share the same radio button group, so you can’t actually answer both questions. The survey will probably end up with almost no data for the first one.

    – The multiple-choice question on religious upbringing bizarrely uses radio buttons instead of checkboxes, which means you can’t deselect an answer once you’ve selected it.

    That’s where I gave up. If this survey takes 45 minutes and I ran into another broken question 30 minutes in, be damned if I was going to start again so I could correct for it.

  100. lostn says

    For those curious, that survey is 10 pages long and is missing a lot of options for some questions. Some questions are also ambiguously worded making the answers meaningless.

    It is very long. Longer than the 30 mins PZ suggested. And there is no reward or statement of appreciation either. They didn’t even bother to tell you how long it would be before hand. Looks quite unprofessional.

  101. Ragutis says


    Well, ok… but I’d really prefer on trial at The Hague.

    Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and a few more deserve life in small windowless cells, wallpapered with the faces of those lost and maimed due to their crimes. Start with this one.

    (Ok, so I guess the cells can’t be too small after all…)

    Seriously, someone explain to me how these fuckers will go back to private life and never have to account for their actions and the ways they’ve affected millions of people? Instead they’ll be cashing in and getting rich(er) off of their crimes.

  102. Ragutis says

    Bugger… I’m beaten to the punch by 7 minutes. But I’ll go read your post, PB.

  103. Epinephrine says


    The survey clearly says how long it will take. It’s the first sentence.

    “The following survey will take between 45 and 60 minutes. If you agree to participate, you don’t have to answer all of the questions but we do ask that you consider each question carefully and answer as honestly as you can. The questions concern a broad range of topics, including some personal ones about your childhood, your relationship with your parents, your religious upbringing, and your attitudes to social issues.”

  104. says

    re: #119

    I’d like to think so. Honestly, I’d love to see the whole lot of them loaded into police cars and taken away right after the Inauguration Ceremony but we all know it won’t happen. There’s no such thing as holding people accountable in this society any more.

  105. Sadie Morrison says

    Okay, I’ve participated in a number of online surveys, and I’ve got to say that this one was one of the most bizarre I’ve ever encountered. The questions were badly worded, the biases of the project designer were fairly transparent, and the many spelling/grammar errors made me wonder whether the damn thing had even been edited. The “debriefing” at the end could scarcely be considered debriefing, and as someone else pointed out, there was no disclaimer, warning, or apology at the end over the length of the survey. Apparently the designer had no qualms about assuming that people would be more than happy to spend the better part of an hour answering poorly-worded, often irrelevant (or questionably relevant) questions. Also, after having wasted so much time on the survey, I would have at least liked to have been given some sort of feedback. No dice. This survey was not worth the time.

  106. James says

    The poll’s questions were ridiculous both in technical form
    and content:

    for example, when asked to express which religious influences
    you had, there was a selection of 30 religions. it included
    4 different sects of Buddhism (yet for all that excluded
    Zen Buddhism), and didnt include Greek Orthodox (my religion).
    Additionally, you couldnt modify your choices, so if you
    accidentally check a religion, you cant uncheck.

    one question asked about income, and you were asked to
    selection from “Lowest, Low, Low Average, Average, High Average, High,
    Highest”. The obvious way to ask the question is simply
    to ask your total annual income. Even a homeless, indigent
    person is going to bridle at selecting “Lowest” because
    theres always someone one can point to doing less well.
    Similarly, many people will say they are “Average”: from
    the blue collar worker who makes 32,000 to the upper middle
    class white collar worker who makes 90,000.

    its either laziness or incompetence. the poll writer is
    needlessly relying on the polltakers to qualify their
    own data. the smarter choice would be just to ask the
    annualized income and normalize it in a systematic way.

    with this, as with alot of the other questions, you get
    the feeling that theres a “garbage in, garbage out”
    quality to the poll. whatever conclusions are reached
    will have no validity, because the questions themselves
    are so flawed.

  107. shane says


    Really? More religious than the Vatican City?

    How many churches in the Vatican City? Not many. One big one for sure. How many churches in the USA? More than the Vatican City. So therefore my scientific survey proves that the USA is more religious than the Vatican City.

  108. themadlolscientist says

    Mr. Bush: Travelocity just called. You reservation at the Guantanamo Hilton has been confirmed.

  109. JM Inc. says

    Does anybody know how that online questionnaire works? I was in the middle of filling it out, and my machine crashed (I was running other applications at the time, obviously) – I don’t suppose I can just go back and finish it, can I? I’ve already submitted about five pages worth of answers, and I wouldn’t want to go back and give them five more pages of exactly the same to confound their sample (even slightly). Does anybody know about this?

  110. Sadie Morrison says

    And how the heck can you be somewhere in between Homosexual and Heterosexual? is that like being a little pregnant?

    I’ve got to say that, in all honesty, this is one of the dumber comments I’ve come across in this thread. As many others have pointed out before me, human sexuality cannot be categorized in an either/or fashion; instead, it falls along a continuum.

    And Shane, if that’s a joke (particularly one satirizing the lack of rigor seen in the second survey), then I LOL’d.

  111. pc says

    There is good reason to impeach Bush. Doesn’t matter that he’s outta’ here (hurray!). But it DOES matter when it comes to all those little notes he made on bills: 157 signing statements challenging over 1,100 provisions of federal law (as of 1/1/2008). He gets impeached all those signing statements can then be challenged in court not to mention the validity of his being able to have that much power as to challenge federal law without any oversight. Too much of that no-oversight going on in this administration.

  112. says

    @#93 MarkW —

    There are several answers I made, that if zero is right at #19 with “the last page seems like it’s a test for paranoid schizophrenia”, I’m starting to get worried.

    There’s a wonderful anecdote in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman entitled “Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You” — in which Feynman answered the army recruiter’s mental health questions a bit too honestly.

    It’s online here — I highly recommend reading it for a good laugh.

  113. MarkW says

    @Etha #131:

    Thanks for that, it’s good to know that if I am a lunatic I’m in good company. Heh.

  114. Andres Villarreal says

    While this survey is an interesting starting point for a study and may uncover intriguing aspects to include in the next phase of the project, one warning is critical: no quantifiable results can come from Internet surveys!

    Nobody can say if 90% of those who decide to spend the full 45 minutes to answer all the questions are mental cases or not, complete fundamentalists or not, or just plain trolls.

    I would very much like to know that no conclusions are taken based on the data from the survey. It just would not be a scientific study

  115. Nova says

    I voted “Oppose” to the impeach bush one. This is probably the first time I have gone against what the majority of people on this site have done but people who want to impeach bush are just venting because their country voted in an incompetent speech impaired moron for president, he hasn’t done anything overtly illegal so without evidence for that simply impeaching him because you hate him and his policies is military junta politics so if you vote “Support” you vote undermine the American political system – really what you should be voting for is a change in the system or a change in who the people vote for.

  116. Jon Garvin says

    Just made my own attempt at the serious poll. The poll creator should have had someone competent in basic HTML build this thing. When answering one question on the first page, it unselected my answer from the previous question and visa-versa. Then I ran into the same problem that a previous commenter did where once you selected a religion by accident, you couldn’t unselect it. Radio Buttons are not the same things as Check Boxes and are not interchangeable! I’d already skipped a bunch of questions that were irrelevant to me or didn’t make any sense, so when I couldn’t unselect a religion, I quit. Garbage in, Gargabe out. That poll isn’t going to produce any meaningful results.

    This reminded me though of a telephone survey I recently agreed to take. One of the questions asked for my religion. The options were several christian sects, or ‘Other’. WTF? According to that particular poll creator, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics and Atheists, Etc. are all just “Them” and easily lumped together.

  117. David Marjanović, OM says

    157 signing statements challenging over 1,100 provisions of federal law (as of 1/1/2008)


    but people who want to impeach bush are just venting because their country voted in an incompetent speech impaired moron for president,

    Not everyone here is an American.

    he hasn’t done anything overtly illegal


    Hello? He started a war. That’s the biggest crime at all (see precedent in Nuremberg).

    And that’s just the biggest of his crimes. Read Kucinich’s 35 articles of impeachment for a start.