Monday, September 11, 2006

Going Too Far

Do you think that Echidne's blog has gone too far in the direction of feminism? Answer yes or no, with no explanation.

Hmmm. The reason I pose this question is that the recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey* on religious beliefs of Americans has attracted some debate on the comments threads on this blog. The Los Angeles Times article on the survey says this:

Liberals go too far to exclude religion from public life while conservatives overreach in imposing their values, the survey finds.

Americans are critical of both the political left and the Christian right when it comes to their approaches to religion in the public square, according to a new national poll.

Liberals have gone "too far to keep religion out" of public life while conservatives have gone "too far in imposing their religious values," said the study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.


The Pew poll found that 69% of respondents said liberals have gone "too far to keep religion out of school and government" and 49% contended that conservatives have gone "too far in imposing their religious values."

Well, the respondents didn't actually say that. The survey asked them a question with the words "too far" in it. Now, I think that is a leading way to ask questions, because it already contains the idea that a lot of the activity it addresses already exists. After all, we'd never say that someone has gone too far in doing something quite rare. So the initial setup is biased, implying that certain groups already have greatly participated in the activities of either blocking religion or pushing it.

Then the question didn't ask WHY the respondents would answer they way they did. Where did they get the impression that liberals have gone too far or that fundamentalist right-wing Christians have gone too far? From their own experiences? Columns by right-wing pundits? Columns by left-wing goddesses? This matters, you know.
*You can find the whole report as a downloadable file here. At the very end of that report are the actual questions asked, and, yes indeed, they did use the term "gone too far".