Thursday, April 12, 2012

Associations of Catholic Priests' unscientific survey

The Association of Catholic Priests (Ireland) commissioned Amarach Consulting to survey Irish Catholics on a whole range of issues - mostly those that worry the ACP. Unsurprisingly, the results are exactly what the ACP wanted: priests should be allowed to marry, women should be allowed to be priests, the new Mass is not as well-liked as the old, the Church's teaching on sexuality, etc is basically irrelevant.

Now these views may well represent the majority, even the vast majority, of Irish Catholics on these matters, but this survey doesn't prove anything.

First of all, of the 1000 interviews only 187 were conducted face-to-face. The rest were conducted online.

Frankly, I wouldn't trust any online survey and I don't trust this one. Why online? Why not over the phone? Online is (a) self-selecting (easy to treat unseriously, easier to ignore) and (b) not available universally, evenly across the whole population. For example, broadband penetration is much greater in urban areas than in rural areas. Did this bias affect the survey results?

Also, the survey results report says the 187 face-to-face interviews were all conducted in the Republic of Ireland, although 280 online interviews were conducted in Northern Ireland.

Why no face-to-face interviews up north? Is it because the face-to-face interviews were all conducted within a few miles of Amarach's HQ? I don't know, but I doubt they went to rural Donegal for any face-to-face interviews and didn't go to any location north of the border. More bias?

Of course no one in RTE or the Irish Times  – or the Irish Independent or Irish Examiner for that matter – even mentioned that the survey was conducted mostly online. I wonder if anyone at any of those news publishers even wondered about those face-to-face interviews. I kind of doubt it.

No need to query a survey with results that suit their editorial lines. They've given us the "Who?, What?, Where?, When? and Why?". Who are we to ask "How?"?