Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Pagan Census, revisited

Three researchers are working to update Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States, originally published in 2003.

Helen Berger, one of the researchers, writes, "This survey builds on an earlier one completed over twenty years ago, primarily in the United States, which was conducted by Helen A. Berger and Andras Arthen (of the EarthSpirit Community) entitled the Pagan Census.

"A number of scholars have noted that it would be helpful to have a follow-up of that survey to see if and how the community has changed or remained the same. The survey that follows uses many, although not all of the same questions that were in the original survey to provide that comparison. There are also new questions, for instance about the Internet, something that was of little interest 20 years ago but is now, and some from other studies, that again permit a comparison. This has resulted in the survey being somewhat long--we appreciate your taking the time to complete it."

Please feel free to spread this URL around the Pagan Web to get as wide a variety of respondents as possible.

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Anonymous Adrian said...

It's a great idea for them to run the survey again. But I wonder how, if at all, they're accounting for the fact that the pagan internet is not identical to paganism as a whole. Since this survey is being disseminated by pagan blogs, won't it overrepresent the views of the pagan blogosphere?

The original survey was also a national (US) one, and they can filter out the results from those (claiming to be) from elsewhere, but I would actually be interested in comparing results internationally, despite their scattershot nature, so I would hope they could make the non-US results available as well.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completed the survey, then tried to open it again so I could print it to share with others. I was not able to gain access to it again. A good idea for not allowing people to redo the survey and be counted twice, but not good for sharing. . .

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

Once you have taken the survey, Survey Monkey puts a cookie on your hard drive.

Either clear your "cookies" or send people to my blog post so that they may get a fresh start.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Pombagira said...

have posted on various lj kiwipagan communities and yahoo lists about this survey, so you might end up with a barrage of kiwipagan data.. should be interesting.. *grins*..


12:19 AM  
Blogger Gwenhyffar said...

Is this intended to be an international pagan census now, or is it still a US pagan census?

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

The researchers would be happy to have responses from many countries, I am sure.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Elysia said...

Does anyone know why, if the previous Pagan census was conducted 20 years ago, they did not publish the results until 2003? Why would anyone publish a book with such an old data set? It feels like they should have waited to do a new survey before publishing their work - unless I'm missing something?

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Elysia said...

Never mind my last comment - I wrote to Helen Berger and she sent me a quick response:

"Our intent is to publish this much more quickly and I believe that is possible. The first census was done in paper and pen--this meant that it took longer than expected to get it on the computer. We were impressed and unprepared for the sheer number of reponses. This time the survey is online and the tabulations are in essence instantaneous. The results will therefore be out much more quickly."

Just for those of you who are interested!

1:43 PM  
Blogger Oberon said...

The original “Pagan Census Project,” which was published in 1994, which was 15 years ago. More than 2,000 people responded.

In Green Egg #116 (Nov./Dec. 1996, I published a very brief census intended to ascertain how many Pagans might be out there. My thought in designing this was to use the two iconic books as a base standard: The Spiral Dance and Drawing Down the Moon. I figgered that anybody owning these books would very likely be a Pagan. So if we could get a sense of what percentage of Pagans owned copies of these books, and compare with how many copies of these books had been sold to that date, we could compare these figures and extrapolate to arrive at a very good estimate of the total number of Pagans at the time.

In addition to Green Egg, this census was widely reprinted and circulated by Connections, Sagewoman, Purple Moon, Pagan Educational Network (PEN), Razing the Stakes (Index), and Accord, published by the Texas-based Council of Magickal Arts (CMA). 300 people responded.

As to the most important question—210 respondents indicated they owned a copy of The Spiral Dance, and 189 claimed to own Drawing Down the Moon. Extrapolating to the larger Pagan community, that would mean that 70% of Pagans owned Spiral Dance, and 63% owned Drawing Down the Moon. All that remained, then, would be to obtain the numbers of sales of those two books as of Oct. 1996, and apply those percentages to determine a reasonable estimate of how many Pagans there were at the time.

However, while the results were tallied, they were never published—owing to conflicts in the offices of Green Egg. Nor did I ever do the follow-up by contacting the respective publishers of those two books to get their sales figures. I do still have the census tabulations, and would be happy to Xerox these and mail to anyone interested. Send me $1 for copying and postage.

And now Helen Berger and Andras Corban Arthen are conducting a follow-census to their 1994 Pagan Census Project. This is great! I have taken it, added my comments, and promoted it to everyone I know, as I think we need to know this stuff about ourselves.

However, I am disappointed that the one question I most wanted to see—“Do you own a copy of The Spiral Dance?” (…now that there have been several more editions of Drawing Down the Moon, it would be too difficult to use that book as a standard)—isn’t included. So this updated new census still doesn’t give us any way to derive an estimate of our numbers.

I still feel that one of the most important questions regarding modern Pagans is an accurate estimate of our numbers. Currently, depending on which reports one reads, figures ranging from one to ten million are cited.

However, it is hard to determine these figures definitively, because religious surveys and censuses invariably omit “Pagan” from the list of religious options presented. We simply get subsumed under “other,” along with New Agers, atheists, agnostics, and who knows what-all.

I firmly contend that if “Pagan” was listed as an option under “Religion” in the upcoming National US Census, we’d all be surprised how many people would say, “Yes, that’s what I am!” I have been urging this option for decades to every census-taking organization I can, but so far, I have not seen it manifest.

Perhaps Berger and Arthen—having written a book about this topic, and presently conducting another such census—might be able to exert some influence on other pollsters.

Bright Blessings,
Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

Good historical information, Oberon.

The US Census does not, however, ask any religious-affiliation questions, which is why we have Gallup, etc., trying to come up with numbers.

The issue of Paganism's growth has been a concern of Jim Lewis's, for one, for some years.

9:59 PM  

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