Lies, Damn Lies and...

Statistics... Don't you love them.

As a long term participant in the Northern Ireland Household Panel Survey (I'll do anything for a £10 gift voucher... well, I'll spend half an hour answering relatively simple questions anyway...) I received the latest findings today.

This is based on the 2008 returns, before the current economic downturn really gathered momentum here, but already it has shown a leap in those feeling financially worse off than the previous year (up to 31% from 14%), which in turn has manifested itself ina decrease in the number of people going to the pub once per week or more, down to 14% from 22% back in 2002. However, that trend may be exacerbated by the smoking ban in pubs in the intervening period... although I for one have been happier to go to a pub since that legislation. Whatever the reason these statistics certainly lend substance to the licensees bleating about the downturn in their business.

That is until you look at some of the other findings. Remember, this is a survey of opinions and reported behaviour, rather than hard data reflecting actual behaviour. One of the statistics reported is that 68% of people believe that they are environmentally-friendly in most of the things they do, with 85% of over 65s believing the same. This is obviously nonsense. If it were true our buses would be full to overflowing every day and not just when the Tall Ships are in town, there would be people cycling everywhere and we would not be buying readymeals and pre-prepared veggies from M&S wrapped in 18 layers of packaging. over 65s may be slightly less environmentally hostile, but only because they have free bus passes and aren't quite so addicted to technology and convenience, but to claim that 17 out of every 20 are environmentally friendly is a perfect illustration of how self-deluded we are... Or how unwilling we are to admit to others, even a relative stranger with a computer tablet, that we are not as righteous as we would like to be.

And if that applies to our environmental credentials, how much more does it apply to our religious ones. Here's the religious statistics. Which of these ring true to you?

Only 3% claimed they did not have a religion, unlike the 50% in Scotland, 55% in Wales and 46% in England.

36% claimed they attend religious services or meetings once a week or more, whereas only 9% claim to attend weekly in the rest of the UK. However, recent studies suggest that even these reports are inflated, and that many of those who profess commitment to Christ regard "regular" attendance as once a month or even less.

And finally 30% of people in NI claim that religion makes a great difference in their lives, and 28% say it makes some difference.

They do not say whether that is a positive or a negative difference. But then, I'm not to sure whether we would be any more honest in that response than I feel we have been in any of the others.

Anyone else have any reflections?


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