Friday, June 6, 2014

Mormon Superiority Myths: Infidelity

I'm a sucker for click-bait, I'll admit it.  But my fascination usually stems from a curiosity regarding how badly the headline mangles reality.  So I couldn't resist when I saw the headline "You May Be Surprised How Many Born-Again Christians Use Ashley Madison."

A new survey conducted by Ashley Madison -- a dating website for people already in relationships -- sought to discover the link between religion and infidelity by asking 105,000 of its members around the world about their religious affiliation. More than 60,000 of the respondents were in the U.S.

The implication is that Born-again Christians are more likely to cheat on their partners than those from other religions because they make up 25.1% of the user base at Ashley Madison.  Don't be fooled: they have demonstrated no such thing.  Instead of demonstrating that a randomly chosen Evangelical Christian is more likely to be a user of Ashley Madison, they've actually shown that a randomly chosen Ashley Madison is most likely to be an Evangelical Christian.

Big deal.

If we take a look at the percentages of religions in the population compared to the percentages of religions in the user base, we get a different idea.  Take a look:

Religion Percentage of Population Percentage of Ashley Madison Users
Evangelist 26.3 25.10
Catholic 23.9 22.75
Protestant 18.1 22.70
Agnostic 2.4 2.00
Mormon 1.7 1.60
Muslim 0.6 1.50
Jewish 1.7 1.40
Atheist 1.6 1.40
Jehovah's Witness 0.7 0.50
Hinduism 0.4 0.30

As you can see, the percentages track pretty well.  Statistically, we would call this good agreement between the data.  A goodness of fit tests also indicates no reason to suspect that the distributions differ (p = 0.22).

What's the practical interpretation?  Effectively, all American religions (and non religions) suffer from infidelity in fairly equal proportions.  Well, at least the kind of infidelity where people are willing to pay a website to help them cheat.

So what does this all mean for Mormon culture?  Nothing really.  At most, we might think that Mormons aren't any better behaved than other religions. 

My advice: save your money and take your partner out to dinner.

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