# How many atheists are there in the U.S.? A new paper says about 26% of the

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One weakness of the study is that the control question, which should show 0% of people rejecting the statement â€śI do not believe that 2 + 2 is less than 13â€ť, actually gave an estimate of 34%. The authors note this, showing that they are careful about the data:

Says a lot about their methodology.

Says more about peopleâ€™s math word problem abilities

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And problems with parsing chains of negation, I think. (They have to reject the statement â€śI do not believe that 2+2=13â€ť).

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Or the question was framed in a way that confused whoever they were surveyingâ€¦ i.e a problem with the methodology.
In fact, this is one reason direct answers/self reporting gives more reliable results.

A direct question wouldnâ€™t have gotten 34% false positives.

I agree. If the point is to test the peopleâ€™s arithmetical skill, that can be done by asking them to comment on a positive statement, not on a nearly double negative (â€śI do not believe that 2 + 2 is less than 13â€ť). Why not ask them to comment on â€śI believe that 2 + 2 is less than 13â€ť? Or â€śI believe that 2 + 2 is more than 13â€ť? If the point is to find out what people believe rather than how good they are at answering tricky questions, a more straightforward question is desirable. But you canâ€™t tell these survey â€śexpertsâ€ť anything. They are convinced they know all about how to do a proper survey.

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