Hamden, Conn., May 25, 2013 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A survey of U.S. priests' attitudes towards the new English translation of the Roman Missal showing “widespread skepticism” may be inaccurate because of its methods, according to a polling expert.
On May 21, St. John's School of Theology, located in Collegeville, Minn., released its survey results saying that the majority of priests in America dislike the new Missal.
Of the some 1,500 priests who responded to the survey, 39 percent like the new text, and 59 percent dislike it, according to the Collegeville survey.
“All 178 Roman Catholic Latin rite dioceses in the U.S. were invited to take part in this study; 32 dioceses participated...in the period February 21 – May 6, 2013, priests in participating dioceses were invited to participate in the online survey via an email to all priests on the diocesan distribution list,” according to the survey's executive summary.
Peter Brown, who is assistant director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute, discussed polling procedures with CNA May 23. “Random sampling is the key to getting accurate poll results,” he said.
Since only a few dioceses chose to participate in the survey – just under 18 percent – and only some priests in those dioceses chose to respond, survey respondents were “self-selecting.”
“They participated not randomly, but because they were the ones that chose to respond,” Brown explained. “Self-selected samples are not generally thought of....they don't produce a random sample.”
Since polls rely on a small number of people to represent the attitudes or beliefs of a larger population, “you have to be absolutely sure that the random group is a random group.”
The Collegeville survey, Brown said, “might not meet those criteria” since its participants were self-selecting.
“It's very difficult to know exactly” in this particular case, he added, though he had noted that self-selecting samples are generally not random.
The survey's project manager, Chase Becker, is a graduate student in liturgical studies at St. John's School of Theology, and holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy. No ostensible polling experts were involved, and the survey's professional consultant was an associate professor of psychology at the institution.
The poll also had no indication of its margin of error.