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Sources of data

Religious belonging in Slovakia

There is no standardised or unified terminology in terms of defining and measuring religious affiliation in Slovakia. The legislation concerning definitions of religious affiliation also relies (...)

There is no standardised or unified terminology in terms of defining and measuring religious affiliation in Slovakia. The legislation concerning definitions of religious affiliation also relies on various concepts. On the one hand, acts on registration of churches and religious societies in Slovak republic refer to “church members”, that is people who are familiar with, and approve of, the teachings of their church or religious association. On the other hand, it refers to “believers”, mainly in relation to declaring affiliation of Slovak inhabitants to a church or religious association in censuses. Thus, the affiliation to a church is freely considered as the commitment to the religious content of personal faith.
Representative surveys do not measure membership, but affiliation, in a variety of ways.
The religious groups usually don’t provide the numbers of their members, and there are no publicly accessible databases of numbers of church members.
Nevertheless, it is possible to determine people affiliated to the dominant religious groups in Slovakia, particularly those registered by the state. In terms of small and unregistered churches, it is not possible to acquire precise data, and sometimes not even rough data.
The result of this disunity is that diverse data, from various sources, and with different types of measures are available. There is no clear knowledge either about the religious belonging of people who do not belong to any of the registered churches, or who are not citizens of the Slovak Republic and, therefore, do not appear in the censuses

Censuses
The most detailed accessible data come from censuses, in which there are data on affiliation to some of the churches acknowledged by the state (registered) for all Slovak inhabitants (not only Slovak citizens, but all people with permanent residence in Slovakia) including children under 15 years of age. In their case, information is given by their parents.
However, throughout over 150 years of measuring in censuses, the wording and meaning of the question concerning religious affiliation has changed. The census measured affiliation to a church rather than belonging. Censuses serve as the basic source of information on religious confession. The question on religion in Slovakia dates back to 1869 and is accessible also in the latest census in 2011. Membership in the church into which the person was initiated, which means the register (of births and deaths), into which he/she was registered (e.g. at the occasion of a baptism) was measured until 1950. If an inhabitant did not want to affiliate to any church, he/she had to submit a document claiming church leaving. In 1961, 1971, 1981, religious confession was not measured in censuses. Since 1991, censuses survey confession as a subjective affiliation to a religion (in 2001, 2011).
The Statistical office of the Slovak Republic, which is responsible for preparing the Census 2021, is trying to come up with a new and more unambiguous wording for measuring religious belonging, while preserving the comparability of results from previous censuses.

D 31 January 2020    AMiroslav Tížik

Surveys on religiosity in Slovakia

In the case of opinion polls, only the subjective religious affiliation is measured. The first known survey in Slovakia with this question was carried out in 1948, but there are no known results. (...)

In the case of opinion polls, only the subjective religious affiliation is measured. The first known survey in Slovakia with this question was carried out in 1948, but there are no known results. The first survey with accessible data is from 1968. Since then, various surveys have used a standardized question in questionnaires (however, between 1970 and 1989, these data were not published or, if published, were available only to a close group of politicians and academics). Nevertheless, the wording of the questions varies across questionnaires, which leads to differences in results.
Results from the survey-type researchers have shown that throughout the whole measured period, the level of those who affiliate to religion in the last decade varies in the same year from less than 72% to almost 87,7%: the span is 15%. The dispersion is higher than in polls, in which the span is of 11%, with 73% to 84% of people affiliated to a religion in the same period.

D 31 January 2020    AMiroslav Tížik

Sociological and methodological aspect

Historical comparations of censuses results
The problem is that there was a change, from an objective approach to a subjective declaration, with the phrasing varying from religious membership to (...)

Historical comparations of censuses results

The problem is that there was a change, from an objective approach to a subjective declaration, with the phrasing varying from religious membership to religious affiliation.
A specific change occurred in Slovakia: in the 2001 and 2011 censuses, a double-barrelled question was entered, which defines confession as: 1) a "citizen’s participation in the religious life of a church" or 2) very vaguely indicated "relationship to a church". In addition, it listed only registered religious groups, which may influence and to some extent create the conviction that only registered groups are legitimate. Members of other religious groups, unregistered, may indicate their belonging in the column "other". Since 2001, people can only choose from a list of recognised churches, or choose "other", or "without confession" (2001, 2011).

Until 1950 Objective church membership (parish evidence)
1991 Subjective open question: What is your religious confession? Or without confession
2001 Subjective religious confession, Religious confession/church + list of 15 recognised churches, other, without confession
2011 Subjective religious confession, Subjective religious confession + list of 18 recognised churches, other, without confession

Slovakia and the surveys concerning religion

The different European surveys (ISSP, EVS, ESS, Aufbruch) use questions of various types, which brings them to measure different dimensions of religiosity: the type of relation to the church (formal membership or emotional link), the personal denominational identity, the personal affirmation of faith.
In Slovakia, in the frame of a national methodical investigation, questionnaires used in surveys were checked using an in-depth quality interview – a validation survey, in 2008 and 2014. The validation survey aimed at understanding how people comprehend individual questions, and how they answer in more details in standard interviews. It revealed that questions concerning the religious confession were understood by the people questioned to mean the tradition of the respondent’s community, or the confession of their broadly understood family. Hence, respondents did not evoke their personal relationship to a church or religion, but were rather speaking of a relationship of conformity to the group in which they usually live. This type of answer was also found for people who expressed their disbelief in God.

D 4 February 2020    AMiroslav Tížik

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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