Thank you (I think...), @Chris, for sending me a copy of this book and asking me to review it. I have been mulling over the best way to do that. I think I will try to just share Riess’ findings, and let others shape the follow-up conversation.
To begin, let me share some background.
*This book is published by Oxford University Press, a very reputable publisher. (Note this is not a Deseret Book publication.)
*The survey was funded primarily through a Kickstarter campaign which raised close to $20k over the course of two weeks in July 2016. (All of the donors are listed at the back of the book. I was surprised to find the name of one of my cousins there. Ha.)
*Riess contracted with an online survey firm, Qualtrics, that sent out the survey to its panel of 23,080 (people who have agreed to take online surveys in exchange for rewards - often store gift cards or cash payments). 1696 of those people qualified as appropriate respondents: 1156 “self-identified Mormons” and 540 former Mormons.
*Qualtrics could not supply the diversity of respondents that she wanted (there were some under- and oversamples), so she had to correct this statistically by artificially weighting various responses. (She says this is a very common practice.)
*The survey included more than 130 separate questions.
*In order to create a narrative to make the book interesting, Riess illustrates the data with oral histories she recorded during a project she started in 2012 about childhood and spiritual formation. None of these personal interviews were actually related to the survey in any way, and she says, “these oral history interviews are not representative of Mormons or former Mormons as a whole.” Most of the 63 people she interviewed were Millennials - “young people from whom I had one degree of separation,” she writes.
*Riess plans to issue a future publication about the data she gathered re: former Mormons.
I’ll share her first batch of data, “Foundations,” in my next post.