‘Census21 – Not Religious?’ campaign outlines benefits of adopting a filter question

28 August 2023

In a submission to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Census21 – Not Religious? campaign has strongly supported the proposal to introduce a two-part question for religion in the 2026 Census, saying it would go some way to ensuring more accurate and meaningful data on religion.

We have outlined a number of benefits for the ABS of adopting a filter question to ascertain whether a respondent has a religion before asking about their religion.

Read the full submission here

Among these benefits, we argued that the change would remove some inherent bias in the religion question and deliver an improved data outcome.

As a result, this would provide the community with a more acceptable evidence-base to support policy and funding decisions related to religion.

Members of the public have until Friday 8 September to provide feedback on the proposal to add a filter question via the ABS Consultation Hub.

“We strongly support the move to a two-part question with the first part of the question filtering out respondents without a religion,” said the Census21 – Not Religious? campaign submission.

“Currently, the data does not fully meet our needs, or the needs of all organisations and researchers who expect Australia’s largest survey to deliver accurate and meaningful data on religion. The proposed change will go some way to address this.

“Our motive is to have access to the most accurate and meaningful data possible. The current question ‘What is the person’s religion?’ is an example of a question loaded with ‘acquiescence bias’”

However, the submission said remaining problems with the religion question, if unaddressed, would continue to result in overstating the role of religion in Australian society.

We urged the ABS to discontinue with the use of its conceptually confused concept of religious ‘affiliation’ and to discontinue placing the religion question following a number of questions about cultural background.