Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Survey Results Comments Lost and Found

Dear Readers: I must apologize for a major screw-up on my part. I accidentally deleted a long string of comments. I have been able to retrieve most, so here they are again. Some comments of my own have been lost, because I did not send them to my own email for safekeeping, but only posted them. Lesson learned.....


Sena has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

Again I feel compelled to question your methodology with this project. You give no statement as to the size of your sample, an estimate of what proportion of the Pagan/Heathen community that represents nor a calculation of potential error. There is no way to determine the statistical significance in your comparisons without it. Several are very close and depending on such figures, could, in reality pose no significant difference. You claim a background in academia, but I find the theoretical and methodology problems with this project very disturbing.

Posted by Sena to The Political Pagan at October 24, 2010 6:04 PM


Sena has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

My apologies, as I did miss the count numbers at the top. There are ways though to estimate both the Pagan and Heathen populations to some degree of accuracy. On a previous project I worked on such an estimate that established a range of 10k-100k Heathens in the US. Data on such is available, even if it must be extrapolated from larger groupings. Particularly using multiple references to such data can provide a reasonable figure.On a previous project I worked on such an estimate that established a range of 10k-100k Heathens in the US. Using that as a working example, a sample of less than 200 Heathens would pose a significant margin of error.

Your sampling method also filters those who encountered the survey through your extended contact network, those who have internet access and choose to seek out Paganism and Heathenism with that tool. That is a significant selection bias that should be factored into an acknowledgment of potential error. It is understandable that you may not be a statistician yourself, but a certain standard is necessary if your intended to publish, as you have earlier implied.. It doesn't require the PEW research center, but having a bit of peer review of your work by someone with better knowledge of statistical methods.. As others have pointed out, it is obvious that you constructed this project with a biased agenda and thus it is no surprise that you confirmed your own rational.

Posted by Sena to The Political Pagan at October 24, 2010 9:41 PM


Anthony Arndt has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

My responses to the questions and suggestions on how to improve them.


Instead of the choices given, it might have been more useful to break it into four questions:
Your perception of dominant political perspectives:
1a) Economically... very conservative/somewhat conservative/moderate/somewhat liberal/very liberal.
1b) Socially... v.c./s.c./m/s.l./v.l.
Your personal political perspectives
1c) Economically... v.c./s.c./m/s.l./v.l.
1d) Socially... v.c./s.c./m/s.l./v.l.


I feel this question should also have been broken up into separate questions:
2a) The government is... much too big/too big/just right/too small/much too small
2b) The government should try to solve social problems...
strongly agree/agree/neutral/disagree/strongly disagree


Again, this question is better as separate questions.
3a) I love the military and trust it completely...
strongly agree/agree/neutral/disagree/strongly disagree
3b) Military spending should be...
greatly increased/increased/kept as it/decreased/greatly decreased

Note that in the survey, half of all Ásatrú, the largest single segment, feel the US spends too much on the military. Even though the first two options you give are not mutually exclusive. I know many veterans and active military personnel who both love and trust the military but also feel we spend too much on it.

Q4 No issues..


This question has the trouble that Ásatrú is, from its beginning in all the countries it's found in, the attempt to reconstruct the native religious traditions of a particular cultural and ethnic group which the majority of the the members of have had some ancestral tie to.

In contrast, Paganism is such an overly broad category of (predominantly Indo-European) religious and mystical practices that it is not likely to have any more ethnic identity than chemistry or mathematics. In terms of ethnicity, “Paganism” could be considered void for vagueness. Given that, of course Ásatrú is more likely to be more exclusive.

However, treating Paganism as an umbrella term like Abrahamic, you would would find similar attitudes regarding the importance of ethnic identity in other varieties of Indo-European Pagan traditions whether Celtic Reconstructionist, Hellenic Reconstructionists, Slavic Reconstructionists, Hindus, etc. As you would also in non-Indo-European traditions like those still practiced (whether continuous or reconstructed) by various North American native tribes.

Q6 No comments.


This question would also be better served as three separate questions:
7a) Ásatrú/Paganism should strongly/clearly denounce racism:
strongly agree/agree/neutral/disagree/strongly disagree
7b) Ásatrú/Paganism should leave the issue of racism to individual choice:
7c) This issue of racism is not a real concern for Ásatrú/Paganism:


This question would also be better served as three separate questions:
8a) Ásatrú/Paganism should strongly/clearly denounce (Neo)Nazism:
8b) Ásatrú/Paganism should leave the issue of (Neo)Nazism to individual choice:
8c) This issue of (Neo)Nazism is not a real concern for Ásatrú/Paganism:

Q9 No issues.

Q10 No issues.

“Ásatrú Pagans tend to trend more … with less support for government programs, interracial relations, and helping the disadvantaged...”

It is worth noting that the largest single segment of Ásatrú respondents were supportive of interracial relations and government programs to help the disadvantaged. Not as large a majority as in the Pagan respondents but still the most common response.

“The most striking differences are in regards to questions of ethnicity and race.”

This is the expected result as I commented on above.

“A consistently lower proportion of Ásatrú Pagans endorse their religion taking a clear stand against racism, Nazism and neo-Nazism than among non-Ásatrú Pagans.”

In my experience in Ásatrú on the level of national organizer, the converse, “an Ásatrú group that publicly supports racism or Nazism” will find themselves shunned and ostracized by both their local community and the larger national community. Most Ásatrú also don't endorse their religion taking a clear stand against Christianity. Most Ásatrú seem to prefer that their religion takes “pro” stances rather than “anti-” stances. I find this is in line with the Heathen tradition of promoting virtue rather than the monotheist tradition of prohibiting vice.

Now for a bit of my own thoughts on why you might feel you're running into a bit of a wall.

In my experience, much of the perception of Ásatrú “harboring” those with sympathies for Neonazism and the “White Power” cretins is due to two things, neither of which are related to politically conservative Ásatrú. Racist non-Ásatrú gangs have in the past used Ásatrú as a cover to form and expand gangs in prisons. This leads to the first problem, fear-funded “watch groups” and government agencies regularly misrepresenting and mischaracterizing Ásatrú using cherry picked statistics only of Ásatrú in the US Federal Prison system (the SPLC is one of the most notorious repeat offenders). The second is the prejudice against prison outreach which in my experience is much more common (and extreme) among Leftist Ásatrú than it is among conservative Ásatrú. When truly non-racist Ásatrú have worked to promote accurate Ásatrú study in prisons we are often ostracized and belittled by the “anti-” crowd. I'm pretty much a Scandinavian Socialist (with Monarchist sympathies) but living in the US and Europe (both EU and Eastern Europe) I've seen more damage to Ásatrú from the prejudices and “with us or against us” attitude of groups like the US's Anti-Fascist-Action (AFA), Europe's Anti-FA, and the group “Heathens Against Hate”. I don't know if it's gotten any better but prior to 2005 any list I'd ever been on that was run by a HAH supporter banned me as soon as I was outed as being a supporter of prison outreach. Which wasn't too hard since I was publicly supportive of it any time it came up.

All that being said, having your top link be HAH might be causing people to be initially biased against you. It would be like a conservative Ásatrú saying they are not prejudiced and not racist and then having their first link being to 14 Words Press or some similarly trashy group. And yes, even among the liberal Ásatrú I have known, HAH's reputation is just as bad as 14 Words Press. At least when they were younger their members publicly proclaimed at every opportunity that you were either part of HAH or you weren't Heathen. Perhaps they've changed but I and the Heathens I know haven't seen much evidence of it.

“If the US military can take a clear stand against racism and open its doors to all races and ethnic identities, why can’t American Ásatrú?”

Apples and tofu here. The US military is a job. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing matters but “can you do your job, if not, can you be trained to do your job?” Ásatrú, like all religions, is personal. Not all religions are equal. If they were, we wouldn't have different religions. Different religions are right for different people. Had my socio-economic status been different, I could have entered the military and, like my brother, done quite well.

Regarding Ásatrú, the doors are already wide open to all “races and ethnic identities.” There's just not a lot of people showing interest or paying attention, let alone walking through. From my own experience, this does not surprise me. No amount of wishful thinking would have allowed me to fit in so well in any Native American tribal religion, or even other European tribes, I've studied the traditions and lived in the lands of Celtic, Slavic, and Hellenic tribes. I've made offerings at their temples and holy sites. I've never felt as “at home” with them (no matter how much I tried) as I do with Ásatrú. Here now in Stockholm, we went to the fall blot after living in Sweden for barely three weeks and having never been here before. We fit in as if we'd known these people for years. And they weren't politically homogenous. There were three or four elected officials at the blot and they were each from different parties. We have never experienced something like that in other lands no matter how long we lived there.

And to me, “race” is problematic as well. I see culture and ethnicity are separate issues from “race.” Both I and an Italian Catholic may be considered “white” but to say we are the same race while I am somehow different from a Dakota, an Egyptian polytheist, a Japanese Shinto, a Chinese Taoist, an Indian Hindu, etc is ridiculous. Historically, the Slavs, Celts, Asians, Indians, Persians, Arabs, and North Africans, have been predominantly good trading partners with Nordic/Germanic tribes. Interaction with them strengthened the culture of my ancestors. Conversely, the greatest threats that my cultural traditions have faced throughout history have been from other “members” of the “white” race, from the Italic culture. First through its military expansion, then through its adoption and forced promotion of monotheism. Anyone who talks about the “White Race” as if it were something homogenous and good/bad is an idiot regardless of whether they consider themselves politically “left” or “right.”

But I've gone on long enough. It's my wife's birthday today and it's time I made her dinner.
Posted by Anthony Arndt to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 2:34 PM

Anthony Arndt has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

In case my earlier comments were a garbled mess, you can read the whole thing at once here:

(blogger kept giving me 414 errors)

Posted by Anthony Arndt to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 2:44 PM


Eran Rathan has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

Maelstrom, I don't know if you have seen this, but there were a great many comments regarding the format, level of granularity, and setup of the survey over at

(I assume that you had at least seen it, considering that Jason had your guest post there). I would think that it would not be terribly difficult to incorporate some of the suggested changes, to perhaps address what was seen as issues?

Posted by Eran Rathan to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 4:03 PM


Jack has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

Even though I would say that based on personal experience the statistics here are probably fairly accurate, it's still a methodology nightmare of an embarrassing degree.

Racism is a problem in Ásatrú. I won't argue against that. But honestly? Based on the way people treat the religion, all your statistics show me is that people are overplaying how racist they actually are. Only four percent of them said Ásatrú was only open to people of Northern European heritage. I would have expected that to be much, much higher.

I'm curious what the results would have been if you'd decided to ask people based on individual Pagan religion instead of just "Ásatrú" and "Other." I can assure you there would be a huge difference between the statistics relevant to an Eclectic Wiccan, a Celtic Recon, a Kemetic Recon, and a Dianic Wiccan as well. Each has its own distinct culture which fosters varying amounts of racism, homophobia, sexism, and any other -ism you choose to study.

Posted by Jack to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 5:39 PM


Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":


Sampling bias aside, you're incorrect when you say, "Using that [10K-100K] as a working example, a sample of less than 200 Heathens would pose a significant margin of error." The "margin of error" of a poll refers to the standard error of the estimate, and is derived from the size of the sample, not the size of the population (unless the population is very small, close to the sample size).

Running quick chi-square tests of homogeneity on the various questions (excluding question 1, for the reasons mentioned in the post), all of these are significant at the .05 level, using either the chi-square approximation or Monte Carlo simulations. The weakest effects are in question 4, which is significant only at p=.035, and question 9, which is significant at p=.006. All others are very highly significant.

A proper analysis isn't possible without the raw data (some people may have skipped questions, etc), and questions of methodology, survey design, and response bias could still be raised, but this at least gives some sense about whether sample size is a problem in this survey. The answer is, probably not, at least for simple statistical significance. More interesting would be to look at the effect sizes and the correlations between questions (impossible without the full dataset), but I've run out of time to poke at these data ATM.

Posted by Anonymous to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 5:45 PM


Æthelbera has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

I'd like to see a further breakdown of how these attitudes differ between Heathen demographics, or if they follow similar paths to the American Asatruar.

Posted by Æthelbera to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 6:49 PM


mageprof ( has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

In question #_, one of your choices is "Mainly for people of N. Euro ancestry, but open to others with strong interest" and the result is 65..3%.

In your summary, however, you report this as "65.3% of Ásatrúar favoring the less open, more guarded option of favoring N. European ethnic background but *possibly* allowing those of other ethnic backgrounds to join too" [my emphasis on "possibly"].

I really do not see how you can rationally move from the positive "open to others with a strong interest" of your survey to the much more negative "possibly allowing those of other ethnic backgrounds to join too" of your summary. "Possibly" sounds as though this is seen as a theoretical option only, rarely or never encountered in actual practice.

More to the point, perhaps . . . Do you think it is reasonable to suppose that an American of Scandinavian ancestry can take great pride in his/her ancestry and make that ethnic pride a part of his deepest identity and values, without becoming a racist by virtue of that ethnic pride?

Posted by mageprof to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 6:57 PM


Long Response by Blog Author (Maelstrom) on October 25, 2o1o

Comments are coming in at a rate that is hard for me to keep up. I am also receiving them through other channels, so I must apologize if I do not answer any and all questions and comments. In fact, I know I will not be able to. This does not mean I disregard comments, but simply that I do not have enough time. But right now let me address a few points.

Anthony, I really respect your nuanced understanding of these issues. I can assure you that I am by no means done thinking about these things, and that this blog and survey are just tools for generating perspectives and possibilities: an experimental laboratory, as it were. I would love to hear more from you about prison ministry and about the controversy you mentioned about the Heathens Against Hate campaign and website. I put up the link without knowing much about it, and if you know some history I would love to be educated on this.

Eran, I haven't checked in at the Pagan + Politics Site in some time, so I will have to put that on my to-do list. It is already a big project simply to send the survey results to all those who were contacted or who contributed.

Aethelbera, good question but I do not have the data in fine enough detail to allow such analysis. One of the beauties, also drawbacks of using Survey Monkey is that it allows people to register their input anonymously. This may increase willlingness to express controversial opinions, but it means that there is no way of tracking people down as to age, gender, location, occupation, etc., all of which might be very interesting to know. This is again why I urge those with greater capability to undertake a more sensitive, nuanced and comprehensive survey.

Jack, your comments about separating various types of Paganism rather than just lumping all into one undifferentiated "non-Asatru" catgeory is certainly pertinent, even moreso your point that it would be good to look into how attitudes in other forms of ethnic reconstructionist Paganism compare with those here expressed by Asatru respondents.

Mageprof, you bring up an issue that I find extremely interesting. That option of "north euro heritage but open to others" comes out of years of experience with Asatruar, and awareness of the past "folkish versus universalist" debate. I used to think that definitely one could embrace ethnic heritage without being racist, but I now have become concerned about how ethnic heritage can be a hiding place for racism, even unconscious racism, and that a strong focus on European, particualrly Northern European-Nordic-Germanic ethnic heritage may provide aid and comfort to racists and white supremacists. This is a very complex issue. Certainly one can enjoy and feel a bond with Nordic cultural heritage and not be a racist, but the matter is always open to manipulation and misuse by those who do harbor racists sentiments and ideas. I also see a problem that a focus on European ethnic heritage can point toward ideas of white separatism, even if the people in question do not embrace the ideology of white supremacy. Many issues here. I am still searching and pondering.


Snoozepossum has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

I saw the survey, but could not complete it in any way that honestly represented my views. I feel the questions were extremely polarized and limited in scope, and seemed to be geared toward achieving a particular result. I also believe that asking people to attempt to answer for those other than themselves is not only inviting inaccuracy but simply bad form. I can't give the results any serious credence.

Posted by Snoozepossum to The Political Pagan at October 25, 2010 10:52 PM


mageprof ( has left a new comment on your post "Survey Results, and Commentary":

Your response to my earlier post (not yet visible among the comments) didn't address what for me was the major issue.

Your question #5 gave an option, "Mainly for people of N. Euro ancestry, but open to others with strong interest," which was chosen by 65.3% of the respondents. In your summary, you characterized this choice as "favoring N. European ethnic background but possibly allowing those of other ethnic backgrounds to join too," as though "with a strong interest" was merely a theoretical possibility that permitted one to dodge an accusation of racism.

That it why, as an afterthought, I asked about ethnic pride in one's Scandinavian heritage. Your answer, tentative as it was, clarified your views and premises -- and explained why you jumped from "with a strong interest" to a theoretical "possibly."

But, given those views and premises, I can only judge that your question #5 was deceptively worded and must have confused some of your respondents.

This, of course, does not mean that your conclusions are false, only that they are not supported by this question (at a minimum) in your questionnaire. Nor does it mean that the deceptive wording was deliberate deceit.

But it does call the results of your questionnaire into serious question from an academic point of view.

Posted by mageprof to The Political Pagan at October 26, 2010 8:14 AM



Michael said...

The more I read your blog, the more convinced I am that you're not really interested in Asatru at all. Asatru is simply a tool that you've picked up on which you feel will help you push your political agenda. You won't be happy until we're all performing blot to Barack Obama and toasting the memory of Martin Luther King at our sumbels.

Which do you care more about, religion or politics? If you had to choose between Asatru and Liberalism, which would you choose?

Maelstrom said...

Michael: I don't dismiss your criticism at all. I am indeed struggling with this issue. I would like to be in a "liberal" form of Asatru or other Paganism, and am searching for how and where I could find both together. Blot to Obama, toast to MLK? Interesting idea!

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