98% of Obama supporters do not understand statistics

[message type="error" show_close="false"]The Lie: The Obama administration said, “…most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.”[/message]

[message type="success" show_close="false"]The Truth: According to their own study it can only legitimately claim: “at least 24 percent of Catholic women have used contraception”.[/message]

Ever since President Obama came out with his HHS Mandate “compromise” I’ve seen the “98% of Catholics use contraception” statistic everywhere. Here are some of my favorites:

“Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives –- 99 percent.”  – President Obama (source)

“According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.” – Cecilia Muñoz,  director of the White House Domestic Policy Council (source)

“In fact, 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lifetimes.” – NPR (source)

And this one from “ghoti” is very typical of what you will find in the comments section of Facebook, YouTube and random news articles:

“Who gives a rats %$$ what the church says. 98% of Catholics don’t… they use contraception. #@*% those child molesters. Their time has passed… irrelevant.” (source)

This lie has spread rapidly. It is a blatant misrepresentation of Catholic women.

Revelation #1

The study that the Obama administration is citing is from the Guttmacher Institute (source). The Guttmacher Institute was founded by Planned Parenthood, and takes it’s name from a former Planned Parenthood president (source). Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of contraception and abortion in this country. They have a vested interest in making the HHS Mandate come to fruition.

Using statistics from the Guttmacher Institute when trying to increase access to contraception, is like using statistics from the tobacco industry when trying to increase access to cigarettes.

Revelation #2

The term “Catholic” is loosely applied in the study. Only 30% of the Catholic women interviewed attended mass on a weekly basis. What is more revealing though, is that the study only includes:

  • Women between the ages of 15 and 44
  • Women who had sex within 3 months of the survey
  • Women who did not want to get pregnant <–read that one again

So, the study which, according to the Obama administration, speaks for “all Catholic women” does not include:

  • Women who were abstaining from sex until they were married
  • Women who were married and wanted children
  • Women who were pregnant or post-partum
  • Women who were open to the possibility of getting pregnant
I think Lydia McGrew said it best: “A statistic based on a study that explicitly excluded those who have no use for contraception is obviously irrelevant to a question about the percentage of Catholic women who have a use for contraception.”

Nevertheless, the study is being used by The Obama administration as a study that represents all Catholic women.  In reality, less than 28% of Catholic women would actually qualify for this study to begin with (see the footnote data).

Revelation #3

The study doesn’t actually say 98%. That number was arrived at by subtracting the 2% of women who use Natural Family Planning, a method approved by the Church. The 98% number completely ignores the 11% of respondents who answered “no method of sterilization”. So, if we subtract the 2% and the 11%, it equals only 87% of the women studied actually used a form of contraception.

Finally, it comes down to simple math. 87 percent of the 28 percent of Catholic women this study actually applies to, equals only 24 percent of all Catholic women.

The Lie:

The Obama administration said, “…most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.”

The Truth:

According to their own study they can only legitimately claim: “at least 24 percent of Catholic women have used contraception”.


How we arrived at the “less than 28% of Catholic women would actually qualify”:

  • According to the 2010 U.S. Census (source), only about 41% of females are between the ages of 15 and 44.
  • Using the birth rate of the U.S. (source) we can assume that about 4% of women are pregnant at any one time.
  • According to Indiana University’s  2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (source), about 27% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 did not have sex within that past year (this percentage would be much higher if we had data from only the last 3 months).

I knew that those numbers were nothing more than a bunch of liberal bull. Thanks for setting the record straight.

I would also indicate that the study failed to include women religious in the United States, who most definitely make up more than 2% of the populatiom of Catholic women in the United States.

No, dear. We would like to say that more than 2% are religious, but that’s not the case.
According to one website, there are about 7.7 million (7,700,000) registered Catholics in the U.S. Assuming that roughly half of these are female, we arrive at the figure of 3,850,000. Assuming 10% of these are children, the new number would be 3,080,000. If 2% of these were religious, we would have 61600 religious. In 2011, there were 57,544 religious, according to the Center for Applied Research (Georgetown). [Gotta love Georgetown, eh?]. That puts us 4,056 short of the 2%. Further, we know that about 5-7% of the Catholic population is not registered with a parish at any given time. That reduces the percentage to about 1.7, and that is a generous estimate.

Thanks for pointing this out. I think though that more than about understanding statistics it’s about people wanting to hear what they want. I had a discussion with a fairly knowledgeable friend and he brought this nonsense up to make his argument. When I pointed out that stats can be used to say whatever you want to make it say he countered that I’m only saying it because it’s not saying what I want (making my point)

The Obama administration is into using smoke and mirrors to get what they want accomplished and that is oppressing religious freedom. I only hope that those who have been misguided into falling for his babble come to the realization of the truth.

I am a Catholic, and a practicing one at that, but the premise of this article is just wrong. Tis 28% figure is much more incorrect than the figure the cited study came up with. This article expands the sample of women to include all women, but the point is that not al women actually need birth control. That is why using women ages 15-44 is actually correct – that is the only group of women that conceivably would ever need contraception. While certainly not the 98% figure that the White House apparently cited, this article is much more wrong in its assumptions about the sample population and its manipulation of data.

CatholicMan, I would agree with you if the Obama administration said, “Catholic women between the age of 15 and 44″. They did not. Their statement implies that the statistic applies to ALL Catholic women, and that is simply not true. The bottom line is that they are being dishonest to help push an agenda.

It’s all about the question you’re asking: 1) What percentage of Catholics have used contraception? 2) What percentage of Catholics trying to avoid pregnancy have used contraception? This article is answering the first question with 24% and the media is very wrongly answering the same question with 98%. According to the study, the answer to the SECOND question would be 87%, although the definition of Catholic is pretty lose since it includes those who don’t even attend mass regularly (a major premise of the faith).

Actually, what you are saying would be true if the discussion concerned women who are currently using contraception. The statistic being thrown around is – “98% of women have used contraception”. So you can’t throw out women over 44 years old who no longer need contraception, because the question is whether or not they have used it in the past.

But at the same time, you cannot include them either, because you cannot know how they would have answered the study questions. The point being, when they say 98% of women, they imply all women, and this is certainly not the case.

The 28% figure quoted was not in response to the numbers that the Obama administration quoted. It was the actual % of CATHOLIC women that would have qualified to take the survey. Your not seeing the reality of the fact that the questions were actively seeking ONLY sexual active women that did NOT want to have children. You do not see that as being deliberately misleading? Now, the 24% number he arrived at, I would argue is not truly justifiable. If anything, I would say that the % of Catholic women that actually use contraception can in no way be actually deduced through this study at all. The target of the study is not really meant to get an acurate number of Catholic women that use it so much as it is meant to get the number of Catholic women that do not want to get pregnant and are willing to violate their conscience to ensure they do not. Hardly a valid argument in my opinion.

I don’t care if its only 1% of Catholics – there should NOT be a government required what should be covered and what shouldn’t and to whom for any type of insurance!
But as my huband always says… ” Follow the money…”
Natural Family Planning doesn’t help any doctor or pharmecutical company nor any insurance company. And it really pisses off the Obama crowd when smart people make their own decisions and choose NOT to “go with the flow” !!

I have a friend who wrote the following statement: “Mandating COVERAGE of birtrh control is not the same as mandating birth control. Guess what? Sometimes taxes pay for things you don’t believe in! Jews are forbidden to eat non-kosher food. Some of their tax $ goes to the oversight of non-kosher meat processing facilities. This benefits the 99% of American who eat non-kosher meat! 99% of sexually active women (and 98% of Catholic women!) use birth control at some time in their life. Deal with it.”

I already told her about the bogus stat but is the fact that Jewish Tax money goes to regulating Non kosher meat places the same issue we are facing with the HHS Mandate?

I think taxes are different than being forced to purchase a product (health insurance), right? Otherwise we should be fighting about our taxes paying for all kinds of stuff (ex. capital punishment). Makes me think of the line “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”…

It isn’t coming from taxes. That’s totally different. We are required to pay taxes to help in running the country, and the government then spends them how it wishes. This is like paying employees a salary, knowing they will spend it how they wish. You pay them because they have earned a day’s wages; they will spend it how they want. However, with insurance, we are directly providing them something that includes contraception/abortion/sterilization. In other words, we are saying, here it is, we are personally giving it to you.

Drea, the Jews/pork analogy fails on a number of counts. It might be partially apt /if/ Jews think that it’s wrong for non-Jews to eat pork. I don’t think this is the case.

But Catholics do think that artificial contraception perverts sex, encourage broken families and thereby undermines the stability of society, etc.

It’s a fundamental moral concern applicable to all of humanity, not a religious taboo applicable only to Catholics. It’s the difference between “you are forcing me to pay for something that I would personally opt out of for private religious reasons” and “you are forcing me to pay for something that I think is always and everywhere gravely evil”.

But even if Jews did have the same sort of objection to pork that Catholics have to artificial contraception (which I don’t believe is the case)…

and even if the majority of Americans actually made a net contribution to the federal tax base each year (which I’m fairly sure is not the case)…

and even if inspecting pork for contaminants was morally equivalent to providing people with free pork on demand (which it isn’t)…

then /even still/: the moral distance between someone paying a few hundred dollars in taxes in Seattle and the work of a federal pork inspector in Topeka is quite a bit larger than the moral distance between an employer paying premiums for an insurance policy that completely covers the cost of birth control for any employee who wants it.

And that doesn’t even touch on the question of self-insured organizations, or of Catholic insurance carriers.

Teacher/RN/Catholic Woman

ok…The fact is that Stats ARE NOT FACTS. If ANYONE really wanted to know the facts or stats of Catholic Women they would need to study Catholic Women. The fact is that the Government does not know ANYTHING about Catholic women except that there is such a thing. I resent being used for propaganda to mandate the acceptance of drugs to control a natural process of a woman’s body. How about EDUCATION and Facts being the norm. Do you really want the government (who ever is President) to declare what is “good” for our body?

100% of Catholic women have sinned in their lives. Should the U.S. government then mandate that Catholic institutions pay for all sinful practices?

The really annoying thing is: even if their statistic WERE true… it would essentially be declaring: “(From now on, the US government is only going to pay attention to democratic groups. So, reguardless of what a particular religion’s faith tenets are; the only thing that matters, is what people with that faith label say they WANT to do, reguardless of what the religion itself says. Democracy trumps doctrine. )”

Dear Sir,
I am happy that you are expousing some truth about the Cathoic faith and the same time brining out the lie behid many of the misconception. The site is doing an immense service in an age of lie.
Thank you

Actually, no one understands statistics. It’s part of human nature. People use cognitive bias and all sorts of other mental tricks to ensure that they are right in what they think even when what they think is objectively untrue. We avoid cognitive dissonance in order to justify being and believing in what we do. If you think that what I’m saying is true and that you’re more enlightened because you don’t suffer from it then you’re guilty of it. If you think what I’m saying is untrue you are also guilty of it, since it is objectively true regardless of person, experience, or education. There is no escape.

So, before you cite statistics think about why you’re citing them or trying to debunk them. Beyond that statistics provide a model from which to build a plan to address the conflicts raised within the model. However these plans will not be perfect, there are always more complex mechanisms at work than what people perceive.

Thanks for this! I knew the numbers had to be wrong, too. This feels much closer to reality.

God Bless you for standing up for the Truth. God will reward you.

Perhaps a better set of questions would be: What percentage of Catholic women believe they can be good Catholics and avoid sin while using contraception or birth control? This can (and has) been asked, and it can (and has) been answered in a way that breaks down to devout Catholics, occasional Mass attendees, Creasters, and cultural Catholics who don’t actually attend.

The premise of this exercise is that we want to find out the extent to which the rules and boundaries are acknowledged by the laity, is it not? Well, this would tell you. You might want to exclude very young children from such a survey, but otherwise I think all laity would be in play. It’d be interesting to see how big the drop-off is from one generation to the next, too.

Trackbacks for this post

Comments are closed.