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Cross-Validating Measures of Global Religious Intolerance: Comparing Coded State Department Reports with Survey Data and Expert Opinion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2009

Brian J. Grim*
Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life
Richard Wike*
Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Brian J. Grim, Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. E-mail:
Richard Wike, Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. E-mail:


We address a pressing substantive issue as well as evaluate several methodologies in this article. Substantively, we ask whether the U.S. State Department has a clear understanding of the level of cross-national religious intolerance that triggers daily headlines around the globe. Methodologically, we ask whether data on social attitudes coded from systematic qualitative reports can reliably represent cross-national public opinion. We empirically address these questions by comparing cross-national levels of religious intolerance coded from the State Department's annual international religious freedom reports with relevant population survey data from the World Values Survey and the Pew Research Center, as well as with data from written interviews of country experts conducted by the Hudson Institute. The results indicate that the understanding of social religious intolerance embodied in the State Department reports is comparable with the results of population surveys and individual expert opinion. Methodologically, this suggests that cross-national public opinion survey data can be cross-validated with coded data from systematic qualitative analysis as well as with expert opinion.

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2009

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