Estimates of the number of Wiccans
the U.S., from 2001 to 2006.
Part 3 of seven parts
A Wiccan pentacle
Graduate Center of the City University of New York, conducted a massive
survey of over 50,000 American adults between 2001-FEB and APR. It is
called the "American Religious Identification Survey" (ARIS)
1 They reported the following estimates for U.S. adults:
Wiccans: 134,000. This is an increase from an earlier survey by the same group in 1990 when they only found 8,000 Wiccans! This represents a very impressive growth rate of 134% per year!)
- Pagans: 140,000
- Druids: 33,000
Unfortunately, there are a few serious problems with this data: the ARIS study probably underestimated the total number of Wiccans in the U.S. for two reasons:
- ARIS also estimated that there were also 140,000 "Pagan" adults in the U.S. Many of these respondents might prefer to have identified as Wiccan if they were more intensely interviewed.
- In common with most religious polls, the ARIS study only included adults. There would have been many teens who would identify themselves as Wiccans if they had been included.
If there were:
- 200,000 Wiccans adults in the U.S. during 2001 consisting of 134,000 who identify as Wiccans and perhaps 70,000 who identify as Pagans,
- About 231 million adults living in the U.S. at that time,
then only one in 1,155 American adults would have been a Wiccan. This means that the ARIS data is based upon responses from about 43 individual Wiccans. The margin of error is thus about ~+mn~15 percentage points. This means that if the ARIS study was replicated twenty times using a different randomly selected group of adults each time, that 19 times out of 20, the estimate of the total number of Wiccan adults in the U.S. would be between 170,000 and 230,000. So, the ARIS estimate is not very accurate. The 1990 study would have had an even larger margin of error.
- A more serious problem is that many Wiccans, when phoned up at random by a stranger asking for their religion, would give a false answer out of concern for their own safety. Even today, many American adults believe falsely that Wiccans worship the Christian Satan, and abuse children. Many Wiccans reveal their religion only to trusted friends. Still, this estimate is probably far more accurate than most earlier estimates that were based on guesswork.
There is a good possibility that if a much larger survey was taken, and if all Wiccans were willing to reveal their religion the total number of Wiccans in the U.S. would have been much in excess of 200,000 back in 2001!
The ARIS study placed Wicca as the tenth largest religious groupings, after -- in decreasing size -- Christianity (159 million), Judaism (2.8 million), Islam (1.10 million), Buddhism, (1.08 million), Atheism (0.90 million), and Agnostic (0.99 million), Hinduism (0.77 million), Unitarian Universalist (0.63 million), and Pagan (0.14 million).
I believe that the ARIS study is the first reasonably reliable estimate of the number of adult Wiccans. It required a massive number of polling subjects to determine the size of this minority.
At the ReligiousTolerance.org web site. we consider Atheism and Agnosticism to be "religious groups." However, some people argue that to be considered a religion, a belief system must involve belief in one or more gods and/or goddesses. Some might argue that Atheists and Agnostics are not religious groups on the basis that not collecting stamps is not a hobby. If one were to delete these two groups, then Wiccans would have been the eighth largest religious group in the U.S. during 2001.
On MAY-13, Stats Canada reported on the
religious identification of Canadians, as
determined by its 2001 census. Unlike the U.S., the
government of Canada asks religious questions during their census data
collection. They found that Wiccans and
other Neopagans showed the greatest percentage growth of any religion in the country during the previous decade.
They totaled 21,080 members in 2001, an increase of 281% from 1991.
During 2001, Stats Canada reported a total of 30.0 million people lived in Canada. This compared to 285.1 million in the U.S. Thus, the U.S. has a population 9.5 times larger than Canada's. Canada and the U.S. have similar cultures. It is reasonable to expect that they would have a similar percentage of Wiccans. This would imply that there are on the
order of 200,000 Wiccans and other Neopagans in the U.S. 2 That figure supports the ARIS study described immediately above.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"American Religious Identification Survey - 2001," by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2001, Pages 12 & 13, 2001-DEC-19. Download a PDF file at: http://commons.trincoll.edu/
"Religion (95A), Age Groups (7A) and Sex (3) for Population, for Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census
Metropolitan Areas 1 and Census Agglomerations, 1991 and 2001 Censuses - 20% Sample Data," Statistics Canada, at: http://www12.statcan.ca/ This list also gives membership breakdowns by age groups."
Leo Shane III, "Wiccan widow threatens to sue over memorial plaque,"
Stars and Stripes, Pacific Edition, 2006-MAY-18, at: http://www.stripes.com/
Copyright © 1999 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2016-OCT-18
Author: B. A. Robinson