Sunday, February 14, 2010

Blag Hag 2010 Census Results

I want to thank everyone who participated in my Blag Hag 2010 Census! 467 people filled out the survey (before I closed it due to eagerness to crunch the numbers), which is absolutely amazing. I was expecting something like 50, but I guess you guys like data just as much as I do. Considering that I have slightly over 1000 subscribers (holy crap!), we did almost as well as voter turnout for the US Presidential elections! Feel special, or maybe depressed, depending how you interpret that.

Because I got a decent sample size, I actually felt safe doing some statistics and trying to interpret the results. Now, as a warning, it's been a couple of years since I took a statistics class. It is highly probable that I screwed something up, that there was a more appropriate test to use, that one of the first five commenters will correct me, etc. I think we can see some interesting trends here, but it's no scientific study. Also keep in mind these results don't necessarily apply to atheists as a whole, just the atheists who read my blog and like to take surveys. Take it with a grain of salt!

Before we get started, here is how I indicated statistical significance on graphs:
* P-value less than 0.05
** P-value less than 0.01
*** P-value less than 0.001
**** P-value less than 0.0001

As always, click the images for a larger, nicer version.
We had 335 males, 135 females, and 7 transgendered readers. This actually surprised me a bit. As you can see, male readers vastly outnumber my female ones. People always ask "Where are the female atheists?" and I usually reply "We're out here!" I know a lot of female atheists aren't outspoken enough to want to go to club meetings or be visible, but I would have thought there would be more equal ratios on a blog written by a female atheist that often talks about feminism. My ladies are still drastically outnumbered!

I have a couple of hypotheses.
  • Females hate filling out surveys (unlikely)
  • Male atheists currently do, in fact, outnumber female atheists.
  • Male atheists currently tend to read blogs more than female atheists.
  • My blog is new, so more females haven't found it yet.
  • This is a better sex ratio than other blogs. Who knows, maybe blogs like Pharyngula and Friendly Atheist have a 9:1 ratio.
Oh, and to my transgendered readers who thanked me for including that option, you're welcome! Can't forget you guys. Though I am going to apologize now - most of my analyses look for differences in responses between males and females, and your sample size was too small to work for any of my statistics. Sorry! Please don't take it personally.
Not surprising that most of my readers fall close to my own age (22). The one bit that surprised me was that I was expecting to have a grand total of two readers over the age of 30. Nothing against my older readers - I just still feel very young and immature in many respects, and I was surprised that so many "adults" would enjoy my blog. So, thank you! There we no difference in the age distribution of males and females.

Now, onto the cool stuff!
I think this result was so cool because it didn't surprise me. Many studies (and anecdotes) point to females having more fluid sexual orientations and more bisexual tendencies. Our results follow that pretty nicely, with the vast majority of guys considering themselves exclusively heterosexual. Or at least, that's how they reported their sexual orientation on the survey. Who knows how honest people are even when it's anonymous.

Oh, and one fun observation: My friends who responded tend to be gayer than my readership as a whole. I think I'm a bad influence on people. Maybe we should see how that chart changes once I get another year to recruit blog.

Favorite open responses:
  • "Science nerd" - The best sexuality ever.
Here readers were allowed to respond with as many answers as they wanted, hence the use of percentage instead of raw numbers. Unsurprisingly, "atheist" was the most common choice. The popular choices seem to be the positive labels - skeptic, humanist, secularist, freethinker - with terms with negative connotations not doing so well. And this supports my opinion that "Bright" comes off as a kind of douchey label that not many non-theists like, since it came in last.

The gender differences here are interesting. Men are significantly more likely to call themselves skeptics, freethinkers, and anti-theists. Anti-theists sort of makes sense, since I think some men are more likely to be aggressive and in your face about things (this does not mean aggressive female anti-theists don't exist). The other two completely baffle me, though. Women aren't using skeptic as much, even with the delightful pun of the Skepchicks? And...I have no idea about freethinker. Feel free to come up with your own hypotheses in the comments.

Another interesting thing to note is that men tended to list more labels for themselves than women did. Men used an average of 4.4 labels with a variance of 9.3, and women used an average of 3.7 levels with a variance of 5.7 (p less than 0.01). Of course, this could entirely be from the couple of terms that men like to use a lot more than women.

Favorite open responses:
  • "Awesome"
  • "Belief challenged"
  • "Human" - Two people said this, I liked it!
  • "Depends on my mood and whether I want to be annoying"
  • "Too lazy to be a secular humanist" - Ditto
  • "Shiny?" - I don't know, are you shiny? Do we have a Twilight vampire amongst us?
Moral of the story: get PZ to link to your blog repeatedly. Seriously though, it seems being linked to by other respected, popular blogs is the best way to get new readers and to retain them. To put this in perspective, Reddit usually gives me as many hits as a Pharyngula or Friendly Atheist plug, but those people don't tend to stick around. Getting linked to by a great blog is a level of quality control, since that blogger is saying that they like your stuff.

I wasn't expecting to see any differences here, but there they are! Is this because Pharyngula does have more of a male bias? And what's up with the ladies liking Google Reader suggestions so much? I have no idea, but thank you, Google Reader!

Favorite open responses:
  • "Girlfriend read occasional blog posts to me" - Aw, oddly sort of cute/cool!
  • "Divine Ordinance, a.k.a. Holy Handgrenade (I don't remember. Shhh..don't tell Jen)" - Divine Ordinance is an acceptable answer.
Women like posts on feminism a lot more than men - absolutely shocking! You guys better learn to love them, because they're not going anywhere, haha. On the flip side, I have no idea why men like posts about me attending local atheist and theist events more than women. Hmmm, maybe because I tend to post a lot of photos when I go...

Other than that, the topics don't surprise me. Politics is my least favorite topic to blog about since I don't feel as well read in that area, and apparently my readers don't love it either (not that they hate it, just that it's not a favorite topic). Everything else I enjoy blogging about equally, and readers seem to enjoy them equally. Lesson: write about what you like!

Favorite open responses:
  • "Reading about Jen's boobs" - Got this from multiple people, almost all of them from my friends. Can't exactly get annoyed, since I am the one writing about my boobs (seriously though, thought this was funny)
  • "The review of those wretched sex scenes were read aloud at a party I threw. Good stuff." - This is made of ultimate win.
A lot of the free responses said that they loved the blog the way it was and to not feel like I needed to drastically change anything to improve. I didn't consider this question an ultimatum or some drastic overhaul. I mainly wanted to know if 1. I should increase the attention I put on certain things that I already enjoy doing or 2. if I should start doing things I was thinking about doing. A couple of things:
  • Apparently you guys like my art! Thanks! It's something I always want to do more of, but a piece of artwork takes something like 6 hours, compared to a short bout of writing. You'll probably see a lot more art this summer, when I'll have a lot of free time.
  • On the flip side, you guys don't care about me making any money. Sadness. A gal's gotta eat, you know.
  • I've avoiding rigid Daily features (like PZ's Friday Cephalopod) mainly because that takes planning and I'm lazy. However, I may start doing a "List of all the random cool stuff I saw this week but didn't have enough of an opinion to blog about it" thing. But with a better title. Anyway, I amass awesome links on Google Reader, so it wouldn't be too hard to post them here.
  • Yeaaah, don't hold your breath on the videoblogging. I don't own a webcam/videocamera and I hate watching myself on video. Oh, and apparently Australians have a raging hate-on for videoblogging since their internet service is so shitty, as multiple responders explained. Don't want to ostracize my readers down under!
Oh, and of course "More sexy pirate outfit photos" did really well, with men wanting them a lot more. Mind blowing. Maybe I can combine that with community building and contests, and make you send me sexy pirate photos of yourself! Much better than photos of me, right? ...Right?

I'm saving the final open response suggestions for the next post, since this post is already getting massive enough. What do you guys think of these findings? Have any comments or hypotheses? Do you have any other things you want me to look at (if certain terms are correlated with each other, etc)? Just let me know, and I'll crunch some more numbers! Data is fun!


  1. Very interesting... I'm not that surprised by the results that showed that a link from a popular blog brings in regular traffic - people trust these "celebrity" bloggers A LOT, and a vast proportion of their readers will do whatever they suggest they do.

    And that's why links from PZ, Phil Plait etc. are so desirable - they lead lots of people to automatically believe that your blog is awesome (which may be the case - why were they linking to it in the first place?).

    In other words: PZ, link to my damn blog already. :p

    The only result that really surprised me was 10% of readers using the "Bright" label. Really? That many? I'm dumb-founded. ;)

  2. Interesting, indeed, though I can’t say that they’re all that surprising. Men want more sexy pics? Gals want more feminism? And all want more comics and drawings? Yes, absolutely shocking, that is. =P

    Lulz … I created a survey the same night you did, and so far I’ve only got 6 responses. xD Oh, the shame of being unknown and in the dark! Woe be me …

    Can’t wait for your next post on the open responses. I get the feeling this blog will be shaking with laughter before long.

  3. If I get around to making a pirate costume, I would be the *sexiest* possible.

  4. I have the best sexuality ever? WOOOOOOOOO

    Kinda disappointed that your male readership dislikes your feminism posts so much. I think those are the ones I appreciate the most, actually.

    P.S. fuck the "bright" label

  5. Wow, it isn't just me who hates video blogging? It's not so much the bandwidth (I gave up trying to stream things ages ago anyway), but that you need to not only read something at your leisure, or just play something while you eat dinner, but have to sit there and watch a powerpoint slide. One of the podcasters I listen to started doing that, and I just gave up watching him. It kinda puts a jam on drinking beer while riding kangaroo's, ya see. :P

  6. Wow,at 43, I am the only old lady reader. I feel so alone!

  7. Awww, don't think of it as being alone, think of it as being special!

    Or bring some of your friends here, they're welcome too!

  8. 43 isn't old, Denise. 43 is *awesome*.

  9. Well, I didn't get a chance to participate in this study because of thesis work that day, but I'll comment since I'm not having sex right now....?

    I think I'm most surprised at the female to male ratio. I would have thought it was at least approaching 1/3rd female!

  10. Huh. That's interesting. Honestly, I like the feminism posts, personally. (Also one of the guys who -didn't- vote for pirate pictures, but that was because -every- guy would vote for pirate pictures. Though, I know someone who will hook me up with a pirate outfit easy enough.)

    Though, I wonder how many responses you would get if you left it open for longer.

  11. I do believe that I am the only 14 y male reading your blog... Feels awesome but at the same time like I'm in room full of adults

  12. @Maxwell:
    Eh, 20-year-olds are just overgrown kids. And I just turned 18. We’re all the same. =P

  13. And to the <14 Girl, You Rock! (and I cannot believe that I had to be the first to say it)

  14. Add another TG to the list! I missed your post about the poll somehow. But then, I only subscribed a few days ago, so maybe that's why?

  15. @Joé: Being 56 just means that I've been a kid three times as long as you have.

    @Jen: After sending my survey I thought, "Wait a mo, did she have "materialist" there? I would use that of myself, not in the Madonna sense (au contraire) but in the sense of "mind is an emergent property". I never encountered the term "Bright" until about last year, and agree with everyone who thinks it intolerably smug. And since the drive for self-satisfaction (aka. unjustified self-esteem) is one of my core concepts for understanding religion and certain other things, I don't like it when atheists go that route.

  16. I have lots of sexy pirate photos. Odd thing to admit, but true.

  17. See if there are any interesting correlations between age and self identification.

  18. Denise, It's hard to see, but you aren't the oldest female, I'm 54, filled out the survey and show up as a pink speck on the graph.

    Jen, I am not surpprised that women don't use skeptic as much. It has an argumentative scientific feel to it -- nothing wrong with that, but I just don't think that women self-identify that way.

  19. Pirate photo contest!!! Hey, we should organize a Chicago atheists/skeptics pirate party. That would be good times.

  20. Shoot - I should have filled it out when it came out and not put it off and then forgot about it. I'm a 45 year old female. It would have been hard to choose what I like best anyway.

  21. The "shiny" comment in the open responses to "how do you describe yourself" alludes to, I think, the television/movie Firefly/Serenity. "Shiny" means cool, awesome, wonderful, etc. Vampires a la Twilight are "sparkly." Although I wouldn't know that for sure -- my only experience with Twilight is via the RiffTrax version, which was very, very shiny.

  22. I didn't see the poll. I started reading your blog when you linked it at Feministe and from here started reading Pharnygula. I'm more into the feminist issues.

  23. I wouldn't be too surprised at seeing older readers show up in your survey. The internet has always been the great equalizer. As a mostly text-based medium (although that is changing), writing intelligently, and being able to put together a coherent argument in text mean a lot. You do these things very well. Besides, as an early 30s dude, most of us wish we were in our early 20s again, so maybe there's a bit of vicarious living going on. ;)

  24. I'm very surprised that you don't have a higher female readership. Although looking back over comments, you do mostly have males interacting more on your site.

    Love the results and thanks for sharing them!

  25. I guess I skipped a few days reading your blog b/c I missed the survey completely. I love surveys and I'd be another "older" female reader for you - I'm 34. Anyway, keep up the great work. (I'm not a fan of the video-blog either.)

  26. •"The review of those wretched sex scenes were read aloud at a party I threw. Good stuff." - This is made of ultimate win.

    I couldn't remember how I came across your blog, but that's it! That was sheer brilliance.

  27. I appreciate the trans option in your census. I just think it's important to note that very few of us identify as trans, for a variety of different reasons. For example, I identify as a Transsexual woman, not just as a transsexual, whilst some won't identify with being trans full stop. It's not a major criticism, like a 'you're doing it wrong!', just saying that sometimes some trans people (being very careful to not try and speak for all of us!) feel that a 'trans' (without attached genders) option third genders us in an unwelcome way. Just trying to be constructive for future efforts. :)

    (Also, I love brackets. You missed out parenthosexual as an orientation. That sounds wrong now. Forget about it.)

  28. So, if the vast majority of atheists are male, why are all the officers of the Society of Non-theist hot girls?

  29. Because men will vote for hot girls? ;P