"Church attendance" question in WVS-5

I’ve never noticed that note. As I figure it out, this is an attempt to overcome the widely known differences in church attendance between Muslims and Christians: Muslim women are not required to go to Mosque, whereas Christian women go to Church more frequently than Christian men (what about Buddhists?).
So basically it says that there are two different questions asked in ‘Islamic societies’ and the rest of the world, which are stored in a single variable in WVS dataset.
The use of different indicators for measuring the same construct is justified in the reflective measurement logic in which all the indicators are exchangeable, though I doubt it relates to a single-indicator measures.
I  checked questionnaire translations in “Islamic societies”, as it seemed to me too strange. What I found is  even more surprising. Summing up, the question about praying  only Morocco and Malaysia unambiguously asked about praying (though some troubles with options coding in Malaysia). The rest seven translations were either about attending mosques or ambiguous. Find below the detailed report. Thus, in general, we can quietly ignore The Note, just like the questionnaire translators did.
To be serious –  when using WVS or some other comparative survey data, every single question should be analyzed in (at least) the way I did it below, especially for your key variables and absolutely necessary for your dependent variables. Google is a handy tool, it gives a crude translation but you get a general idea of what’s in the question. You’ll find plenty of interesting surprises.


Here is Turkish (which could probably treated as one of the “Islamic societies”) version of WVS-5 question:
Google.Translate gives  the following translation:

V186. a. For Muslims: how often are you going to the mosque for funeral outside today?
b. For non-Muslims: funerals, marriages, baptisms nowadays except synagogue / how often you go to church?
1 more than once per week
2 a week
once in 3 months
4 on special occasions, holidays in
5 Years
6 less than once a year
7 No; hardly ever

In general, it doesn’t follow the recommendation of Master questionnaire, so Muslims are asked whether they attend mosque (for funerals? I hope it’s just a scratch in translation) rather than pray; non-Muslims are asked a usual question. So, two different questions that can’t be separated in the data.


What about more strict Muslim society, like Iran? It wasn’t easy to find the question in the questionnaire, here it is:
Google.Translate gives the following translation:

170. Every once for accommodation prayers go to the mosque?
1 More than once a week?
2 Once a week?
3 Once a month?
4 Only on special days such as birthdays and testimony
5 Once a year
6 Not go at all
99 I do not know

It’s not clear, but still it very likely refers to attending the mosque rather than praying wherever it happens.


Maybe it is just a coincidence and Turkish and Iranian translators didn’t pay attention to that Note. Let’s look at French translation used in Morocco:
Machine translation gives

V186. How often do you pray as a Muslim?
Every day or almost 1
Once a week 2
Once a month 3
Only  on special occasions 4
Less frequently 6
never 7

So, Moroccan version unambiguously asks about praying (although “5 – once a year” option is empty and question itself adds “as a Muslim” referring to the duty). Okay, French is more controllable, this translation follows the suggestion of The Note .

Mali & Burkina Faso

Still, Mali’s French question asks about attending,  although it has entire Muslim population. The questionnaire in  60% Muslim Burkina Faso is identical.  The translators worked so carefully they even translated The Note itself.

V186. Apart from weddings and funerals, how often do you attend religious services these days? (Only one answer):
0 Daily (744)
1 more than once per week
2 Once a week
3 Once a month
4 Only the holy days
5 Once a year
6 Less often
7 Never, hardly ever
(NOTE: In Islamic societies, asking the respondent what is the frequency of his prayers!)


In Jordanian questionnaire there is yet another approach. The Master question is split into the two questions . First part asks about daily number of prayers, second – about Friday attendance at Mosque. The responses are not found in general data file, nor Codebook, nor in country-specific data file.

Ask questions of a 186 – 186 b for Muslims only; answered any of the (question 5 185
A 186
Usually, how much time you perform daily prayers imposed?
1 five times a day he moved to 186
2 four times
3 three times
4 once or twice
5 and visits
9. I do not know) do not read (
Usually, Zھr Is that perform Friday prayers at the mosque (read):
1 Each week
2. Once or twice a month
3 less than that
4 No Pray Zھr prayers on Friday in the mosque
9. Do not Pay


Egypt and Iraq

Egyptian and Iraqi original questionnaires are not on the WVS website. The English master questionnaire for Iraq seems to follow Jordan’s approach, asking two different questions about praying and attending, however Codebook  reports only the one about attendance and it is likely the attendance variable was added to the general data file. Likewise, Egyptian Codebook  reports only attendance question.


A very different yet predominantly Muslim country.  The question is about attending rather than praying.

V186. In addition to weddings and funerals how often do you attend religious activity lately?
1. More than once a week
2. Once a week
3. Once a month
4. Only in those days religious
5. Once a year
6. Not often
7. Almost never
-1 = Do not Know No Answer -2 = -3 * Does Not Match [Hand recited)


There are only about 60% of Muslims in Malaysia, and there were three equivalent translations: in Chinese, Malay and English. The question asks about the praying frequency, as recommended for Muslim societies.
Note the new options 8-11 and the order of options.

V186. How often do you pray?
1 More than once a week
2 Once a week
3 Once a month
4 Only on holy days
5 Once a year
6 Less often
7 Never
8 More than once a day
9. Five times on most days
10. More than once a day, but less than five times a day on average
11. Once a day



Indian version does not include option for Muslims which is reasonable, there are only 8% of Muslims in the sample (and about 14% in the population). It’s interesting that it asks about “religious activities” which is both praying and attending a temple, and that it gives options both in Hindi and English, whereas question is asked only in Hindi.

Weddings, funerals and naming except, how often you participate in religious activities? Week / week required more than once a week to once a month, a handlebar, V holidays, once a year, much less, or never?

Summary of Church attendance question translations:

Burkina Faso attendance
Egypt attendance in Codebook
Indonesia attendance
Iran attendance for prayer
Iraq 2 questions, attendance in Codebook
Jordan pray and attendance – 2 questions
Malaysia pray, strange options added
Mali attendance
Morocco pray as a Muslim
Turkey attendance

Disclaimer. Although some of my recent posts criticize WVS, it is  because I use it a lot, and learn more about it.  I realize how hard it is to manage this large survey. Still, I think it is useful to know the weak sides which I regretfully find.
All the questionnaires are taken from official WVS website.
I don’t speak any of these languages; in case you do, tell me if I messed something up.

UPD. In Ethiopian questionnaire something went wrong with encoding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *