International Religious Freedom Data, 2008

Data Archive > International Surveys and Data > Cross-National > Summary


This file contains measures from the ARDA’s coding of the 2008 U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Reports. This coding produced data on 198 different countries and territories (see below for list of countries coded), but it excluded the United States. It also includes three indexes calculated from these data: Government Regulation of Religion Index (GRI), Modified Social Regulation of Religion Index (MSRI), and Government Favoritism of Religion Index (GFI) (see Grim & Finke, 2006 for information on the GRI and GFI).

Data File
Cases: 198
Variables: 147
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: September 2009 - February 2010
Funded By
The John Templeton Foundation
Collection Procedures
Each year (since 1999) the US State Department releases International Religious Freedom Reports on approximately 198 countries or territories. Based on the text in these reports, ARDA researchers systematically coded the measures included in this file. In previous waves of coding, these reports were assigned quantitative measures by using a coding instrument, essentially a survey questionnaire, under the direction of Brian Grim. Although the most immediate goal was to develop measures for religious regulation and favoritism, the questions included measures for specific acts of discrimination, prejudice, persecution, warfare, property rights, forced migration, and other acts that might (or might not) be related to the religious life of the country. For all variables, the coders were asked to make substantive observations of the qualitative data and to base their codes on empirical observations of actions or patterns of behavior that were documented in the reports.

Users should be aware of the following limitations: (1) All variables reflect information that was coded from the State Department Reports, and when no problem was reported, then the item was coded as “0." This means that “according to the Report, the item was not mentioned as a problem.” Since the reports tend to simply not report a problem rather than say that “the problem is absent,” we are not able to reasonably determine whether the problem was unobserved or absent. This means that the data reflect what was reported. (2) The focus of the reports is on limitations of religious freedom. Thus, we would argue that the most accurate measures are those which address the core issues related to the restriction (or regulation) of religious freedom and religious persecution. For example, government favoritism of religious education could arguably be harmless to religious freedom (helping the poor obtain skills) or harmful (training terrorists based on a religious ideology). Thus, since such issues tend to be reported when there is a problem, they cannot be used to form a full picture of the role of religion in education for a country. (3) The three different years of coding are not three discrete measures, but rather they represent trend information that continues to be reported for several years running, which makes sense, for instance, because cases of violence tend to have continuing effects.

Thus, it would not be advisable to treat the data as separate measures from which time lines are developed since it is possible that later years report newly arising problems in addition to old ones. (4) The aggregate dataset for the three years of coding contains the mean score of each ordinal variable and the mode score for categorical variables across the three years. We suggest that those using the data for social scientific modeling and analysis use the aggregate data set, which has the benefit of greater variation in the variables and less error, since random errors from one year will be attenuated in the aggregate data.

For a more detailed description of the coding procedures, see Grim and Finke (2006).
Sampling Procedures
Primary data come from the coding of the 198 countries covered by the US State Department International Religious Freedom Reports.
Principal Investigators
The Association of Religion Data Archives
Jaime Harris, Project Manager for International Data
Robert R. Martin, Research Associate
Roger Finke, Director

Contact for more information:
The Association of Religion Data Archives, arda@pop.psu.edu
List of Countries and Territories Included in this Data File
Afghanistan
Albania
Algeria
Andorra
Angola
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belarus
Belgium
Belize
Benin
Bhutan
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Botswana
Brazil
Brunei
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso
Burma
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Central African Republic
Chad
Chile
China
Colombia
Comoros
Congo, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Republic of
Costa Rica
Cote d'Ivoire
Croatia
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
Fiji
Finland
France
Gabon
Gambia, The
Georgia
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Grenada
Guatemala
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Ireland
Israel
Israeli Occupied Territories (Palestine)
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kiribati
Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
Korea, Republic of
Kosovo
Kuwait
Kyrgyz Republic
Laos
Latvia
Lebanon
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macau
Macedonia
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritania
Mauritius
Mexico
Micronesia, Federated States of
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Niger
Nigeria
Norway
Oman
Pakistan
Palau
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Russia
Rwanda
Samoa
San Marino
Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Slovak Republic
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Sudan
Suriname
Swaziland
Sweden
Switzerland
Syria
Taiwan
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Thailand
Tibet
Timor-Leste
Togo
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkey
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Turkmenistan
Tuvalu
Uganda
Ukraine
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Venezuela
Vietnam
Yemen
Zambia
Zimbabwe
Note on the Modified Social Regulation of Religion Index (MSRI)
The Social Regulation of Religion Index (SRI) has been altered in this wave of coding. The Modified Social Regulation of Religion Index (MSRI) is calculated by (a) transforming a country's value on each of the five variables listed below so that they have ranges from 0 to 1, (b) taking the sum of the five transformed values and (c) multiplying the sum by 2. Countries may have MSRI values between 0 and 10.

Variables comprising the Modified Social Regulation of Religion Index (MSRI):
OTHREL08: Societal attitudes toward other or nontraditional religions are reported to be . . .
PROSE208: According to the Report, do traditional attitudes and/or edits of the clerical establishment strongly discourage proselytizing, that is, trying to win converts?
ESTAB08: According to the Report, do established or existing religions try to shut out new religions in any way?
INTOLE08: According to the Report, are citizens intolerant of "nontraditional" faiths, that is, groups they perceive as new religions?
NONTRA08: How does the Report characterize citizens' receptivity to proselytizing by nontraditional faiths or faiths other than their own?

(See variables MSRIA_08 through MSRIE_08 to see how the variables above were re-scaled to calculate the MSRI.)

See Grim & Finke, 2006 for a detailed description of the original Social Regulation of Religion Index (SRI).
Note on Religious Demography Variables
This dataset includes a number of variables that rank the five most-popular religious brands in each country by their relative size (LG1REL08 through LG5REL08). The dataset also features corresponding variables that provide the size of these five largest brands as a percentage of each country's total population (LG1PCT08 through LG5PCT08). The values of these variables were calculated solely from figures provided in the State Department's 2008 International Religous Freedom (IRF) Report. Users are advised that religious demographic information available in this dataset may be limited when the Report does not account for some or all members of religious brands residing in a country. For example, in the case of the Czech Republic, the Report only provides demographic data on atheists residing in that country and not on any other religious population in that country. As a result, when reporting religious demographic data for the Czech Republic, this dataset is only able to provide data on the size of that country's atheist population.
Note on Fall 2012 Update
Note: The original values of GRI_08 were incorrect for some countries in the original version of this dataset. The dataset has been updated to correct this issue. The uncorrected values of GRI_08 are included in this dataset and should be used for replication purposes only. These uncorrected values are available in the variables GRI08REP.