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SkepticBlog Appreciation by Country

by Brian Dunning, Jan 19 2012

So the other day I asked our goodly site admin William Bull for some stats by country, eager to see how it compares with Skeptoid podcast listener distribution. Turns out it’s pretty close. This graph (click to see full size) shows page views over the past year per million of each population’s country. So it’s a fair indicator of this blog’s relative popularity in each country. (Any countries not listed had fewer than one page view per million population.)

Obviously this is an English language blog written by primarily American authors, so we cannot extrapolate this data to indicate the relative popularity of skepticism in general in each country. But there are two surprises.

The first surprise is that the United States is not the country where we’re most popular. We’re most appreciated in Canada. Either this means that our lone Canadian blogger, Daniel Loxton, is more popular than the rest of us put together; or that Canadians generally appreciate this content more than Americans. There are all kinds of demographic reasons that this may be true. Without surveying our readers for their demographic information and comparing that to the population at large, we can only speculate what some of these are. The United States has higher religiosity than Canada, and the population is generally less educated. But far be it from me to assert that only an educated public would appreciate this blog; it’s all speculation.

Similarly, New Zealand takes second place, relegating the United States down to third. What are the reasons that New Zealanders visit SkepticBlog more often than Americans?

The second surprise is that a block of three non-English speaking countries, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, have snuck in there higher than Ireland and the United Kingdom. Much of their population is bilingual and reads English without a problem, but it’s still their second language; we’d typically tend to expect more readers from the UK on an English language blog than from Scandinavia.

Scandinavia has a reputation for having low religiosity and low poverty, so perhaps this shouldn’t be so much of a surprise. My personal experience with attendees at skepticism conferences and talks that I give on the road has been that all socioeconomic levels appear to be well represented, but that’s my own informal observation only, and could well be wrong.

The Amaz!ng Meeting has had two conferences in London and one in Australia. Maybe it’s time the JREF threw one in Sweden?

54 Responses to “SkepticBlog Appreciation by Country”

  1. Applying the well-known epistemological standard of “knowing in my gut,” I find the answer obvious!

    (That’s actually so odd I suspect the data could be off somehow? The US has ten times the population of Canada, and a much more established skeptical community. That’s not to downplay Canada’s long history in skepticism—we gave the world James Randi, after all—but the “big” national-level skeptical organizations in North America are all US orgs.)

    • Remember the numbers are already population adjusted. It’s page views PER million population.

      • Whoops, missed that. There’s the blogosphere for ya: we not only write too fast, but read too fast as well.

      • Scott Drouin says:

        While the US seems to produce the most skeptical newssites and podcasts available, it also seems to produce the most woo as well. Most of Canadian woo is imported from America, we don’t seem to produce nearly as much, which I think may be indicative of our lack of belief in CAM, religion and pseudoscience. This point is moot however as I have absolutely no data to back it up, it’s simply my perception. I still don’t know why we aren’t as easy to fool as americans, although I think it comes from our history of laughing at american mistakes and being careful not to make them ourselves. No evidence to back this up, simply my perception.

    • Rob says:

      Canada is also much more urbanized than the US, which may have something to do with it. Then again, maybe not.

  2. Øyvind says:

    Makes me proud that Scandinavia is so well represented there.

  3. Jonas says:

    As a Swede I must point out that being bilingual or trilingual is not a very big issue in Europe where a lot of languages are spoken. The EU has 23 official languages e.g. And the fact that most movies are produced in Hollywood helps a lot when learning english.

    And as you pointed out, Scandinavia is very secular part of the world. So “The Amaz!ng Meeting Sweden” sounds like a wonderful idea.

    • Hume's fork says:

      “And the fact that most movies are produced in Hollywood helps a lot when learning english.”

      And also the fact that they aren’t dubbed (like in France).

  4. tmac57 says:

    Another reason to love Canadians.

  5. Hume's fork says:

    Next TAM in Sweden! ;)

    I’m a bit surprise we do so well. The Swedish Skeptics is a rather low-profile group, and the organization’s name in Swedish doesn’t even include the word “skeptic”.

    Religiousity is low and religion-related pseudosciences (like creationism) are not widely believed, but beliefs in reincarnation, astrology, and “something” are not rare at all.

  6. Andras says:

    As a Hungarian I’m quite surprised we’re ranking 17th there (if i counted it right). But still a long way up:)! So glad to have the blog to share and spread the word around.

    And yeah, please put together a TAM Sweeden. We need one over here in Europe (alongside with the great QED in March and the World Skeptics Congress in May). We missed TAM London 2011 big time after the huge success of 2010.

  7. John Greg says:

    “Either this means that our lone Canadian blogger, Daniel Loxton, is more popular than the rest of us put together; or that Canadians generally appreciate this content more than Americans.”

    In all honesty, I suspect it is a bit of both. but that is, of course, merely a self-satisfying speculation.

    NB: I am Canadian and a huge Daniel Loxton fan.

  8. Ascorbic Acid says:

    YES! you should go to Sweden! PLZ

  9. Prateek says:

    Oh dear, and here I was thinking that those of us in India could take some measure of pride in having a burgeoning skeptical community :/

    It’s not as if our population helps matters in such analyses either. I’d be interested to see where we end up if the graph represented absolute number of page hits from each country.

  10. Kenn says:

    Now for a state comparison.

    Relative to church attendance would also be interesting.

  11. Pernille Nylehn says:

    How many blogs are included in this? ONE? Can this be called a scientific survey? I think not.

    Pernille Nylehn

    • Paul the corrector says:

      They never said it was. It is specified as the results of one blog only. Please read the OP more carefully.

  12. Max says:

    “Scandinavia has a reputation for having low religiosity and low poverty, so perhaps this shouldn’t be so much of a surprise.”

    If there were no woo, there’d be no interest in skepticism.

    • My experience speaking to European audiences is that conspiracy theories are their favorite brand of woo. They tend to consciously adhere to science, but are as subject to anecdotal thinking as anyone else.

  13. Tobias says:

    Swedish skeptics are, as mr fork pointed out, not particularly organized. There are a few groups that I know of:
    ‘Vetenskap and Folkbildning’ (Science and Public awareness) A collection of (mostly) scientist spanning multiple fields or research, that advocates a science based approach to reality. To the general public they are primarily known for their annual ‘Public awareness award’ and ‘Hoodwink award’ (my unofficial translations). The latter to the great discontent of the recipient person/organization/public office etc, prompting a few weeks of media warfare.
    ‘UppsalaInitiativet’, UI (Uppsala – city in Sweden, initiativet – you guessed it!). Focusing on the science behind AGW, initially started as a reaction to ‘StockholmsInitiativet’ (SI). SI fall in the category of climate change denialists, purporting to be scientific, but with the usual cherry picking and collection of fallacies that are so abundant in this area (my opinion). The fact that Uppsala and Stockholm are 70 km (44 mi) apart, and both having a history of university education dating back centuries, does not seem to help much, rather the opposite.  
    Other than these two (please add to my list anyone), there is a collection of blogs/podcasts that bring people together:
    Skeptikerpodden. A blog and a podcast, releasing a Swedish equivalent of the SGU podcast every 2nd week. They have been great in recommending UK- and US-based skeptical groups and podcasts.
    Humanistbloggen, Ateistbloggen + a collection of less active blogs (that’ll get me into trouble…).
    In summary, there is a large group that meets up over the internet reading and discussing their favorite topics, and a smaller core of pan-skeptics that want to do it all. And then there are of course the ranters (neutral word indeed), a topic for another day.

  14. Frank says:

    I am glad to see that South Africa made the list, especially considering how few people here read English and have (non-mobile phone) internet connections.

  15. A NZer says:

    Wow I am really surprised to see New Zealand so high.
    Maybe you should come and pay us a visit here Mr Dunning, it appears you would have a good crowd of people wanting to meet you.

    • Nothing I would like better! I was invited on a NZ tour following TAM Australia, but unfortunately my schedule did not permit it. I’m still kicking myself.

  16. Nancy Renwick says:

    Why would you choose to have a TAM Sweden when the highest page views per capita is in Canada? How about a TAM Toronto? (I only suggest Toronto becausevI live in Ontario).

  17. Trimegistus says:

    Canadians are also drawn to sites which allow them to feel superior to their southern neighbors.

  18. Nyar says:

    Interesting, I always thought that Canada was a state of the U.S. So it’s like totally its own country huh? Wow. Which side of the road do people drive on there?

  19. BigSoph says:

    A bit of it is like Trimegistus says, if it makes us one up the Yanks, we are all for it

    Problem is a lot of Canadian skeptics are not so much humanists as socialists. They have replaced faith in an intangible, magical invisible friend with faith in overweaning government (and, additionally, hatred of government that is not properly socialist) and the faith of das Kapital

  20. David H. says:

    The general literacy rate is likely significantly higher in Canada and New Zealand than in the U.S. I will not attempt to account for the relative immigrant/non-English-speaking populations.

    What’s worse, at least half of the literate people in the U.S.A. read only the Bible, if that much.

  21. d brown says:

    There’s literacy and there’s thinking. Look at Germany. But they did have (and still do) a long history of weird believes. Some of them were the first supporter’s of Hitler.

  22. Peter Damian says:

    As per Frank, it would be interesting to see page hits per actual internet users. I find it quite surprising that just based on population we in South Africa surpass our dialectic comrades in both Russia and China where I’m guessing there are many more English conversant people than in S.A.

    Also, I think our Canadian friends should be careful with their comments, as the U.S. looks around for a new country to invade. Canada would be so much more convenient than Syria or Iran.

    So stop attacking the religiosity and woo of the American way of life, you heathen skeptist fundamentalists.

    • Nyar says:

      Haha, invade Canada? That’d be the day, they don’t have any oil…what?…more than Saudi you say…really?

      Hey Canada, we are going to be doing some wargames around the border area soon. Don’t be alarmed, it just routine training exercises.

  23. rob says:

    Im quite happy with the position of Ireland remember there is only 4.5 million of us. But then that is about the population of n Zealand too fair play to the kiwis.

  24. Helgi Briem says:

    I’m a little surprised that we Icelanders don’t turn up there (even though our pop. is only 320.000) since I know of quite a few readers. Most of us probably read through RSS feeders such as Google Reader, so perhaps those don’t show up correctly.

  25. Citizen Wolf says:

    Ireland features above the UK. Interesting, but probably nothing to draw conclusions from. I’d say there’s more general religiosity in Ireland than the UK, but of what there is, it’s rather bland and non-fundamentalist. The UK has more fundamentalist creationist-type nutters (both christian and islam).
    In my experience, NZ is less religious than Ireland.
    What’s going on with the Netherlands? They’re letting the side down compared to the Scandinavians.

    • Mallemoeder says:

      There is nothing going on with the Netherlands, I think. Nothing that makes the Netherlands more or less special, that is. We also have our own ‘creationist-type nutters’. And we do have a large (and I mean very large) number of New Age followers: They believe and/or say anything. Anything? Anything… But let’s be honest: We have are own skeptics as well. A minority, but they exist. Perhaps they are a bit to modest and to tolerant…

  26. Dave the Canadian in Kenya says:

    I recall that Canada and the Nordic countries both have higher rates of internet connectivity than the US. That would make it easier for them to rise in the figures. South Africa was the top sub-Saharan country and also has the highest rate of internet connectivity. The many other English speaking African countries don’t appear at all.

    Of course, most of those countries are not exactly bastions of free thought either, but when big chunks of the population can not even access the internet, it is hard to read a blog.

  27. Jo westmoreland says:

    Perhaps the countries that appear lower down the list aren’t necessarily less skeptical – maybe it’s because they have their own home-grown skeptic websites. The UK’s Ben Goldacre ‘Bad Science’ website springs to mind…

  28. Sam says:

    I’m from new Zealand

    I check this site maybe 5 or 6 days a week, extrapolated over a year that makes me about 5 percent of the total traffic. Yes nz is that small.

  29. Guerilla surgeon says:

    Me too Sam, so that makes 10%. NZ has low religiosity, but not as low as some Baltic states. Surprised they don’t seem to figure. NZ Education is good, but large gap between rich and poor, unlike Scandinavia. Pretty lively sceptical community though.

  30. Lachlan says:

    You mean we (Australia) didn’t beat New Zealand! Damn!