I lurk on a couple of academic Baha'i lists, without posting because although I have published one article, and have another on the way I don't precisely qualify as a scholar -- and those issues on which I do know something would probably not be appreciated very much by these groups, and I'd just as soon not get kicked off and lose the benefit of other discussions. Anyway, lurking on a Baha'i academic list isn't exactly like lurking on other academic lists, because the dust from the controversies of the last 10 years hasn't quite settled yet. Two issues come up on a pretty regular basis, like some sort of recurring illness, causing a flurry of posts that, while not exactly flames, have a bit of an edge to them -- causing pleas for the thread to halt, moderator intervention,and apologies, then normal discussion resumes for long stretches until these issues bubble up from under the surface again.
Anyway, the first is the old academic vs. doctrinaire viewpoint, which is an odd issue to be still hashing out on a scholarly list. One sees posts which are routine for debate lists, but rather bone-headed for such a normally erudite crowd. The other is whether or not Juan Cole is a Baha'i. This latter seems rather strange to me, since Juan hasn't been around Baha'i lists at all for a year and more -- although I understand he's had some book chapters published that have made the more conservative sorts unhappy. In any case, these folks haven't got over him yet, nor have they really understood the fact that a lot of people self-identify as Baha'is while not being on the Baha'i rolls.
Anyway, this time, the discussion broadened out from that, and some sociologists chimed in to say that from a social science viewpoint self-identification is all that matters. That's the one I used in my own survey -- and to me there's no other one that makes sense if you want to look at a religious community. Formal enrollment tells us nothing about religious belief, except that at one point in their lives these people were interested enough to sign a card. For some religious groups, notably Unitarian-Universalists, far more people identify as adherents than appear as formal members. That's the case, too, for Baha'is in some places. In Bolivia, where Radio Baha'i is popular, more than three times as many Baha'is appear on the religious census as on the rolls of the Baha'i Faith.
One of the group members there spoke of a rather interesting survey that estimates that there may be as many as 10,000 unenrolled Baha'is in the U.S. In some cases, this is the result of multiple identities e.g. a person says they are both Jewish and Baha'i. In other cases, people don't make their adherence "official" in deference to parents or spouses who object. Online, of course, we run into people who have either resigned their membership, or came close to enrolling but were turned off by some of the authoritarian aspects of the Faith.
Some people on the list objected and quoted the "official" line from the new official website, apparently not understanding that when you are studying a religion, what is "official" isn't important. But that's an old story; I've defended my religious identity from such people more times than I can count. But I did think it interesting that there was an actual educated guess about the number of unenrolled Baha'is.