Results from quantitative surveys enable historians, sociologists and demographers to describe and analyse the evolution of sport participation in France from 1967 to 2010. However, most of these social scientists use the results of these surveys to create very different methodologies without having studied the surveys’ empirical data or databases. In this article, we demonstrate how we have attempted to establish a basis for comparability of the surveys by analysing these databases. As a result of our work, certain affirmations on which the history of sport participation in France has long been based may be called into question or even changed. This comparison raises the question of the distinction between the work of statisticians on the one hand, and that of historians, sociologists and demographers on the other.