Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Oct/09

30

Catholic Republicans are more liberal than Protestant Republicans

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The post below, Why are Catholics Democrats?, has prompted a great deal of discussion. Some of it quite interesting, though I disagree with the general thrust of the commentary. What I disagree with is that there is something fundamental about the ideology of the Roman Catholic Church which makes it congenial to the ethos of the Democratic party. I am aware of the “seamless garment” promoted by many Catholics, but I do not believe that it is fundamentally Roman Catholic. Additionally, I do not think that the church influences American Catholics much, as is evident by their general lack of difference from the Protestant population on attitudes toward abortion or birth control. Instead of something fundamental about Catholicism, I think there are many historically contingent processes at work which result in the demographic differences we see today. Of course, I may be wrong. But theories about how the ideological basis of a religion has particular concrete consequences have generally not panned out, consider Max Weber’s assertion that Confucian societies were not favorable toward the emergence of capitalism (Weber’s earlier work on the Protestant ethic has been called into question in any case, the wealthiest modern German state is staunchly Catholic Bavaria).

The American National Election Study has some data on 2008 presidential results. I decided to do the following:

1) Limit the sample to those who voted for John McCain
2) Limit that sample to Catholics and Protestants
3) Then query the sample by a range of variables

The results are below. I offered many variables because the sample sizes are small, so I’m looking for consistent trends. The main point that seems obvious is that Roman Catholics who voted for John McCain are simply less conservative than Protestants who voted for John McCain. They do not seem to exhibit a “Catholic” profile, whereby they are more conservative on social issues than their fiscal moderation may have predicted. Rather, they’re more liberal about abortion and gay marriage than Protestants.

libcons

abortionincest

abortionrape

cutdeficit

fedgovposethreat

govbailout

gaymarriage

outsourcing

privatizesocialsec

senttroopsiraq

3 comments

  • Tomato Addict · October 31, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Interesting data, and the SDA site looks like a good resource. I don’t understand why you filtered on those who voted for McCain rather than filtering for Republicans – isn’t that the group you really need to examine? I haven’t quite figured out how to replicate what you did on the SDA site, or I would have tried this for myself.

  • Author comment by David Hume · October 31, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I don’t understand why you filtered on those who voted for McCain rather than filtering for Republicans

    i was interested in revealed preferences as opposed to avowed preferences. the number of liberal republicans and conservative democrats is small, but not trivial.

    I haven’t quite figured out how to replicate what you did on the SDA site, or I would have tried this for myself.

    http://secularright.org/wordpress/?p=714

  • Audacious Epigone · November 7, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Using the National Journal’s conventions, this is convincing on two of the three major political categories, social and foreign policy, but not as much so on the economic front. I’d suggest you include means in the future as well–it looks like there are no differences on reducing the deficit by cutting programs or privatization of social security (though the results of the bailout question does mesh with the broader thrust).

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