Secular Right | Reality & Reason

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On one of my other weblogs I point out how anti-evolutionary sentiment seems particularly contingent on two variables:

1) Literalism about the Bible (a rough measure of “fundamentalism”).

2) Lack of educational socialization (i.e., not going to college and learning Truth).

One of points that cropped up though was that political ideology is highly predictive of anti-evolutionary opinions because of the strong correlation between Biblical literalism & conservatism. This is no great surprise, the modern conservative movement with the emergence of the New Right in the 1970s and the influx of southern evangelical Protestants is strongly inflected with fundamentalist Christianity. In contrast, the modern Left has become progressively more secular during the same period. But when it comes to opinions around Creationism there is an asymmetry: conservative elites are split down the middle, while liberal elites have come to a consensus that the theory of evolution is accepted science. Below I’ve broken it down by party and ideology, and italicized cases where the columns don’t exhibit any overlap on the 95% confidence intervals. I limited the sample in two ways:

1) Those who claimed advanced degrees (something beyond a bachelor’s degree).

2) Those who scored 9 or 10 on the WORDSUM vocab test, which was only 13.2% of the GSS sample.

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Sep/09

26

Religious change in the parties

Comment below:

As this shift occurred what happened with the proportion of white Catholics in the Democratic Party? Did it similarly fall, hold steady or rise? Is there a story there?

Have you GSS blogged on the differences between Democratic Catholic attitudes to issues versus Democratic Fundamentalist attitudes? What I’m wondering is whether there has been a corresponding rise of Catholic influence as Protestant influence has diminished, in particular cafeteria Catholicism rather than doctrinal Catholicism?

The data are for whites only….
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Sep/09

26

The rise of the Secular Left, II

Chris below has an excellent comment:

Drawing the stacked-bars equally high when the total size of the groups they represent is substantially different creates a very misleading visual perception. I suggest redrawing with the y-axis “% of total population” – the 1990 stack will be significantly shorter, but if my calculations are correct, the Republican slice of it will be about the same.

Below I’ve redone the chart and standardized in reference to 1990 base population numbers. Since “Nones” have gone from 9 to 15%, and the American population has gone from ~250 million in 1990 and ~300 million in 2008, the total numbers give a different impression.
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There were some comments below to the effect that secular conservatives tend to be more “libertarian” than religious conservatives. Anyone who has moved in libertarian circles knows that atheists & agnostics are well represented; after all, many libertarians are strongly influenced by the aggressively atheistic Objectivist philosophy, even if few become full-blown Objectivists. I have posted data before which do suggest that conservative seculars tend to be libertarian, but I thought I would do something a bit more systematic. Below the fold are a list of GSS results where the top half are more “social” and the bottom more “economic.” Because of the small number of secular conservatives I used the GSS sample spanning 1988-2008. This is important to keep in mind for questions relating to homosexuality, since those views have shifted a great deal over that time, though others such as abortion have remained static.
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Jul/09

10

When liberals distrust science

528-8Pew has a new survey which compares the attitudes of scientists with the general public. Nothing too surprising. Scientists are secular, liberal, and support funding for science and think that science is awesome! On some of the issues where scientists and the public differ it is the Right which is skeptical of the scientific consensus; evolution, global warming, etc. (embryonic stem cell research is really more of a normative, not factual, issue) But not all. When it comes to animal testing and nuclear power scientists have views more in line with Republicans and the Right. But the biggest factor in animal testing is sex, so it might be that if you control for this variable there wouldn’t be a political difference. But what about nuclear power?

The GSS has a few nuclear related questions asked in 1993-1994. Below the fold are attitudes toward nuclear energy (columns add to 100%) broken down by self-reported ideology. Additionally, I controlled for education & race by limiting a second sample to whites with college degrees or higher. The effect remains; liberals are (or were in 1993-1994) hostile to nuclear power than conservatives.

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Jul/09

9

Politics, education & wealth

OK, so I’m a little obsessed. Over at The American Scene they’ve been talking class for the past week. Its definition can be somewhat slippery. But it seems that both education and wealth have to play a role. The GSS has variables which look at wealth and education, as well as political orientation and party identification. How about combing them together?

I limited the data set to whites between the years 2000 and 2008. I recoded the variables so that there were fewer classes (e.g., extremely liberal, liberal and slightly liberal were combined into one category). Below are the results. The columns add up to 100%, so what you are seeing are the proportion in each wealth and educational combination who are liberal or conservative or Democrat or Republican.
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The posts below I used education as a proxy for class. This is obviously rough. There are many people without college degrees who are well off, and many with college degrees who are only marginally middle class, or lower. How about looking at both net wealth and education? Unfortunately the sample sizes get a bit smaller, and so I can’t go and look at issue by issue. But I can look at party identification. Limiting the sample to whites here are some interesting points:

1) The proportion of Democrats is highest for whites with the combination of college eduation or higher and net wealth of less than $150,000.

2) The proportion of Republicans is highest for whites with the combination of college eduation or higher and net wealth of greater than $150,000. But whereas the difference in Democratic orientation is 14.5 points for whites across the educational chasm below $150,000, those who are above the $150,000 threshold show only a 3.4 gap between Republican orientation for those who do, and don’t, have college degrees. In other words, education matters a great deal for Democratic affiliation for whites who are less well off, while for the well off Republican party affiliation has only a weak relationship to educational attainment.

3) Political party polarization is greatest among those with wealth and higher education. Only 5.3% were political Independents with no lean in this class. In contrast, 31.2% of whites with no college degree and below $150,000 in wealth were Independents with no lean.

Table below the fold.
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Jul/09

8

Limousine liberals out of touch?

In the post below a few people asked about comparisons with Democrats. So I decided to add Dems to the columns, so there are 4 classes, Dems without college degrees, Dems with college degrees or higher, Repubs without college degrees and Repubs with college degrees or higher. A few points:

1) The “elites”, or, more accurately, the 1/4 who have college degrees or higher, are more ideologically polarized.

2) There are a set of issues where class is more important than party identification. For example, free speech, where both educated segments have similar opinions vs. the less educated segments.

3) Everyone is not happy with the current the level of taxation on the middle class.

4) There are a set of social issues where educated Democrats are outliers. This is probably due to the fact that this class is extremely secular in relation to the others. Though educated Republicans are generally not fundamentalist in their religious inclinations (in fact, less so than less educated Democrats) they are religious to the same extent as less educated Democrats and Republicans.

5) Educated Democrats are generally more socially liberal than less educated Democrats, but their positions on non-cultural policy issues are more complex. They seem to favor a large welfare state, even to a greater extent than less educated (and so poorer) Democrats, but also are not as hostile to free trade. This is probably due to trade policy’s relationship to nationalism.

Note: Data from the GSS. Paraphrased some of the questions. Remember to focus on rank orders and magnitudes of differences, as opposed to the specific detail of the question or differences of a few percent. Again, I limited the sample to 2004-2008.
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It is a well known fact that in the United States that opposition to abortion tends to be concentrated among the most religious segment of the population. It is also a fact that the more secular nations tend to be more accepting of abortion than the religious ones. But what about the trends within nations? Yesterday on Gene Expression I posted a chart which shows that the proportion of Catholics who oppose abortion is strongly correlated with the proportion of the other major religious group who oppose abortion. All things equal there was an international tendency for Catholics to be somewhat more anti-abortion than non-Catholics, but a far better predictor of attitudes was not religion but nationality. In other words Catholic Germans resembled Protestant Germans while Catholic Chileans resembled Protestant Chileans.

But what about religion and irreligion more generally on the international level? That is, do religious and irreligious people within a nation tend to correlate in their attitudes toward abortion? Do atheists in Germany resemble religious people in Germany more than they do atheists in Nigeria? I used the same methodology is in the Gene Expression post. I used The World Values Survey. I looked at Wave 5 and Waves 3 & 4 separately, so the latter are aggregated. This means some nations show up twice in the data set. Additionally I discarded any nation where the sample size for atheists was 10 or less. There is a variable which asks people to rate their attitude toward abortion on a 0 to 10 scale in terms of if it is justifiable, 0 = “never justifiable.” That is the proportion in the data, abortion is never justifiable. Additionally for each nation there is a breakdown into three categories, “religious person,” “not a religious person” and “convinced atheist.” So the raw data below you see rows which have nations, and three columns for each category. All the numbers are percentages of those who believe that abortion is never justifiable.

Below are two scatterplots. Each data point represents a nation.

ab11

ab2

1) It is clear that religion correlate with opposition to abortion in the vast majority of nations.

2) But, the attitudes of religious people and non-religious people track each other so that the irreligious in nation X may oppose abortion much more than the religious in nation Y.

3) The small sample sizes for “convinced atheists” was probably the reason that you see more of a residual in that plot than in the one which included those who were “not religious.”

Raw data below the fold.
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It looks like both Maine & New Hampshire will be taking steps toward recognizing gay marriage. If that happens only Rhode Island in New England will not recognize gay marriage. It also looks like there will be movement in New York. Clearly there’s a regional bias here; but I thought it would be nice to quantify it. The GSS has the “MARHOMO” variable for 1988, 2004, 2006 and 2008. I limited it to 2006 and 2008 as attitudes didn’t differ between these years, and split it by the Census regions. Results below.

gssregion1

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