Are the Republicans the socially conservative party?

Charles Murray ruminates on why Asian Americans are not Republicans. Many of his observations are broadly consonant with my supposition that Asian American disidentification with the Republican party has to do with cultural markers (i.e., Asian Americans have become less Christian, the Republican party has become more self-consciously Christian). But Charles finishes with a curious turn:

Republicans are seen by Asians—as they are by Latinos, blacks, and some large proportion of whites—as the party of Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationists. Factually, that’s ludicrously inaccurate. In the public mind, except among Republicans, that image is taken for reality.

There are four factual assertions we can test. The one about Creationism is the easiest, because it’s clear and distinct. First, I went to the GSS and constrained the data set to Democrats, Republicans, and Independents from the year 2008-2010. Now let’s look at the EVOLVED variable, which asks people if “Human beings developed from animals.” The results by party:

Democrat 60 40
Independent 55 45
Republican 42 58

The reality is that the Republican party is the party of Creationists. That shouldn’t be surprising, about half of Americans are CXreationists, and there are segments of the Democratic coalition, such as blacks, and lower income folk generally, who tend toward Creationism.

Abortion is the next easiest question to tackle. Let’s look at two abortion questions: ABANY and ABRAPE. The former basically is a question which tests for the most supportive of abortion rights positions. Basically you support abortion on demand. The second tests for the most anti-abortion element, those who reject the right to an abortion even in cases of rape:

Abortion for any reason? Yes No
Democrat 49 51
Independent 39 61
Republican 33 67
Abortion in cases of rape? Yes No
Democrat 84 16
Independent 73 27
Republican 71 29

As you can see the Democratic party is actually notionally split on abortion-on-demand. And when it comes to the more radical anti-abortion positions, though a substantial number of Republicans hold to an extreme stance, so do many Independents interestingly. But the reality is that the Republican party is the pro-life party, and the Democrats are are the pro-choice party. George H. W. Bush became pro-life in 1980, and Al Gore shifted to a pro-choice stance over his political career. That was just plain necessity in light of their ambitions. Let’s limit the above variable to only college educated people:


College Educated Cohort
Abortion for any reason? Yes No
Democrat 72 28
Independent 58 42
Republican 34 66
Abortion in cases of rape? Yes No
Democrat 92 8
Independent 90 10
Republican 71 29

The major takeaway is that Democrat elites are very supportive of abortion-rights. To a greater extent than the rank & file. This is in contrast with Republicans, who have a greater top-down cohesion on this issue. Republicans are the pro-life party. But Democrats are definitely the pro-choice party.

To ascertain whether Republicans are “Bible-thumping” let’s look at the BIBLE variable, which queries attitudes toward whether the Bible is the literal Word of God.

Bible Word of God Bible Inspired Bible Book of Fables Other
Democrat 30 44 24 2
Independent 32 46 21 1
Republican 38 48 13 1


Now let’s limit to college educated:

College Educated Cohort
Bible Word of God Bible Inspired Bible Book of Fables Other
Democrat 9 50 38 3
Independent 12 48 38 2
Republican 25 58 15 2

A substantial number of downscale Democrats have conservative religious views. And, it turns out that Christian fundamentalists broadly understood are not the majority of Republican voters. They are a substantial bloc, but as the Republican primaries indicated they can’t win a contest for a favored candidate alone. Especially at the elite levels “Bible-thumpers” are a notable presence among Republicans, and very rare among Democrats (one can infer that the proportions of Democratic religious fundamentalists among politicians is very low, as opposed to the general college age population).

Finally there’s the gay question. How to parse this? Let’s look at two variables. HOMOSEX and LIBHOMO.


Homosexual sex is… Always wrong Almost always wrong Sometimes wrong Not wrong at all
Democrat 41 3 7 49
Independent 47 3 8 42
Republican 62 4 7 27


Remove homosexual books from library Yes No
Democrat 19 81
Independent 25 75
Republican 24 76


Now, college educated:

Homosexual sex is… Always wrong Almost always wrong Sometimes wrong Not wrong at all
Democrat 14 3 9 73
Independent 31 1 9 60
Republican 52 4 9 34


Remove homosexual books from library Yes No
Democrat 6 94
Independent 8 92
Republican 14 86


I think the key thing here to note is that Democratic elite have become extremely gay-friendly over the past few years. Republicans can’t really compete. I think one can make a philosophical case that one isn’t necessarily anti-gay if one always thinks that gay sex is “always wrong,” but as a pragmatic matter I think it’s hard to defend that position in the public forum.

Overall I’d say that the data here is confused. Though the perceptions are as Murray outlines them. I think it is defensible to consider the Republicans the socially conservative party and the Democrats the socially liberal party. But that’s mostly a function of the political position of the party elites, which tend to be more uniform than the rank & file (especially for Democrats).

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4 Responses to Are the Republicans the socially conservative party?

  1. Great post.

    The most striking thing to me is how little difference there is between dems and pubs on most of these questions. At worst, the republicans are a consistently a slightly darker shade of grey. It’s definitely not the black and white of common knowledge.

    I have been wondering recently, how opinions diverge on what one think as the core of social conservative thinking: support for children growing up in two parent families. Rod Dreher has recently posted on this question and many of the commenters talk as though liberals are opposed to traditional families. I wonder if there is any research on this question?

  2. yg7h9n says:

    Liberals are for SWPL power couples AKA professional couples.

    These people are the most feminist of all and while their version of family formation can work for THEM, it’s a disaster for 80 to maybe 95% of the population.

    That is what people like MRAs are trying to get at. You cannot force “alpha male-alpha female” on a wide scale because most of society is NOT like that.

    Most people are not high SES.

    The Democratic Party is the HIGH-LOW alliance.

    We have Asians/SWPL Whites/Jews + Blacks/Hispanics destroying the center of America and enforcing their “enlightened” values.

    Which doesn’t work for MOST of the populace.

  3. Florida resident says:

    Dear David Hume !

    I completely agree with you in your analysis
    (nicely done, in my very humble opinion)
    of the anti-scientific follies of “republicans”.

    For the balance, I can mention my personal experience
    of observing equally anti-scientific positions
    of the people with “democratic” inclinations.
    Namely, they almost unanimously subscribe to
    “The Blank Slate” model of humans.
    They never say it explicitly, but they assume
    that evolution of humans came to ”screeching halt”
    about 50,000 years ago,with all the corollaries
    well-known to you.

    Your F.r.

  4. Andy says:

    Not sure why GOP are so anti-Abortion. One can understand objections to 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions, but Ist trimester? Is it because of demographic fears? Or rapture nuttery?

    Abortion laws cannot make GOP more moral. Even in States which are most anti-Abortion (Kentucky, Missouri, etc) the White fertility rate is below replacement.

    India legalized abortion around the same time as Roe-v-Wade, and India’s fertility rate is still high, at 2.7 births/woman. Partly its because 66% of India is still rural and very poor, so they do not have 24/7 TV and trinkets to play with and “forget” about breeding.

    But isn’t Israel also a pro-choice country? There, the Jewish fertility is 3 births/woman.

    The best way to resolve these social issues is probably at the State or County level as per the Constitution.

    But the issues which are far more important than abortion and homosexual marriage are mass immigration and size of federal government.

    And GOP grass roots will see a broad resurgence if it agitates for a total stop on all legal and illegal immigration, and deleting a few Federal departments including education, commerce, HUD, energy, and interior.

    But the important question is – Where is the courage, will power and energy?

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