Secular Right | Reality & Reason




Conservatives respect atheists less

This clip by S. E. Cupp is making the rounds. I often find Cupp to be glib, so it’s no surprise that I disagree with many of the details of what she is saying. In particular it struck me as strange to listen to her talk about how conservatives respect atheists. Atheists are held in low esteem by the American public as a whole, let alone by conservatives. The general social survey has a question, SPKATH, which states:

There are always some people whose ideas are considered bad or dangerous by other people. For instance, somebody who is against churches and religion… a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your (city/town/community) against churches and religion, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 1972-1990:


Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 2000-2012:


Liberals tend to be more accepting of atheists making a speech than conservatives. Interestingly even in the 2000s ~20 percent of self-identified extreme liberals would still not allow an atheist speak. As opposed to ~40 percent of self-identified extreme conservatives.

Addendum: To be clear about the intent behind this post, I’m all about keeping it real. I think it is acceptable to be an atheist on the Right. A substantial proportion of libertarians are atheists. Even among non-libertarian conservatives it’s an acceptable position. But this is really mostly relevant at the elite levels pundits and policy professionals. Atheists just aren’t popular at the grass roots. There aren’t that many conservative atheists or atheist conservatives.

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.




Are conservative whites more racist?

I analyzed some GSS data over at Discover. The commenters were only cursorily engaging the data, and I don’t have much patience for long rhetorical back and forths which are already predetermined as to the nature of the conclusions of the principals (also, no one was offering any data themselves, and I get kind of exhausted at having to be the one who is expected to leg-work while others hold forth with their awesome analyses). But in all honesty my standards are lower for the comments here since I don’t vet/read them nearly as closely, so if you guys want to argue the results, go ahead.


Over at Discover blogs I have two posts up, Republicans, the middle class party and Republicans still the party of the rich. Also, if you want to talk about limousine liberals, note that there is only one precinct in Manhattan where Republicans outnumber Democrats, the downtrodden southwest corner of the Upper East Side.

Poking through the GSS I will tell you what I’ve stated before: wealth/income and education have opposite independent effects when it comes to politics. All things controlled those with more money are more conservative and/or Republican. All things controlled those with more education are more liberal and/or Democrat. As a rule economic class status is much more salient as a predictor of politics for those without college degrees than those with college degrees. In plain English there’s a really strong tendency of those without college degrees who are in the upper income brackets to being conservative, and those in the lower income brackets to being liberal (at least in their voting patterns and alliances). The distribution is more uniform for those with college degrees.



White men can’t be progressive?

Matt Yglesias says, White Men Are Not Very Progressive:

I would say that another message is that progressive politics is badly disadvantaged by a situation in which the overwhelming majorities of political leaders and prominent media figures are white men. There are plenty of white men with progressive views, but in general the majority of white men are not progressive and the majority of progressives are not white men. Drawing from the relatively small pool of white male progressives means drawing from a shallow talent pool.

This is not really right. From the GSS:

White non-Hispanic Men
All Bachelor’s degree Grad school degree Smart (WORDSUM 8-10), graduate degree

Extremely Lib 2.7 3.2 4 1.5
Liberal 9 11 16.2 17.4
Slightly Lib 10.4 12.9 14.4 19
Moderate 35.9 24.5 23.8 27.5
Slightly Cons 17.2 21.4 17.1 16.3
Conservative 20.5 22.9 20.9 16.7
Extremely Cons 4.4 4.1 3.6 1.6

Here’s a chart which makes the issue clear:

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Politics & regionalism


The chart is pretty self-explanatory, but context & methods here. I have two related posts over at ScienceBlogs.

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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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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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Attitudes toward homosexuality

In a follow up to my previous post, I decided to use the GSS’s logit regression feature to probe the relationship between a set of variables and attitudes toward homosexuality. The columns are the dependent variables, while the rows are the independent ones. I’ve omitted all variables where the beta coefficient is not statistically significant at p-value = 0.05. I’ve also bolded the largest beta in each column.

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The Audacious Epigone explores the GSS in terms of the relationship between irreligion and politics.  He confirms what I’ve noted before, the data shows that the irreligious strongly tend to be liberal, but liberals only weakly tend to be irreligious.  This makes sense, the set of liberals in the United States is an order of magnitude more numerous than the set of atheists (2-5% vs. 15-30%, depending on how you measure/quantify).  Because most liberals are not atheists, generalizations of atheists do not necessarily apply to liberals.  Atheists tend to be more male skewed than theists, while liberals tend to be more female skewed than conservatives.

There are also trends within the GSS in terms of how religion & politics sort out. The variable GOD is rank ordered 1-6 in the GSS, from those who know God does not exist (1) to those who are totally certain (6).  POLVIEWS is rank ordered from extreme liberals (1) to extreme conservatives (7).  Here are the correlations between these variables taking the numeric equivalents on their face:

GOD-POLVIEWS (blacks) = 0.05


GOD-POLVIEWS (whites) = 0.23

GOD-POLVIEWS (whites with college degrees or higher) = 0.33

GOD-POLVIEWS (whites who scored 8 or above on WORDSUM, i.e., higher IQ) = 0.33

As you can see, there’s basically no relationship between religion and politics in the black community in terms of a being able to predict. Most black Americans are Democrats and disproportionately liberal, while at the same time being more religious and theologically conservative than whites.  Among whites in the upper socioeconomic strata is where the relationship between religion and politics becomes a trend worth noting.


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