The New York Times has a weird article up, Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?, which digests the Pew Religious Landscape Survey descriptive statistics on the demographics of American religious denominations. It’s kind of a strange piece because the basic correlations have long been known. The traditional rank order in the “Social Register” way of looking at it would have been Episcopalian > Presbyterian > Methodist > Baptist. The article itself is frankly kind of embarrassing in a 10th grade paper sort of way. For example, “That stands in contrast to the long history, made famous by Max Weber, of Protestant nations generally being richer than Catholic nations.” I think this sort of fact should be introduced very carefully to the general audience. One can posit plausible explanations for why staunchly Catholic Bavaria is one of Germany’s most affluent states, or why it is that Protestantism is much more popular among lower class Chileans, and still maintain a Webberian model, but that obviously isn’t possible in a newspaper article. But these realities are often totally surprising to people who aren’t too “information rich,” but who have heard of Webber’s thesis at some point. And let’s not get into the specific point that Webber was focusing on Calvinist Protestants in particular, rather than Protestants more generally! I probably am on the skeptical side of when it comes to evaluating the core thesis of the Protestant ethic, but that’s neither here nor there.
The piece could have addressed some serious possibilities of the correlation between particular denominations and wealth being due to a “virtuous circle” or some sort. For example, Episcopalians and Jews using their religious institutions as important social networks for career advancement and prudent investment tips and advice (don’t tell that to members of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue!). In the town where I grew up it was rather clear that particular types of service professionals whose business was built around rapport and trust, such as insurance salesmen, benefited if they were members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, which provided a relatively large built-in local client base.
A few interesting demographic breakdowns within a religious group which might invite a lot of explanation occurs with Jews. The following comes from the American Jewish Identity Survey 2001. There are three classes of Jews in this: Jews by religion, Jews with no religion, and Jews with another religion. The majority of the last were Christians.
The Audacious Epigone has a post up, Republicans are more scientifically literate than Democrats or independents are, where he reviews pro vs. anti-science attitude by party in the General Social Survey. He concludes that in fact Republicans are more scientifically literate across the issues than Democrats. Jason Malloy saw this trend four years ago in the GSS, and to some extent so have I. One point to keep in mind is that a few specific politicized scientific issues are very much the outliers in exhibiting tight partisan valences in opinion.
So another question: are conservatives more scientifically literate than liberals? If scientific literacy correlates with being Republican, and being Republican correlates with being conservative, shouldn’t scientific literacy correlate with being conservative? Not necessarily. Such correlations are not transitive. Generally what I’ve seen in the survey data is that Republicans tend to be more pro-science than conservatives. I think part of it is the voting by economic position which has become less stark in our culture, but still remains a force. In any case, my table to accompany AE’s is below. I used his variables:
ASTROSCI, SCIBNFTS, EXPDESGN, ODDS1, HOTCORE, RADIOACT, BOYORGRL, LASERS, ELECTRON, VIRUSES, CONDRIFT, EVOLVED, EARTHSUN, SOLARREV, EATGM, ICESHEET, SCITEST5, GRNTEST1, GRNTEST5.
For political ideology, it’s pretty simple: POLVIEWS(r: 1-3 “Liberal” ; 4 “Moderate”; 5-7 “Conservative”)
The percentages given are the correct science answer, or the more pro-science answer. If you want to know my criteria for that, don’t ask, just go to the General Social Survey website and enter in the variables above, and you’ll see the results and understand clearly how I categorized things.
On occasion I get queries about what distinguishes people with science backgrounds from those who don’t have science backgrounds. I think an anecdote might illustrate the type of difference one is expecting. Back in undergrad I was having lunch with my lab partner, when a friend saw us and decided to chat with us as we ate. This friend is now an academic, and has a doctorate in a humanistic field (something like Comparative Literature, I forget). In any case, she had read something about transgenic organisms, and obviously felt as if it was the time and place to go on a rant about this. She knew that I was totally comfortable with the idea of transgenic organisms, but she recounted the fish-genes-in-tomato patent story to my lab partner to illustrate how gross the outcome could be. My lab partner was a pre-med math major, and she just shrugged and explained that she’d done biomedical research last summer, so she understood the practical necessity of such methods, and admitted that it would take more than a story about “fish genes” in a tomato to freak her out.
Kevin Drum’s post about the lack of Republican scientists makes me want to revisit the issue of science vs. non-science. I think the lack of Republican scientists is pretty straightforward. There’s the clear cultural gap, as the Republican party emphasizes its conservative Christian component, which turns off libertarian-leaning but secular scientists. And, there’s the reality that agencies like the NSF and NIH are often attacked by fiscal conservatives, and many scientists in academia and government depend on this funding. Sarah Palin’s attack on “fruit fly” research combined the two threads neatly and unfortunately.
In any case, there is a major related variable in the GSS, MAJORCOL. The sample sizes are not the best, but at least it was a recently asked demographic variable, 2006 and 2008. I decided to look at three sets, those with “natural science” degrees, those with “cs & engineering” degrees, and the total pot (inclusive of the first two classes). The last is a snapshot of all those with at least a college degree (the sample is restricted to those who completed their degree).
In the tables below each cell gives a percentage of the row in the column class. So in the first table 79% of CS & engineering degree holders are male. 22% of CS & engineering degree holders are Roman Catholic.
Some comments below made me want to look at attitudes toward abortion in the USA by ideology over the decades. I know that political party polarization on social issues has played out mostly over the past 20 years or, but I assumed that this was less evident in ideology (mostly, liberal Republicans became Democrats and conservative Democrats became Republicans). I looked at the ABANY question:
Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtaina legal abortion if:The woman wants it for any reason?
Then I combined years to produce four decades. 1977-1980 = 70s, 1981-1990 = 80s, 1991-2000 = 90s, and 2001-2008 = 00s. I compared this with the POLVIEWS variable, which goes from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. I constrained the sample to whites to control somewhat for population confounds. Below are the results by decade in various formats.
In my post earlier in the week I mentioned the possible relationship between attitudes toward evolution and the causes and likelihood of Global Warming. I haven’t seen any survey data myself relating the two, so naturally I wanted to poke into the General Social Survey. Two variables of interest showed up, both from 2006:
1) GWSCI, “Understanding of causes of Global Warming by environmental scientists.” A five-point scale, from understanding “Very well” (1) to “Not at all” (5).
2) SCIAGRGW, “Extent of agreement among environmental scientists.” A five-point scale, from “Near complete agreement” (1) to “No agreement at all” (5).
I paired these up against EVOLVED, which is a simple True vs. False answer in relation the question as to whether “Human beings developed from animals.”
Glenn Beck said some dumb, but unsurprising, things about evolution:
How many people believe in evolution in this country? I’d like to see. I mean, I don’t know why it’s unreasonable to say this. I’m not God so I don’t know how God creates. I don’t think we came from monkeys. I think that’s ridiculous. I haven’t seen a half-monkey, half-person yet. Did evolution just stop? Did we all of sudden — there’s no other species that’s developing into half-human?
It’s like global warming. So I don’t know why it is so problematic for people to just so, I don’t know how God creates. I don’t know how we got here. If I get to the other side and God’s like, “You know what, you were a monkey once,” I’ll be shocked, but I’ll be like, “Whatever.”
First, Glenn Beck is an adult convert to the Mormon religion. Therefore if he is exalted to godhood he could create a universe of half-monkeys/half-men for kicks. Second, note the details of Beck’s background. He was raised Roman Catholic, and secular for most of his adulthood, before coming to the Mormon church. None of these affinities entails a rejection of evolution. You are probably well aware that the Roman Catholic church has made its peace, broadly speaking, with evolution. And there’s nothing about secularism which necessitates a rejection of evolution. But what about Mormonism? This is the peculiarity. Mormons are broadly sympathetic to Creationism, but there’s nothing in the religion’s teachings which imply this as being the orthodox position. This is why Mitt Romney can robustly support the teaching of evolution. So what’s going in?
Update: After watching the videos of what went down at the cultural festival I seem to have unwittingly slandered the Act 17 missionaries. They behaved well and were obviously unjustly arrested. Their YouTube site is testimony to the reality though that they’re pretty shallow and obnoxious in some contexts, but that’s frankly not atypical for this sort of evangelical Christian from where I stand. I apologize for engaging in stereotyping in this case, because my expectations were out of line with what I saw on the tapes (though their attempt at apologia is stereotypically laughable, and the goonish response of some of the Muslim youth to Act 17′s antics unfortunately predictable).
Ed Brayton points to a resolution of a case of aggressive and seemingly obnoxious Christian missionaries being arrested for “public disturbance”. Ed observes:
Those four Christian missionaries I wrote about who were arrested for disorderly conduct and breach of the peace while preaching at the Dearborn International Arab Festival in June were acquitted by a jury on Friday. That’s the right result, but frankly the charges should have been dismissed by the judge in the first place.
Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia, Negeen Mayel of California and Paul Rezkalla and David Wood, both of New York, were acquitted of breach of peace, 19th District Court officials in Dearborn said after the verdict. Mayel was found guilty of failure to obey a police officer’s order.
[my emphasis - R]
That last result is still a bit disturbing because the order she was given was an unlawful one. The officer had no legitimate reason to give her the order to stop videotaping what was going on and therefore she should not be held liable for violating that order.
Unfortunately, the mayor of the town continues to be confused about the legal realities….
I’ve only followed the case casually. From what I can gather it seems that these preachers were sort you find around college campuses, or sometimes in downtown areas of big cities. Going by stereotypes of how objectionable Middle Eastern Muslims tend to find proselytization by Christians in their own countries I assume that this sort of behavior would result in a public disturbance, because this sort of preaching tends to be “in your face” and confrontational. The politician is behaving in the craven manner politicians are wont to behave. That’s why we have the Bill of Rights. And I say we in particular to the readers of this weblog, we tend to be irreligious and unloved by the public. If for example I simply stood on a street corner in some small American towns and kept shouting “there is no God” in a monotone voice I suspect I’d attract attention, hostility, and perhaps threaten public disturbance. But all I’d be doing was stating my simple belief.
In any case, enough commentary. How about if the shoe was on the other foot? In the last iteration of the GSS, in 2008, they had a question: SPKMSLM: Now consider a Muslim clergyman who preaches hatred of the United States. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your community preaching hatred of the United States, should he be allowed to speak, or not? Here are the results by demographic:
Christine O’Donnell has said a lot of kooky things. Right now people are focusing on her Creationism. Though I’m obviously not a Creationist I think mocking someone for this belief in a political context is somewhat strange: the survey literature is pretty robust that Americans are split down the middle on opinions about evolution. More specifically most of the polling shows that around ~50% of Americans tend to reject the validity of evolutionary theory when asked. This is what I like to call a broad but shallow belief; for the vast majority of Americans attitudes about evolution are really just cultural markers, not stances of deep feeling or impact. One point of evidence for this conjecture is that polling on evolution is easy to massage through framing. Another is that Republican candidates for the presidency do not invariably hew to a Creationist line despite the likelihood that the majority of primary voters are Creationist. Politicians react to incentives, and my own hunch is that there isn’t a strong push from the Christian Right on evolution as there is on abortion or gay marriage.
I’ve posted plenty on how Creationists are more female, less intelligent, more conservative, more likely to be ethnic minorities, less educated, etc. Here I want to put the spotlight parameters which might shed some light on the O’Donnell race. Is her kooky opinion on evolution a particular liability in Mid-Atlantic Delaware? Are Creationists less likely to vote? And what are the regional breakdowns which might explain the bi-coastal shock and amusement at O’Donnell’s opinions?
Sometimes I run into things in the GSS which just don’t fit expectations. On occasion the results are so weird or unexpected I check my coding over and over. Or, I have a suspicion that something was input incorrectly. This is one of those cases. As often happens a comment was made as to the acceptance of biological explanations for behavior, and their political correlates. I decided to poke around and confirm what I knew: that liberals are more environmentalist than conservatives, who are more hereditarian. This is not what I found!
The gene related questions have the following form:
… what percent of the person’s behavior you think is influenced by the genes they inherit, and what percent is influenced by their learning and experience. After each question, type the number of the box that comes closest to your answer. Remember, the higher the number, the more you think the behavior is influenced by learning and experience; the lower the number, the more you think it is influenced by genes
Each respondent could select from 21 values, from 1 to 21, with 1 = 100% genetic, 21 = 0% genetic, at 5% increments. So 3 = 90% genetic. This isn’t technically correct as an understanding of heritability, but I think it gets across the intuitions of heritability. All the questions were asked in 2004. They were:
- GENENVO1: Carol is a substantially overweight White woman. She has lost weight in the past but always gains it back again.
- GENENVO2: David is an Asian man who drinks enough alcohol to become drunk several times a week. Often he can’t remember what happened during these drinking episodes.
- GENENVO3: Felicia is a very kind Hispanic woman. She never has anything bad to say about anybody, and can be counted on to help others.
- GENENVO4: George is a Black man who’s a good all-around athlete. He was on the high school varsity swim team and still works out five times a week.
I was having a touch of insomnia a few days ago, and wasn’t alert enough to do anything intellectually challenging, so I decided to poke around the General Social Survey. I found an interesting variable, POSTLIFE, which asks people if they believed in life after death. I decided to cross-check that against those who were atheists and agnostics, and specifically look at the distribution of WORDSUM scores of those who did, and didn’t, believe in life after death. My hunch before I checked was this: those who believe in life after death despite not believing in the existence of God are going to be less intelligent than those who don’t.
My reasoning was that it was close to philosophically incoherent to reject supernatural agents, but then accept some post-material existence. I know that this is actually not necessarily philosophically incoherent. Asian religious traditions have long had a strand which accepts both immortality of consciousness as well as agnosticism or atheism in relation to supernatural agents, gods. And, there are some secular Western philosophers who make an analytic case for the afterlife despite their lack of belief in the supernatural. But most people are not deeply involved in the philosophical literature on the afterlife, or, Jains.* Rather, I think those who are atheists or agnostics, and, who accept an afterlife, are relying on intuition and not following through deductively on the inferences from their avowed axioms. In other words, I believed they’d be likely to be less intelligent, and habitually make less use of analytic modes of thinking. To double-check on the thesis that the less intelligent are more likely to hold inconsistent views I also looked at self-identified liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, on specific policy issues and their relationship to intelligence.
Before we get to the tables, some methodology. I used WORDSUM, which has a 0.7 correlation with IQ. I recoded WORDSUM so that in terms of intelligence you have the following classes:
Low (0-3) – 11% of the sample, 6% non-Hispanic whites
Below Average (4-5) – 27%, 25% non-Hispanic whites
Average (6) – 22%, 21% non-Hispanic whites
Above Average (7-8) – 27%, 34% non-Hispanic whites
High (9-10), 13%, 15% non-Hispanic whites
For the religion related questions I used the whole GSS data set. For the politics related questions I limited to non-Hispanic whites, which also constrains the data set to the 2000s (politics tends to be racially polarized more than religion, so I wanted to remove the racial variable). The rows in each column below add up to 100%, so what you’re seeing are the intelligence distributions within each class. So, if you see 22% in the Low category, that means that the class has twice as many people in that category than the general population. Please note that ~20% of the population rejects an afterlife, a higher proportion than those who are irreligious, or atheists or agnostics. A substantial number of religious people don’t believe in an afterlife, just as a substantial proportion of atheists and agnostics do.
Yesterday I pointed to an OKCupid study on personals ads on their network. I didn’t highlight the fact that the analysis of the ads seem to suggest that secular people have more sophisticated prose, and that of those who claim a religious affiliation the less strongly committed tend to be more sophisticated. The blog Political Math is skeptical of the findings, and points to some evidence that the analytic technique might be biased against the type of things religious people are prone to say.
That’s fine, but there are two major issues with this sort of objection. First, there are clear confounds here which could be responsible for this correlation. Both blacks and Latinos seem less sophisticated, while Asians and Indians seem more so. The overwhelming majority of blacks are Protestants, and a majority of Latinos are Roman Catholic, and both of these religious groups rank low on sophistication according to OKCupid. Conversely, Hindus and Buddhists rank high. Though most Asian Americans are not Buddhists, around half of American Buddhists are Asian American. And the vast majority of American Hindus are Indian. As I noted yesterday the results correlate rather well with educational attainment by group in the USA.
A few weeks ago there were a bunch of stories on how white the audience was at Glenn Beck’s rally. That’s empirically true, and the Tea Party movement as a whole is overwhelmingly white. So is the American conservative movement. This in a nation which is ~65% white in a colloquial sense (i.e., white Hispanics are excluded from the class of “white”). It makes one’s eyebrows go up I suppose when you see a very unrepresentative set of people. But what irritates me about media observation of this statistical reality is that the elite media is also disproportionately white. Much of the elite media and the up & coming pundit class reside in a majority black city, but if you check out their Facebook photos or flickr accounts you would be totally surprised at the fact that they reside in a “Chocolate City.” Why are the social circles of elite media types, liberal or conservative, not representative of the city in which they reside? There are pretty clear reasons of confounds of class and socioeconomic affinity with race. The demographics of one’s social circle don’t necessarily lead one to prima facie accusations of bias, rather, they’re embedded in a set of causal assumptions and conditionals. So, from a liberal perspective the whiteness of the SWPL milieu is situational, while that of the right-wing milieu is essential. The demographics of conservative political movements themselves are interpreted through a particular historical frame of racism for most liberals implicitly. In contrast, the white demographics of elite liberals, including the Netroots, are often “contextualized” as emerging out of a whole range of historical and social processes, which if not just in and of themselves, are structural factors which elite white liberals are not responsible for and are attempting to change.
It seems a pretty robust social science finding that white liberals have less racialist sentiment than white conservatives. My main beef, as a non-white conservative, is that a quantitative difference of degree gets collapsed into a qualitative difference of kind. Transforming a quantitative variable into a dichotomous categorical one totally changes the inferences one makes from facts. The whiteness of conservative movements and classes then entails the casting of particular aspersions, while the whiteness of liberal movements and classes tends to go under the radar as having a sociological cause out of the control of white liberals.
To explore the quantitative, as opposed to qualitative, difference between white non-Hispanics of varied political stripes I decided to look at the GSS data set. There are a variety of questions on racial issues, though I focused on the ones related to white opinions/attitudes/relations with blacks since they are more numerous. For example, in 1974 23% of white liberals and 36% of white conservatives favored a law banning interracial marriage. In 2002 the values were 8% and 13% respectively. In both cases you can see that white conservatives have more racialist feeling, but the difference is not dichotomous, but one of degree. Below is a table of responses to a set of questions by white non-Hispanics in the 2000s. I broke out the data set by liberal and conservative, and Democrat and Republican. Additionally, in addition to the raw frequencies I also calculated absolute and relative differences between liberals and conservatives and Democrats and Republicans.
In my post on American fertility rates by racial group Mike Keesey asks: ‘It’d also be interesting to see what’s going on within “non-Hispanic whites”.’ One can explore this question in the GSS. Let’s look at ancestry group (e.g., German, French, etc.), religion, belief in God, political ideology, intelligence and education, for non-Hispanic whites. The data is limited to the 2000s, and I also constrained to those age 45 and up. Then I looked at the “CHILDS” variable, which asks the respondent how many children they have. Taking the mean of this value gives us a sense of the rank order in fertility. Note that this is not total fertility rate. That should be clear from the values being well above 2 in most cases. Additionally, I recombined some categories, so that “British” is the amalgamation of English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry. The “Irish” class almost certainly includes both Scotch-Irish (doing the regional and religious breakdown this seems obvious), and the Irish without modifiers. For intelligence I used “WORDSUM”. The variables I input into the GSS can be found at the bottom of the post so you can replicate.
In the post below on the prolific nature of the Kennedy clan some commenters were curious as to the general socioeconomic slant of Irish Catholics. The GSS has a variable ETHNIC which asks which nation an individual’s ancestors came from. Combine that with RELIG, and you can figure out how Irish Catholics stack up nationally. While I was looking at Irish Catholics I thought I would look at whites from various nations. I decided to exclude Jews from the analysis because I think there’s a big difference between Polish Catholics and Polish Jews socioeconomically and we’d lose information aggregating. Further, I constrained the sample to non-Hispanic whites. To look at socioeconomic index I focused on the SEI variable. Here’s how SEI is calculated:
SEI scores were originally calculated by Otis Dudley Duncan based on NORC’s 1947 North-Hatt prestige study and the 1950 U.S. Census. Duncan regressed prestige scores for 45 occupational titles on education and income to produce weights that would predict prestige. This algorithm was then used to calculate SEI scores for all occupational categories employed in the 1950 Census classification of occupations. Similar procedures have been used to produce SEI scores based on later NORC prestige studies and censuses.
Here are some values for reference:
Jewish = 62
White non-Hispanic = 51
Hispanic = 43
Black = 42
Only High School Education = 43
Bachelor’s Degree = 63
I’ve crossed the ethnic groups with religion & region (RELIG & REGION):
In my post below I refuted the contention that the Democrats are the party of the rich. As I noted there is some evidence that the super-rich may tilt Democrat. There are some economic and social sectors which lean Democratic because of their social liberalism, but there is no preponderance that I have seen in the data for the rich identified with that party. As I have observed, even in New York City, one of the citadels of cultural liberalism, the wealthy tend to be more Republican. The only precinct in Manhattan with more Republicans than Democrats is in the Upper East Side across from Central Park.
But there is more granular nuance here. In Andrew Gelman’s Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State he reports data which shows that though Democratic leaning states tend to be wealthier, on average within those states the wealthy tend to vote Republican. Another detail is that the correlation between income and voting Republican is weaker within Democratic leaning states, but very stark in Republican states. Even when you control for race in states like Mississippi this remains the case. Gelman’s data and analysis tends to rebut the argument in What’s the Matter with Kansas?.