Monday, June 18, 2007

Religion, income, and voting

From Andrew Gellman's blog, here's an interesting graph on religion, income, and voting. (Thanks Corey for sending it to me!)

According to these data, people who did not attend church tended not to vote for Bush regardless of their income.

But... if they did attend church, their voting for Bush went up the more income they had.

Put differently, increased levels of income increased voting for Bush, but only among those who attended church. (This is something statisticians call an interaction effect. The effect of variable x on y varies by some other level z).

Any thoughts/explanations for this?


Scott Kemp said...

Since I voted for Bush and attend church regularly, I would like to think that higher income, higher church attendance, and voting for Bush are all signs of high intelligence. Now if only I can get my boss to look at the income part and ...

More realisticly, it probably just reflects President's Bush's popularity amongst the WASP community. That is his base as well as his heritage. Why shouldn't he do well among people who look & act like him?

Daniel said...

Just fleshing out Scott's second comment--it's likely that the intersection of high income and weekly church attendance functions to exclude the religious group least likely to vote for Bush: African American churchgoers. While working class whites have been voting for Republicans in higher numbers, no inroads have been made into the working class African American community. Of course, it should be noted that working class whites aren't exactly the Republican base, either. They're pretty evenly split between Democrat and Republican, when leaving religiosity out of the equation. So, it would make a great deal of sense that church attendance and relative affluence combine to create the effect noted.

A good bit of this is attributable to economic self-interest. Republicans aren't known for their commitment to raising the minimum wage, funding social policies to help the poor, or, just generally, trying to win the poor over to their side. However, they do do a good job of appealing to the middle class, via tax cuts, cutting social spending, and emotional appeals to "values voters".

And, just for the record, as someone who isn't religious and didn't vote for Bush, I like to assume higher income, lower church attendance, and not voting for Bush are all correlated with higher levels of education. Wouldn't say intelligence, because we lack good measures for it.

Daniel said...

Hmmm, that last comment came off snarkier than intended. It should be read with the same tone as Scott's. Jokes don't come off so well on the internet, sometimes.

David Weakliem said...

I can think of two:
1. An overwhelming majority of people in the US have at least some commitment to religion. Someone who never attends (and says so in a survey) is making a definite statement about their values, and in most cases the values associated with never attending are ones that would lead you to vote against Bush.
2. Lower income people tend to vote based on material interests--higher income people can "afford" to give more weight to views on other issues (e. g., abortion, gay marriage). So the higher your income, the more religiosity matters (in terms of the graph, the gap between the three lines is larger among people with higher incomes).

I'd incline towards (1), since the relationship between income and who you vote for seems equally strong for frequent and moderate attenders. That is, it's the "nevers" who stand out as exceptional.

Brad Wright said...

Scott, I don't think it works that way... certain religion & voting = guaranteed income, but it's worth a try.

Brad Wright said...

Daniel, thanks for the clarification, but I think the "just for the record" tipped off the joke.

I think you're right about bringing race in, for income would seem to be correlated with not-black.

Brad Wright said...

David, I noticed that too that it was no attendance versus any attendance regarding the interaction effect. This suggests something about going to church.

What would be the values, though, shared by going to church and voting for Bush? Some Christian values, such as loving your enemies, wouldn't seem to fit with Bush as wouldn't peacemaking or caring for the poor.

Maybe more "conservative" issues such as anti-gay marriage and the like?

Knumb said...


My church attendance was much better when I voted for Bush, the first time he ran.

This is much more accurate in my life than the orgasm thread.

David Weakliem said...

I think it's the "never attends" who tend to share values--the people who at least sometimes attend are a diverse group. As far as what the values that go with never attending are, I think the key idea is that the government should be neutral with respect to people's choices about how to lead their lives (except for choices that cause direct harm to others). If you don't believe in any higher power, it's natural to conclude that on some level everyone's choices are equally valid.