Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Have attitudes toward Christianity changed over time?

(Part 10 in a series)

A theme of UnChristian is that not only do non-Christians have a negative image of Christianity, but this image is getting worse over time. They write: "One of the general differences is a growing tide of hostility and resentment toward Christianity" (p. 24).

To test this idea, one would need to collect a measure of attitudes towards Christians at different points in time and then compare them. Unfortunately UnChristian doesn't have such data available. Fortunately, the GSS does. It asked the thermometer- feeling question (that I blogged about yesterday) back in the 1980s as well. As such, it's possible to compare if attitudes toward Christianity have changed over time.

Shown below are the attitudes of non-Christians toward Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism in the 1980s versus 2004. As indicated, there is a slight drop in preference for all three groups, of 2-3 points on a 100-point scale.
It appears that there is slightly less favor of religious groups over time, but no particular focus on Protestant Christianity. Furthermore, the average score is still above average, suggesting overall an average of slightly warm feelings toward Christianity among non-believers.

As with yesterday's post, I didn't analyze the young non-believers because of sample size limitations. Still, it's hard to image much of a change for them, because if their attitudes became dramatically negative, then the older non-believers would have to become substantially more positive to produce the findings given above.

Part 11 in the series.


jeremy said...

Do we know if all the questions they asked were close-ended? In other words, did they ask things like, "Do you think evangelical Christians are anti-homosexual?" or did they ask an open-ended question like, "What comes to mind when you think about evangelical Christians?" And these were phone surveys, right? (I'm asking about UnChristian, not the GSS.)

jeremy said...

Closed-ended, that is.

Brad Wright said...

Unfortunately it isn't entirely clear how they did it, but it seems like they used both open and close ended questions.

They also refer to multiple studies, each of which could have used different methods.

jeremy said...

Which also raises all sorts of questions about question order, question wording, etc...