Monday, October 27, 2008

Faith in public life survey

Here's an interesting survey of young people's attitudes toward politics by their religious beliefs. It's called the Faith in Public Life Survey, and here are some highlights from its executive summary:

  • Monthly worship attenders swing to Obama in 2008.
  • More Americans think Obama is friendly to religion than McCain.
  • Young first-time voters are heavily supporting Obama.
  • Younger Catholics more strongly support Obama, abortion rights, and more active government than older Catholics.
  • Younger white evangelicals strongly oppose abortion rights but are less conservative and more supportive of same-sex marriage than older evangelicals.
  • Younger white evangelicals are more pluralistic and more supportive of active government at home and of diplomacy abroad.
  • Americans rank abortion and same-sex marriage as the least important issues in 2008.
  • Americans see room for common ground in abortion debate.
  • Generation gap on same-sex marriage is large and increasing.
  • Support for same-sex marriage is significant among young religious Americans.
  • Addressing religious liberty concerns strongly increases support for same-sex marriage.
  • Young adults prefer larger government that provides increased services.
Thanks David!


Ray Fowler said...

Hi Brad, interesting survey. As I read it through, it almost seemed like a bunch of talking points for the Christian Left so I went and visited the site. Interestingly, the group that published these results was formed after the 2004 elections specifically in response to the Christian Right and what was seen as an overemphasis on the issues of abortion and homosexuality. The Executive Director is the author of a book on the globalization of the Christian Right, and the site's blog refers to the Christian Right as exclusive and divisive.

The survey results seemed to come out favorably in comparison with the publishing group's beliefs, which made me want to investigate the questionnaire and the methodology used. (I would do the same if a right-leaning group produced survey results remarkably consistent with their beliefs.) I checked both out, and they both seemed reasonable and fair. The questions did not seem weighted one way or another. In fact, it looks like they went out of their way to randomize the order of questions in order to eliminate bias.

I only had two quibbles. One is the statement that: "Americans rank abortion and same-sex marriage as the least important issues in 2008." These did rank the lowest out of the ten issues addressed in the survey, but that does not necessarily make them the least important issues in 2008 (unless only ten issues exist in 2008).

The other was the question #29 on the survey: "What would you say is the greatest moral crisis in the world today?" Respondents chose from five specific options: 1) World hunger and poverty, 2) Terrorism and religious extremism, 3) the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases, 4) Global warming, and 5) War and international conflict. Conspicuously absent as choices were the two moral issues of abortion and the morality of homosexuality relationships.

I wish there was less of a comabtive spirit between what has been called the Christian Right and the Christian Left. I believe the left has some valid criticisim of the right that the right has not invested enough energy in certain justice issue, although I believe the right has made some good progress in these areas. At the same time, it seems the left often leaves abortion out as an issue of justice, although I believe there is some progress being made there too.

Brad Wright said...

Hey Ray, these are some excellent points about the survey and how Christian beliefs influence this type of research. Thanks.