Education and Support for Same Sex Marriage: Religion Blocks Education

Support for Same Sex Marriage by Education and Religion: 2010 GSS

In our 2011 Social Science Research paper we show that sectarian and fundamentalist Christians are much more opposed to marital rights for same sex couples even after controlling for the fact that sectarians and fundamentalists have low educational attainment (as Darnell and I showed long ago using longitudinal data and controls for parental education and income).  In one version, we presented the distribution of same sex support by religious beliefs and educational attainment, however over many revisions that relationship got nixed. Above is the gist of it, presented using 2010 data in a simple crosstabulation. What is evident is that the effect of education is non-linear by degree attainment (we modeled education as a simple linear relationship in the paper, maybe need another paper on this…). Notably, among Biblical Fundies the higher the level of educational attainment, the lower the level of support for marriage rights. Only about 17% of fundies with a college degree of any type support same sex marriage, while among seculars 81% favor civil rights.

However, another really interesting thing is going on in the “middle” of the religious spectrum. Among those who believe the Bible was inspired by a god, post-secondary education has no effect on their level of support for same sex marriage (45% of the sample, compared to 32% fundy and 21% secular). High school graduates are more supportive than high school dropouts, but for high school and beyond support is basically at 50%. College teaches them nothing. I find a similar increasing gap with education for sectarians and fundies in my papers on verbal ability and scientific literacy. Among sectarians and fundamentalists, education has less of an effect on verbal ability and scientific literacy.

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2 Responses to “Education and Support for Same Sex Marriage: Religion Blocks Education”

  1. James Sweet Says:

    Is it that religion blocks the effect of education, or is there a third factor — call it the “never learns” factor — that blocks the effect of education on both religion and support for same-sex marriage?

    In other words, taking as a given that the statements “same-sex marriage should be recognized” and “the Bible is a book of fables” as being not just opinion, but rather as being facts (as I think you and I both do, although I haven’t heard you comment on meta-ethics enough to know whether you would really consider the former a “fact” per se, but for purposes of what I am about to say it isn’t important), then we can imagine that most people, as they attain more education, converge on those opinions regardless of what their starting point was — but some people have a quality that prevents them from substantive learning, and therefore they retain their original opinions regardless of level of education….?

    You link to a paper you did on educational attainment & fundamentalism, that you say uses longitudinal data (which I suppose is exactly the type of data one would need to answer this question?) but I can only read the first page of it. The abstract makes it sound like you were showing that fundamentalism blocks educational attainment, which is a somewhat separate question from what I am saying…

  2. sherkat Says:

    Somewhat separate, but not really. I do give causal primacy to religion, because it is one of the earliest socialization influences. People teach children religious dogmas long before they attempt education, and most say nothing of sex or sexuality or any political issue until children are well into adolescence. Since religion comes first, we can examine its impact on things like political beliefs–and its influence on learning other aspects of culture–like language and science and formal levels of educational attainment. I view this as being a function of social structures rather than of cognition–though social structures influence cognition. Fundies limit their contacts and sources of information to likeminded others and trusted fundamentalist media, as a consequence they learn less. And, if they make it through formal educational attainment, they do so with a minimum of impact (largely by segmenting themselves in sectarian colleges, choosing majors which are friendly to sectarian faith (eg. Business), and segregating themselves from those evil people who aren’t members of their sect.

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