A lot has been made about various social sources of support for or opposition to same sex marriage, but few people have discussed how gender structures this public policy preferences. Overall, in the 2012 GSS, 46% of men support marriage rights for same sex couples, while 53% of women favor civil rights—a quite substantial difference, nearly as large as the gap between whites and African Americans. Looking at this issue across age/cohort groups shows that the difference is quite robust—and may even have grown in the post-baby boom generations. For respondents under age 30, nearly 72% of women support marriage, while support is 60% among men under 30. The gender difference narrows in subsequent generations, but remains quite substantial for respondents aged 30-39, and 40-49. Yet, among the 50-59 baby boomers, there is no discernible gender difference, and men are actually slightly more supportive of marriage rights. But, in older cohorts the relationship goes back to one of gendered support—with women more likely to favor marriage. But why? For the Abrahamic Right, this is obvious evidence of the evil nature of women. For those who do not fuck goats, however, these findings suggest that women’s experiences lead them to favor the formal recognition of family relationships, no matter what the form of family. Women support marriage more than men.
Archive for March, 2013
Wow! This is what polarization looks like–and how social change creates polarization. In 1973, when the GSS first asked whether or not people thought “homosexual sex relations” were “Always Wrong” “Almost always wrong” “sometimes wrong” or “not at all wrong” Over 70% of Americans said “always wrong” and only 11% said “not at all wrong.” And, on those two extremes–there wasn’t much change until 1993. In fact, “always wrong” blips upward a tad during the AIDS epidemic (before totally heterosexual* Magic Johnson turned up with HIV). But “always wrong” starts to take a dive in the 1990s, and “not at all wrong” gains support—such that in 2012 the General Social Survey finds no statistically discernible difference in the proportion choosing each—45.8% think homosexuality is always wrong, while 44.6% think it is not wrong at all. Notice also that the “middle” shrunk–going from 14.2% saying “ok, maybe” to 9.6% giving the waffle. But, generally, this was always pretty polar—you either thought homosexuality was ok, or you thought it was always wrong. There’s a much bigger “middle” for issues like premarital sex. Still, quite a shocker to see both camps so evenly split…..
The literature on religious identification is filled with hyperbolic statements based on linear theories of social change. Reality is a lot messier, and driven more by fertility, immigration, migration, and socialization factors than anything approximating freely chosen religious commitments. Most people don’t change, and when they do, they don’t change much. Methodists become Baptists and vise versa. Presbyterians become Episcopalians or UCC. But you don’t see Pentecostals becoming UCC or vice versa. People prefer religious stuff that is familiar to their own experiences, and rewarded by the web of social connections. What is really cool about the new 2012 GSS is that we now have four full decades of high quality, comparable data. If we squish those out by the truly relevant categories of identification—which requires separating Episcopalians from other Liberals, and Lutherans from other Moderates, and Baptists from other Sectarians, and looking at Mormons and Unitarians as unique cases, you see a quite different perspective on the trajectory of American religious identification. First. while Catholics held a solid modal position with 26% of identifiers in 1972, they decrease their share to 23% in 2012—and Catholics are now only slightly more numerous than than people who reject religious affiliation —20% of Americans—and the non-religious now outnumber Baptists by a substantial margin. Baptists were a solid second place in 1972, with 20% of identifiers–but now trail nonidentification with only 14% of respondents in 2012. Baptists still manage third place, but with “no specific identification” Protestants hot on their heels at 12%—and those people are an ecclectic mix of disaffected conservatives, conservatives who are too stupid to figure out the denominational affiliation of their “nondenominational” church, and people who identify as Christian, but don’t give a rat’s ass much about religion. Claims that non-denominationals are all conservatives are bullshit–their rate of subscription to biblical fundamentalism is lower than what is found for moderate Protestants (42% versus 45%) and much lower than Baptists and sectarians (59% of Baptists and 64% of other sectarians are fundies). Becoming a non-denominational is more liberal than becoming a Methodist.
Notably, the “growth” among sectarian Protestants is limited–they took 7% in 1972 and 9% in 2012–and for “conservative churches” these moderate gains among the more fanatical sectarian groups are more than offset by the 6% loss found among Baptists. You can’t say conservative churches are growing by ignoring massive defection among Baptists. Mormons are not taking over the planet, and while the numbers are small here, the GSS found fewer Mormons in 1972 than in 2012. Decade groupings show minimal gains for Mormons between the 1970s and the 2000s—but for all of their attention, even the decade groupings find only three times as many Mormons as Unitarians—and nobody is saying that the Unitarians are taking over the world. Many liberal Protestant denominations declined, but the losses were much less substantial among Episcopalians, as I have shown in prior research. Lutherans and Moderate Protestants are also big losers.
The main reason for these shifts in distribution are fertility differences across generations, combined with differential losses to the big gainers—protestants with no denomination and people with no religious identification. I’ll be teasing out much more of this in my forthcoming book. But, the short story is that conservatives are not taking over the world—and a shitload of Americans have rejected religious identification. And, while religious operatives like to claim that people “believe but don’t belong”, rates of non-belief mirror non-identification. Over 20% of Americans reject any divine inspiration for the “bible” and over 20% of Americans are nontheists—being either atheist, agnostic, or believing in a higher power, but not a god.
Fundamentalist Christians are fond of acting like they are the majority. The Moral Majority, you know. As distinct from the rest of us immoral heathens. But, while Christian fundamentalism still infects about a third of Americans, most reject the idiotic notion that some wacko religious text is the literal word of some demented sadomasochistic god. What is interesting is how much more marginal this minority of Americans are becoming on a wide variety of issues—and one of the biggest points of polarization is support for marriage rights for same sex couples. Above you can see the trends creating this growing gulf between fundies and other Americans. Indeed, by 2012, fundamentalists are the only belief grouping who reject marriage rights, with only 26% favoring civil rights. Nearly 55% of Americans who think that the bible was inspired by a god support marriage–and about 45% of Americans hold that belief about the bible. A growing proportion of Americans reject any divine authority of the bible—since 2006 the belief that the bible is a book of fables has increased from 16% of GSS respondents to 21% of GSS respondents. And, nearly 77% of respondents who think the bible is bunk support marriage rights.
The closet cases over at the Family Research Council are all aflutter about a shit poll showing that the majority of Catholics support same sex marriage. Of course, we already showed this in our papers in SSQ and SSR, and I’ve updated those findings to 2010 data on this blog. In 2010, about 48% of Catholics supported same sex marriage, higher than among “moderate” Protestants, and nearly as supportive of marriage rights as Episcopalians and liberal Protestants. Above you can see the comparison of 2010 and 2012 GSS finding—and Catholics make another leap! They love weddings, especially if there’s lots of booze! About 57% of Catholics in the 2012 GSS support same sex marriage. So, the shit poll was, predictably, conservative in its estimation.
And, of course, you can see who has been left behind. Baptists and other sectarian Protestants show no change between 2010 and 2012—Mormons actually decline (but those are small numbers). Lutherans also take a step up, likely in response to some high profile ELCA deliberations. Other Moderate Protestants (Methodist, Reformed, Disciples of Christ, etc) are also unmoved at 38%. Unitarians remain unanimously supportive, 80% of Jews favor marriage, and 71% of those who reject religious identification support same sex marriage.
Hysterical claims that Young Republicans are just the same as young Democrats on same-sex marriage have been pointing to recent exit shitpolls. While the GSS was completed before the election, we may get some inkling of how far off such logic is from the true state of affairs. Remember, our quintessential socially liberal young Republican is Meghan McCain, not Newt Romney, or Tag or whatever. Above it is evident that support for same sex marriage is substantially higher among Obama voters across all age groups—though there is more age-variance among Republicans. In fact, Obama voters under 50 are mostly all similar. And, we should remember that our Obama voters include a substantial proportion of African Americans–who tend to be less supportive of Same sex marriage.
Just splitting the sample by under 50 over 50 provides some interesting contrasts. Less than 40% of McCain voters under age 50 supported same sex marriage on the heels of the 2012 election–while 72% of Obama voters under age 50 from 2008 supported same sex marriage in 2012. If we focus on whites, only 38% of white McCain voters under 50 supported same-sex marriage in 2012. However, 82% of 2008 Obama voters supported same sex marriage in 2012—a 44% gap!
Pundits have loved using shit polls to claim that young republicans are just like other young people on the issue of same sex marriage. Over the last eight years, the General Social Surveys show that an overwhelming majority of non-Republicans have come to support marriage rights for same sex couples–from 44% support in 2004 to 64% support in 2012. Republicans, however, have been left behind. They did liberalize, from 15% support to just under 30% support—and the contention by pundits is that most of this movement is among the young. Still the gap between Republicans and real Americans grew from 28% in 2004 to 34% in 2012.
So, let’s look a bit more closely at the 2012 General Social Survey to figure out what the real story is…..As you can see, plotted out by age groups, younger people are substantially more supportive of marriage rights than are older people. Only 32% of respondents over age 65 support marriage, while 66% of people under 30 are pro-marriage. And, the age differences are present for both Republican identifiers as well as people who are not republicans (including both independents and Democrats). But, are young Republicans more similar to their age peers who are not Republicans? If you look at all respondents, there is a bigger gap between the oldest Republicans and their age-peers—16% versus 41%—than among the under 30s, where support is 52% for Republicans and 71% for other Americans. But, let’s note that the gap is nearly 20% even in the youngest age groups—and young Republicans’ support is about what is found among non-Republicans who are 51-65.
Since the Republican Party is virtually all-white, and African Americans have lower support for marriage rights, it is useful to think about how that may influence the gap across age groups. So, above I also compare white Republicans to other whites. The differences are telling. First, you can see that what few non-white young people are in the Republican party tend to be more liberal on sexuality issues—support among young white Republicans falls to 48%. Predictably, support is higher among white non-Republicans, rising to 77% and increasing the gap in the youngest age group to 29%. The Republican-Real American gap in the oldest age group is 26%. Notably, young Republicans chart support for same sex marriage that is less than 6% higher than non-Republicans over the age 65. White Republicans under age 30 are substantially and significantly less supportive of marriage rights than are non-Republicans who are 51-65 years old (48% compared to 60%). So, it does not appear to be the case that young Republicans are becoming more like other young people. They have liberalized compared to their Republican forebears, but they remain just as different from other Americans as the old Republicans–if not more so.
Before the General Social Survey went into the field, President Obama (prodded by Joe Biden) declared his support for marriage rights for same sex couples. At the time, there was much supposition that this might prod African Americans to shift their beliefs. As I’ve shown in our Social Science Quarterly paper and updated here on this blog, African Americans lag behind whites and others in support (because they are more religious, and identify with conservative religious groups), but they also have been liberalizing just like other Americans. Most, including me, expected an Obama Bump in support among African Americans. However, now that the GSS data are out for 2012, you can see that while African Americans continue to liberalize, their rate of acceptance looks just like that found among Whites. Notably, over half of whites (and other non-Blacks–not shown) support marriage rights.
With the release of our only remaining scientific survey of the US adult population, the General Social Survey, we can now see how far off Pew, Gallup, and others are in their estimates of the proportion of Americans who reject religious identification. As you can see, rejection of religion has grown in the United States, and GSS estimates show it now at 19.6%—up from 17.8% in 2010. Importantly, even more Americans reject gods—20.4% identify either as Atheist, Agnostic, or believing in a “higher power BUT NOT A GOD.” More coming…..
The last scientific poll of social attitudes in the American population, the GSS, was just released. In this, we find that Americans continue to lean towards supporting marital rights for same sex couples. Support is now at around 50%, while opposition has fallen to about 39%. Crazy talk about all Americans supporting marriage rights is just that, as is the nonsense that the “majority” oppose marriage rights. Opposition remains high, but a near majority supports doing the right thing. That’s what our only scientific poll shows.