Archive for May, 2015

Are Latinos Abandoning Catholicism, or is that Pewk?

2006-2014 GSS

2006-2014 GSS

A recent article in Salon reported some startling/unbelievable estimates from the latest Pewk study, first a claim that Catholicism appears to be in decline, and second linking this to a supposedly sharp decline in Latino Catholicism–along with the claim that more Latinos are joining sectarian Protestant denominations. Most alarming was the claims that the Pewk Study finds fewer than half of Latinos identify as Catholic. The author writes “The Pew survey found the percentage of Hispanics calling themselves Catholic dropped below 50 percent for the first time, from 58 percent in 2007 to 48 percent today. And while nearly 20 percent of Hispanics now identify as Evangelicals, that’s only up three points since 2007.” Wow. Really? That’s not what I found in Changing Faith, and so I updated our best estimates to the 2014 GSS to see how it compares to the Pewk study.

Interestingly, the Pewk data dramatically underestimate the proportion of Latinos who are Catholic in both time points. the GSS finds nearly 70% of Latinos were Catholic in 2006, and while this has decreased to about 56% in 2014, that’s an eight point gap to Pewk. And, where may these Latino Catholics be going? Are they joining fundy protestant groups like Pewk claims? No, they’re not. The proportion of Latinos who identify with sectarian protestant groups has fluctuated trendlessly, really, though you could say it is DOWN if anything. And, nowhere near 20% of Latinos are sectarian Protestants! Less than half that, at 9.5%. No, like other Catholics who leave the faith, most become Nones, and the GSS shows that by 2014 non-identification among Latin Americans almost doubled from 2006 totals–up to nearly 20%. So, about one if five US Latinos are Nones (just slightly less than the rest of the US population), while about one in ten are fundy protestants.

2006-2014 GSS

2006-2014 GSS

The claim that Catholicism is in a demographic collapse also does not fit with the reality presented by the best estimates we have available. And, I’d hardly call the Pewk estimate of a decline from 24% to 21% a demographic collapse. Indeed, the GSS finds relatively trendless fluctuation in Catholic identification—as it has for decades. They may be down slightly, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on it—and I half expect a “New Pope” bounce upward once the 2016 data are gathered. Nones have certainly increased from about 17% to about 21%—and sectarian Protestant identifications are in decline, from about 25% of identifiers to under 20% of adherents. The misreporting of religious demography makes me Pewk.

Atheists, Nones, and the Obama Vote

Obama Vote by Religion--2010-2014 GSS

Obama Vote by Religion–2010-2014 GSS

The growth of secularism in the US is already having a profound impact on politics. While pundits have largely viewed the religious right as the only viable mobilizing force, the non-religious have quietly become the most important minority group in American politics. To give you some idea, above I plot the Obama vote in ’08 or ’12 from the GSS for Atheists and Agnostics versus others, “non-Theists” who are either atheist, agnostic, or “believe in a higher power but not a god”and respondents who don’t identify with a religion (“nones”). Across all three measures about 74% of the secular respondents chose Obama in the last election, while only about 54% of their alters reported voting for Obama.


To get a sense of what that means I chart out the percentage of Obama voters from this group, and compare it to two other influential minorities–African Americans and White sectarians voting for NObama. Atheists and agnostics make up 9.1% of the sample and a bit less of voters (9%), but they accounted for 12% of Obama’s votes, add in the other nontheists, and it is 26% of Obama’s take. None’s account for 23% of Obama voters—though they are only 18% of voters. African Americans make up about 15% of the GSS sample (16% of voters), and account for 27% of Obama’s vote. About 74% of white Sectarian Protestants voted for the NObama, and while they are about 13% of the sample, they were 23% of NObama voters—about the same importance for the Republicans as Nones are for Obama. But, since there are far more “nones” and non-theists than white sectarian Protestants, Obama wins! ha, ha, ha…..

So, to sum up, secular Americans are as important to the Democrats as African Americans, and they are not overlapping constituencies.  And, secular Americans are at least as important for the Democratic vote as are white sectarian Christians for the Republican vote. The “religious factor” in American politics has changed. It is now a battle between secular rationalists and white fundamentalist Christians, and the rationalist can team up with the non-white religious folk! Why? Even though most African Americans and Latinos have relatively conservative religious commitments (Asians are almost uniformly secular, as I show in Changing Faith), they know that white Republican Christians are a bunch of racists. So, we see the new coalition….secular Americans and ethnics against Christian fundamentalists and plutocrats. I’m liking the numbers…..

Nones, Atheists, and Sectarian Protestants—Winners and Losers in the 21st Century

2006-2014 General Social Survey

2006-2014 General Social Survey

The punditocracy is all a flutter about the latest non-scientific poll by Pew which found many things based on the 10% of targeted respondents (liberally defined) who bothered to respond. It’s sickening that Pew gets all the press when Mike Hout and Tom Smith at NORC did a very nice summary of GSS religion findings from an actual scientific poll.

One thing that people have been pondering, because they failed to read my book, Changing Faith , is how the rejection of religious identification matters for the religious character of the nation. Particularly, does this mean that America is becoming more secular? The OTHER problem with Pew is that at critical junctures they conflate identification with religious organizations with religious beliefs. That is a huge shortcoming for anyone trying to make sense of believing and belonging, because many people who do not believe, nonetheless belong. And, many people who do believe, do not belong. I address this at length in Changing Faith and am updating those findings to the 2014 data.

Still, above you can see REAL estimates (0r the best we have) from 2014 on the proportion of Americans who reject religious identification, and how that has increased over time (from 16% in 2006 to 21% in 2014). A similar trend is found for rejecting belief in a god (combining atheists, agnostic, and people who “believe in a higher power but not a god”)–with more than one in five Americans rejecting belief in a god. A more strict definition limited to atheism and agnosticism shows an increase from about 7% to 9% between 2006 and 2014—and about 7% of 2014 GSS respondents are atheists or agnostics who also reject religious identification (“nones”).  If we broaden that to non-theists, nearly 13% of Americans are nones who don’t believe in a god.

The growth of nones and atheists and atheists nones is mirrored by a decline in sectarian protestant identification—which decreases from nearly 25% in 2006 to under 20% in 2014. If we take out the non-whites, because they are not real Americans, the proportion of Americans who are white sectarian protestants falls from about 16% to about 13%—so non-theist “nones” are as prevalent as white sectarian protestants. Just for shits and giggles, I note that mainline Protestants are not in the freefall claimed by Pew and others—their proportions decreased from about 19% to just under 17%—and Catholic proportions fluctuate randomly around 23%. White sectarian Protestants are a minority of American Christians, and they are in decline.


Dewey Wins Again! UK Edition…..

Because nothing is more important than made up numbers.

Because nothing is more important than made up numbers.

Well, Ralph Miliband’s boring son and the Labour Party lost big across the pond last week, and the crushing defeat was completely unexpected. Shit polls and pollster hacks like Nate Silver were quite confident that Labour would rule the day and all of Brittania….Only they lost. Big. Just like Eric Cantor. And Dewey.

This is a function of the worldwide decline of scientific polling, and the growth of polling profiteers. The idea that we should have daily polls supposedly tracking “changing opinions” based on whether a politician farted or something is ridiculous. All this has done is to misinform parties, candidates, the media, and citizens about the opinions and preferences of the public. Aggregating bad data doesn’t help, nor does it make any sense to make data aggregators into revered shamans.

The decline in data quality and scientific polling has also led to the disturbing trend of using Cheetos munching weirdos from marketing panels in all kinds of “research.” These panels are not drawn from a random sample of the population, and panelists are expected to complete at least 4 surveys a year in or else they’ll only get baked Cheetos or be “withdrawn.” No attempt is made to assess the veracity of the data completed on-line by who knows whom. We saw this, of course, in the Regnerus fiasco, and the severity of the problems with this poll received more attention in a new reanalysis of his shit data.

But, the problem with reanalyzing shit data is that stirring the shit just makes it smell worse. Nobody should ever be allowed to publish a paper in a journal with “science” or “sociology” in the title analyzing data from a shit poll. It isn’t just Regnerus. GLBT activist scholars are busy right this very moment analyzing a shit poll taken from the exact same panel used by Regnerus. And, that 7 foot 8 guy who weighs 88 pounds is probably picking up his case of Cheetos for that one as well.

What kind of weirdo would agree to fill out longwinded polls online in exchange for Cheetos? How many Americans are really that connected to the internet, even? Are ethnic minorities who are online just like other ethnic minorities? What about the elderly? Can we just assume that the non-randomly recruited 80 year-olds in some online marketing panel are just the same as other old people? Yeah, just adjust the data. Right.

In the last year I’ve reviewed four or five papers using data from non-random., online marketing panels. If you are a sociologist and you’re using such data, stop. If you continue, you are hurting scholarship and likely hurting your career and those of your students who are being encouraged to take short cuts with dirty unscientific data.

Wilma Mankiller, 1945-2010


I just learned that Wilma Mankiller is on the short list for the $20 to replace that horrible racist shitbag Andrew Jackson. There is some tough competition. Harriet Tubman is a tough act to follow. But, I sure hope they don’t give it to some milquetoast white woman…..

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She saved the Cherokee

The Cherokee tribe has lost its most important leader of the last century. Wilma Mankiller died of pancreatic cancer April 6th. When Mankiller took over the tribe the Cherokee were in turmoil. Their facilities and tribal support system was shot, the BIA was screwing them, and they had no way to make things better for their people. Until this firebrand grabbed the feds by the balls and dreamed to make things work for  her tribe. She didn’t want a handout, she wanted the ability to survive as a nation. And, she did it. Now, the Cherokee are prosperous and proud. It never would have happened without Wilma Mankiller.

I met Wilma many times when I was a lowly busboy working at restaurants in Tulsa. She was like a gracious queen. You couldn’t be in her presence without realizing her enormous integrity and grace. She looked busboys in the eye, and…

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