I was looking at polling data for the religious. Just minor curiosity, on this Sunday morning.
Like the rest of the population, the overall US trend is toward progressivism and liberalism (I wonder what the trend is in other countries and across the world). One poll from Beliefnet was done in 2008.
It’s probably a little out of date, as the results of demographic shifts are quickly changing and becoming more apparent. In the intervening years, progressives have increased among Evangelicals, although many others have left Evangelicalism. More broadly, religious progressives now outnumber religious conservatives.
Anyway, what interested me was the following section from the above link:
“In some ways, the survey reveals evangelicals to be quite conservative: 41-percent said they were Republican compared to 30-percent who were Democrats; 47-percent said they were conservative versus 14-percent who said they were liberal. Almost 80-percent said they attended church weekly or more than weekly and 84% said the Bible is the “inerrant word of God.”
“Generally speaking, however, evangelicals ranked traditionally progressive or Democratic causes as more important than traditionally conservative or Republican ones. Twenty three percent said their views had become less positive about Republicans, twice the number who said they’d soured on Democrats, though half of respondents said they had become less positive about both parties. Almost 60-percent said they favored a more progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDs, and alleviating poverty and less on abortion and homosexuality.”
That mirrors the same confusion of labeling confusion as found in the general population. This weird phenomenon creates problems in interpretation. It is rare to see the self-identification data clearly compared and contrasted with public opinion data.
Still, this is far from an unknown social reality, as far as it concerns academic researchers.
Political Ideology: Its Structure, Functions, and Elective Affinities
by John T. Jost, Christopher M. Federico, & Jaime L. Napier
“Since the time of the pioneering work of Free & Cantril (1967), scholars of public opinion have distinguished between symbolic and operational aspects of political ideology (Page & Shapiro 1992, Stimson 2004). According to this terminology, “symbolic” refers to general, abstract ideological labels, images, and categories, including acts of self-identification with the left or right. “Operational” ideology, by contrast, refers to more specific, concrete, issue-based opinions that may also be classified by observers as either left or right. Although this distinction may seem purely academic, evidence suggests that symbolic and operational forms of ideology do not coincide for many citizens of mass democracies. For example, Free & Cantril (1967) observed that many Americans were simultaneously “philosophical conservatives” and “operational liberals,” opposing “big government” in the abstract but supporting the individual programs comprising the New Deal welfare and regulatory state. More recent studies have obtained impressively similar results; Stimson (2004) found that more than two-thirds of American respondents who identify as symbolic conservatives are operational liberals with respect to the issues (see also Page & Shapiro 1992, Zaller 1992). However, rather than demonstrating that ideological belief systems are multidimensional in the sense of being irreducible to a single left-right continuum, these results indicate that, in the United States at least, leftist/liberal ideas are more popular when they are manifested in specific, concrete policy solutions than when they are offered as ideological abstractions. The notion that most people like to think of themselves as conservative despite the fact that they hold a number of liberal opinions on specific issues is broadly consistent with system-justification theory, which suggests that most people are motivated to look favorably upon the status quo in general and to reject major challenges to it (Jost et al. 2004a).”
It interested me to see this same type of thing in the religious polling. But it isn’t surprising. Confusion abounds, especially when it comes to politics on the left.
By the way, the following are links to some of the data on changes in the religious demographic(s), especially among the younger generations. I’ve seen much of this data over the years. There is a shift that has been happening for a long time. It’s nothing new, but it’s good to keep in mind.
Young Evangelicals in the 2012 Elections
Are Millennials Killing Off the Religious Right?
by Amanda Marcotte
Survey shows diversity in political opinion among mainline Protestant clergy
by Mary Frances Schjonberg
Young U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly accepting of homosexuality
by Michael Lipka
Why Pope Francis is Polling The World’s Catholics
by Jack Jenkins
Young Christians Are Fleeing Evangelicalism—And Here’s Why
by Eleanor J. Bader
Politico: Catholic Republicans Have a Pope Problem
by Courtney Coren