Religion, American Identity, and Race

(Cross-posted to Daily Kos.  Not sure where is appropriate for this sort of diary)

I hate anecdotal evidence, the favorite argumentative tool of cherry pickers such as the Bush administration on Iraq.  So with the recent brouhaha over Barack Obama's speech, I examined some hard data. While looking at the 2004 General Social Survey, an important annual data set collected by the National Opinion Research Center, I found an interesting question: "HOW IMPORTANT FOR BEING TRULY AMERICAN DOES RESPONDENT CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING...To be a Christian".

I ran some numbers against party identification and saw the following data:

        Very Imp.    Fairly Imp.    Not Very    Not Imp.    n
Strong Dem.    43.9        12.7        16.0        23.6        212
Democrat    50.7        13.8        18.7        15.3        203
Lean Dem.    38.0        15.7        21.3        19.4        108
Independent    43.1        16.2        19.6        4.9        204
Lean Rep.    48.7        16.5        15.7        15.7        115
Republican    45.5        23.6        15.2        14.0        178
Strong Rep.    63.7        13.7        15.4        6.6        182

This seemed fairly strange, since I expected more separation on a partisan basis, but I've looked at a lot of religion and politics data, so I knew that there was a likely racial component in here, considering that black Protestants are more socially conservative than white Protestants.  So, I broke the data down by race.

            Very Imp.    Fairly Imp.    Not Very    Not Imp.    n
White Strong Dem.    28.8        15.1        18.5        32.9        146
White Democrat        50.7        14.1        17.6        16.2        142
White Lean Dem.        32.9        15.2        22.8        25.3        79
White Independent    43.8        17.0        20.9        15.7        153
White Lean Rep.        48.1        17.9        15.1        15.1        106
White Republican    46.3        23.5        15.4        13.0        162
White Strong Rep.    63.4        14.5        15.1        6.4        172
Black Strong Dem.    81.4        6.8        8.5        1.7        59
Black Democrat        68.2        9.1        13.6        6.8        44
Black Lean Dem.        75.0        0.0        25.0        0.0        16

Black Democrats are already small numbers, so listing black Republicans seems rather pointless.

If you broke it down by religion:

            Very Imp.    Fairly Imp.    Not Very    Not Imp.    n
Protestant Strong Dem    66.0        11.0        10.0        12.0        100
Protestant Dem        69.7        10.1        17.2        3.0        99
Protestant Lean Dem.    54.5        18.2        15.9        9.1        44
Catholic Strong Dem.    45.2        28.6        11.9        9.5        42
Catholic Democrat    46.7        26.7        13.3        13.3        60
Catholic Lean Dem.    50.0        16.7        20.0        10.0        30

Amusingly 6.7% of Jewish Strong Democrats and 12.2% of Strong Democrats professing no religion said "very important." [Caveat: small sample size, so 1/15 Jews and 5/41 non-religious.]

Perhaps, some people acknowledge a Christian component to being American while disliking what they believe it means to be American. I might explore further.

Obviously, rank-and-file Democratic voters are not hostile to religion.  They even appear to embrace the idea of America as a Christian nation, although presumably one more tolerant of different faiths than others might wish.  I suppose one could look at this with the idea of "separate but equal" framing in which religious imagery is used primarily when speaking to a black audience.  I suppose that one could be alarmist and worry that blacks might leave the party if religious and cultural issues are put to political forefront, or take the opposite approach and assume that blacks can be taken for granted in the Democratic Party because religious and cultural issues don't seem to affect their partisan affiliation.

I choose to interpret this data as showing clear fertile ground for a specifically Christian argument for progressive policies that might be unappealing to non-Christians which can be used concurrently with a more secular Democratic Party platform.  Is this work that should be done wholly by religious left activists, or does some of the burden lie with politicians and party officials?

Tags: GSS, Politics, race, religion (all tags)



Re: Religion, American Identity, and Race

A really horrible statistic is the rather large number that say they would not vote for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon.  God only knows - so to speak - what that number would be if he were a Muslim.

I think that one can gain respect for a principled stand despite differences of opinion with the electorate.  Mario Cuomo was elected and re-elected despite overwhelming opposition to his stand against the death penalty.  In his last run, that uncompromising stand was credited with Cuomo's defeat by many but the position nor notably the electorate's position had not changed.

I am frankly only saddened to see Obama uncritically pick up a slogan of intolerance and ignorance; to wit, that more people believe in angels than evolution.  I would point out that he did not say he agreed but what then was the point?  Was it a suggestion that politicians must pander to intolerance and ignorance like Fulbright did to segregation?

by terryhallinan 2006-07-04 07:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Religion, American Identity, and Race

Actually, the same survey that said that 37% of people wouldn't vote for a Mormon found that 53% wouldn't vote for a Muslim (and 22% wouldn't vote for an evangelical Christian).  It should be noted that 50% of Democrats wouldn't vote for a Mormon, compared to 33-35% percent of Republicans.  Part of that is because 60% of nonwhite Protestants reject a Mormon, and that group overwhelmingly votes Democratic.

I haven't actually looked at the numbers, I suspect that more Americans actually do believe in angels than in evolution, although there are of course people who believe in both.

by Anthony de Jesus 2006-07-04 07:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Religion, American Identity, and Race

According to Atrios (no link now), atheists were the least likely to be prejudice against a Mormon.

Food for thought.

by Bruce Godfrey 2006-07-04 08:47AM | 0 recs
What hope for atheist candidates?

The GSS site defeated me.

But I infer from the fact that half of Americans say that a non-Christian is un-American - they almost say that: and it doesn't take the most radical swiftboating to spin it that way! - that an open atheist in politics might as well not be. Certainly, in most electoral areas in the US.

There are few things I'd like better to see from a pol than a really articulate, passionate guy from a hippie district rip into the mumbo-jumboists: the folks that believe the animals really did go in two by two. (And not forgetting similar neanderthal tendencies in other religions, of course.)

That is, of course, pure druther: every pol thinks he's headed for statewide office, at least; and no state will elect a radical atheist.

Or any atheist, perhaps.

(Cue The Vatican Rag...)

by skeptic06 2006-07-04 08:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Religion, American Identity, and Race

I bet you haven't thought a lot about Saami.  Not many do.  In fact most have no idea what Saami are. They are - you will pardon the term - Laplanders.  Saami say they do not like to be called Laplanders.

When I went to visit my aunt in my youth she told me my grandmother wasn't a Laplander. I hadn't asked.  When I later visited my uncle, he told me my grandmother wasn't a Laplander.  I hadn't asked him either.  My mother never said one way or the other.

Many years later when I saw a picture of my grandmother, it was rather obvious that she was what I suspected: a Saami.

You see grandmother had those funny eyes that characterize - ummm, ahh - East Asians.  That is what disturbs Finns about those dang Laplanders.

My grandfather was very large for a Finn and looked to be a Swede.  Wasn't good to suggest to him that he might be a Swede because, as mentioned, Swedes tend to be very large and Finns have no sense of humor.

My grandparents incidentally seem to have been born in Lapland on the border with Sweden.

Finns tended to look down on Saamis because they looked - well - Asian.

Where did Finns proper come from - besides Sweden?


Racial prejudice would be hilarious if it weren't so often tragic.  

Hispanics are defined as a mix of Native American and other racial groups by geneticists that do DNA testing for AIM's (Ancestral Informative Markers tgat group races by continental geography).  One nationality that does not qualify are Spaniards.  

Strange is it not that most Americans, who claim European ancestry despite the evident mix, would call the sons and daughters of Native Americans from Mexico and other countries "aliens?"

by terryhallinan 2006-07-04 09:07AM | 0 recs


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