Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Republicans, Democrats ... and Religion

Republicans are perceived by the public as being more friendly toward religion than Democrats, according to this Pew report.

Can I get a Duh! from the congregation?

 The report says:
More Americans continue to view the Republican Party as friendly toward religion (48%) than rate the Democratic Party that way (29%). President Barack Obama's administration, however, is seen as friendly toward religion by more people (37%) than is the Democratic Party as a whole. And all three get higher ratings for friendliness toward religion than the news media (14%), scientists (12%) or Hollywood (11%).
Evil bad news media.  And scientists.  And Hollywood.

The public's perception of Democratic friendliness to "religion" peaked in mid-2008 as Obama was on a roll, but since then it's inched downward -- even among (get this) people who seldom or never attend religious services.  That's saying something, when even the godless heathens see you as unfriendly to "religion."

Why do I keep putting "religion" in quotation marks?  Because they don't really define what they mean by religion.  Here's the survey question:  As I name some groups, please tell me whether you feel each one is generally FRIENDLY toward religion, NEUTRAL toward religion, or UNFRIENDLY toward religion?

The all-caps are to remind the reader to be clear on the labels and to match them up with the response alternatives on the CATI system where the survey worker enters data.  The interesting part is every respondent can interpret "religion" as he or she wants.  I'm not saying I have a better solution, but it does raise some fascinating methodological issues.  The Pew folks -- who are very good at this sort of thing -- were smart in asking this question before asking respondents about their specific religious affiliations (Catholic, Prod, etc.) or how often they attend religious services.  If you asked about religious beliefs and practices first, you'd get some kind of confounding priming effect.  But that's an issue for another day.

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