Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Feelin' the Love, redux

by B. Strong

In his maiden voyage into marginal utility, Drek alluded to religious differences in the civil liberties accorded to various marginalized groups, including homosexuals, socialists, communists, racists, and, gasp, atheists. Because I'm a dweeb -- and a dweeb with tenure -- I spent a couple of minutes playing around with these data, not to contradict Drek but to satiate my curiosity (and, truth be told, delay my grading).

Across all years of the General Social Survey (1972-2004, n=appx. 30,000), the percentage of respondents who answered "not allowed to speak" to the question, "If [such] a person wanted to make a speech in your (city/town/community) against churches and religion, should he be allowed to speak or not?" are as follows, by self-identified religion:
Protestant: 35%
Catholic: 27%
Jewish: 16%
Other: 21%
None: 12%

"If some people in your community suggested that a book he wrote against churches and religion should be taken out of your public library, would you favor removing this book, or not?" Percentages are those who favor removing the book:
Protestant: 39%
Catholic: 30%
Jewish: 12%
Other: 26%
None: 13%

"Should a person [who is against churches and religion] be allowed to teach in a college or university, or not?" Percentages are those who would bar the teacher:
Protestant: 56%
Catholic: 46%
Jewish: 35%
Other: 38%
None: 23%

Protestants are, as Drek said, more likely to be in favor of these forms of censorship than other religious groups. As They say, though, the devil is in the details.
  1. First, the questions are a bit more strongly worded than asking about the rights of an atheist per se. Respondents who show up in the percentages above probably include many, maybe even the majority, who believe in a religious version of "don't ask, don't tell" in public -- and arguably publicly funded -- spaces.
  2. Second, and probably related, note that a nontrivial percentages of people with no religious affiliation who indicate that they would disallow a speech by an atheist, remove an anti-religious book from the library, and bar an atheist from teaching at a university.
  3. Third, all religious groups are getting more tolerant, if by this we mean resistant to curtailing civil liberties. The (linear) trend is only significant for Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, but there's too few people and too much heterogeneity in the "other" category to read much into the lack of statistical significance here.
Finally, Drek is much too careful of a sociologist to extrapolate from small numbers, but I have no such qualms. (Hey, this is a blog, not ASR). Here are percentages by religion from 1998-2004 (n=5,480-ish), years in which there are 20 Muslim/Islam respondents who answered the civil liberties questions.

Bar from speaking in public:
Protestant: 29%
Catholic: 24%
Jewish: 11%
None: 10%
Muslim/Islam: 33%

Remove anti-religion library book:
Protestant: 34%
Catholic: 25%
Jewish: 10%
None: 12%
Muslim/Islam: 43%

Bar from teaching in college or university:
Protestant: 45%
Catholic: 39%
Jewish: 30%
None: 20%
Muslim/Islam: 45%

With the exception of the library book question, I don't see a whole lot of difference here between Muslims residing in the US and Protestants. Small n, unobserved heterogeneity, YMMV, blah blah.

Oh, and welcome, Drek!
All this bloggy chit-chatting is making me miss the ole pub. Nothing like dredging through GSS data to make me feel nostalgic.
Brayden, if you ever feel the itch to post something (w/o reopening the Pub), you're always welcome here. Tina too, of course.
Oh hell, Kim, go ahead and contradict me. Life's no fun if nobody argues.

Nice analysis, by the way: different way of representing the data, and certainly a good point about the questions. Still, you dance with the one you brung, and they're what I've got in the GSS. I'm looking forward to the ASR piece with considerable interest.

Still, either way, the overall conclusion is (hopefully) atheists aren't all THAT hated.
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