Saturday, July 20, 2013

New survey from PRRI: religious progressives

From an Economic Values Survey published by the Public Religion Research Institute (PDF here)
A newly developed religious orientation scale that combines theological, economic and social outlooks finds that 28% of Americans are religious conservatives, 38% are religious moderates, and 19% of Americans are religious progressives; additionally, 15% of Americans are nonreligious.

As expected, the more liberal groups trend Democratic, and younger.

When we break down what denominations fall into what category, it's not a surprise....
... Catholics (29%) constitute the largest single group among religious progressives, followed by white mainline Protestants (19%), those who are not formally affiliated with a religious tradition but who nevertheless say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives (18%), and non-Christian religious Americans such as Jews, Buddhist, Hindus, and Muslims (13%). Notably, white evangelical Protestants constitute only four percent of religious progressives. By contrast, white evangelical Protestants constitute more than 4-in-10 (43%) of religious conservatives, followed by Catholics (17%) and white mainline Protestants (15%). Black Protestants comprise about 1-in-10 of both the religious progressive (9%) and religious conservative (8%) coalitions.
Some of the beliefs are sadly predictable.
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of religious conservatives agree that it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral.  Only 29% of religious progressives and 12% of nonreligious Americans agree with this statement. 
But here's a real eye-opener:
Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) religious progressives say being a religious person is mostly about doing the right thing, compared to 16% who say it is about holding the right beliefs. By contrast, a majority (54%) of religious conservatives say being a religious person is primarily about having the right beliefs, while less than 4-in-10 (38%) say it is mostly about doing the right thing.
Religious conservatives and religious progressives disagree about the degree to which social problems stem from individual actions and decisions. More than 8-in-10 (82%) religious conservatives agree that if enough people had a personal relationship with God, social problems would take care of themselves. By contrast, nearly 7-in-10 (68%) religious progressives disagree that if enough people had a personal relationship with God, social problems would take care of themselves, compared to 31% who agree.
So, to summarize, progressives say that your acts matter, and conservatives say no, it's your beliefs.  (So go ahead and cut food stamps!)  And conservatives think that if we all just "got GEEEzus" we wouldn't NEED foodstamps.

Not a surprise, but still stunning to see the numbers...

Also surprising is evidence that 41% of  religious conservatives aren't necessarily comfortable with capitalism, and see it as incompatible with religious values.  Then why do they keep voting Republican?

Meanwhile, from the press release:
“Religious conservatives are a known quantity and they play an important role in our politics,” said E.J. Dionne, Brookings senior fellow. “But this survey also shows that religious progressives are a more significant group than is usually assumed, and that there is a strong social justice constituency among religious Americans that cuts across labels.”

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