Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ideologies of American Religious Groups

Here's a fascinating XY quadrant graph from the Pew Trust's Religious Landscape survey, written up by the Religious News Service:

(Click the image to see it larger, or view it on the Religious News Service site.)

The circles are scaled to reflect the number of members of any particular group, so for instance, Catholics are the largest group (the black circle in the center). "Nothing in particular" is the second largest group.

The colors are used to categorize somewhat similar groups:

  • Red: Mainline Protestant
  • Yellow: No religion
  • Dark blue: Evangelical Protestant
  • Light blue: Other Christian
  • Green: Historically black Protestant
  • Magenta: Other (non-Christian) religion
The axes are:
  • From left to right, the groups' view on whether we should have a larger government and more services vs. smaller government and fewer services
  • From top to bottom, the groups' view on whether government should be involved in protecting morality
The quadrants are, therefore:
  • Big government in both services and morality enforcement (top left)
  • Big government in services but not morality (bottom left)
  • Big government in morality enforcement but few services (top right)
  • Small government in both morality enforcement and services (bottom right)
Some of the placements are not surprises:
  • Evangelicals are mostly in the top right quadrant, wanting to tell people what to do but not spend any money on it
  • Nonreligious groups are clustered at the "don't tell us what to do" end, but vary a bit on how much to spend on services
  • Historically black churches are grouped at the top left (these church members make up a good portion of the Faith and Family Left that Pew has identified in earlier studies)
  • Buddhists, Unitarians, and nonconservative/Orthodox Jews are in the bottom left quadrant
Findings that did surprise me to some extent:
  • Muslims are in the upper left corner with the black Christian churches. I'm not surprised about the morality part of that finding, but would not have been able to predict the services attitude. Hindus are located not far from them in the same quadrant.
  • I would have put the mainline Protestant churches less far to the right on the services continuum. Maybe it's because I mostly know progressive Christians, but my experience is that the UCC and Episcopalians particularly are pretty progressive. I don't know who the American Baptists are, but they don't fit in with the other mainline Protestants very well.
  • The Quakers (Friends) are approaching the "no morality enforcement" end, which didn't surprise me, but I wasn't sure where they would end up on the services question. But it's not a shock that they ended up at the center line for that one, I suppose.


Unknown said...

This is a cool graph and the data is interesting.

I'm not surprised that a religious news service clumps nonbelievers together at the bottom and stains them as immoral. This position at the bottom (at the bottom! get it?) is pretty funny, even as an agnostic I thought this was clever and witty.

I'm unclear about the morality axis. For instance I support the rights of women, women's suffrage, and their choices. I consider these things moral and flat out necessary. However I get the feeling that the makers of this chart would consider all those things (and me) immoral....

Daughter Number Three said...

Good point about the up-down direction of morality, and the assumptions about what counts for morality. I have to say, when I see these types of quadrant graphs, I don't think I infer anything from the directions... but who knows.