fivethirtyeight.com : Mapping the “War on Christmas.” (with Andy Lewis)

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/where-to-say-merry-christmas-vs-happy-holidays/

‘Tis the season for some to take offense when a store clerk says “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas,” or when a coffee chain converts to plain red cups for the holiday. The “war on Christmas” trope seems to surface with Black Friday sales, but who is actually at war?

It is easy to imagine saying “merry Christmas” as another cudgel in the culture wars between Christians and the irreligious. The actual story, however, is much more nuanced. Public Religion Research Institute asked a…[head to story]

On The Monkey Cage: Mike Huckabee’s attack on the Supreme Court could work. Here’s how.

By Paul A. Djupe and Andrew R. Lewis

For many, the national debate over same-sex marriage culminated on Friday with the United States Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor. However, some conservatives, such as Mike Huckabee, haven’t admitted defeat. Instead, they have attacked the Supreme Court itself, encouraging people and future presidents to rebuff the Court’s decision. Could his argument work?  New data suggests that it could.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/06/30/mike-huckabees-attack-on-the-supreme-court-could-work-heres-how/

On The Monkey Cage: The freedom of religion argument could actually make gay marriage opponents more tolerant

By Paul A. Djupe, Andrew R. Lewis, and Ted Jelen

The rapid expansion of same-sex marriage has left some Americans with profound misgivings. Their opposition is sometimes expressed as a moral condemnation. But often it is framed around a hallowed American concept: rights.

More and more, religious people who oppose same-sex marriage draw on the First Amendment for support. In their view, the constitutional right to exercise one’s religious faith means that opponents of same-sex marriage should not have to do something that affirms these marriages. State legislators in Indiana and Arkansas recently sought to reinforce this position by passing their own versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act…

Read More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/04/10/the-freedom-of-religion-argument-could-actually-make-gay-marriage-opponents-more-tolerant/

Why Political Scientists Experiment with Religion and Politics

This is a guest post with Brian Calfano for Tobin Grant’s Religion News Service blog

Experiments are one of the best tools in science. In an experiment, a researcher gives one group a “treatment” and then compares that group to the “control group” that did not receive the treatment. Experiments are used for all kinds of studies, but they are difficult to do with religion. We can’t randomly decide who must be religious and who cannot—or can we? Could researchers find ways to “control” religious experience in any sort of realistic way? It turns out that there have been a number of creative attempts to do just that and their results are helping us sort out religion’s role in politics.

Here are two lessons that we have learned from experiments on religion and politics.

1. “God talk” can be effective as long as it’s not blatant

In 2006, David Kuo wrote a tell-all book about his experience working with George W. Bush as Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Among his accounts was the practice of placing “God talk” or coded statements into Bush’s speeches that would be known only to evangelicals and no one else. Phrases like “wonder-working power” (from the hymn “There is power in the blood”) and “one stray lamb” (from the parable of the lost sheep) would signal to evangelicals that Bush was one of them without scaring off other voters.

Does this kind of strategy work? The short answer is yes. We ran an experiment in which people read about one of two fictitious candidates for public office: one candidate made a statement with an example of Kuo’s God talk and the other did not. Most people saw both candidates the same—the God talk did not matter. But evangelicals read the God talk and responded. Evangelicals viewed the “God talk candidate” as more conservative. They also supported the “God talk candidate” more than other voters.

Candidate’s use of God talk can go too far, however. New research that will appear in Politics & Religion by Bryan McLaughlin and David Wise shows that these cues need to remain coded. Even the most religious reduce their support for a candidate using bold religious cues (compared to a control). A little God talk to signal that a candidate is part of a religious group is helpful, but going too far with religious references will turn off even religious voters.

2. Some aspects of religion support democratic values, some do not

Experiments are also helping us untangle the relationship between religion and support for democratic values. One creative experiment by Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom and Gizem Arikan had people reflect on either their religious beliefs or their religious activity (attending religious services). The researchers then asked each group about their support for civil liberties. Those who thought about their beliefs—which includes a lot of moral judgments—were less supportive of protecting civil liberties. Those who reflected on church attendance, a complex social experience, increased it. In our experiments, we had people reflect on what messages are conveyed through religious experiences. Simply being asked to consider whether or not people should shop at stores owned by fellow believers decreased people’s willingness to extend equal rights to a group they disliked. On the other hand, reflecting on the value of inviting people to church increased political tolerance.

Why is this finding so important? The fact that religion can be “primed” suggests that the politics of believers is not hardwired. Instead, it has to be maintained. People need to hear messages over and over and have them reinforced. It also means that there is the potential for the views of religious people to change over time.

– See more at: http://tobingrant.religionnews.com/2014/01/17/experiments-god-talk-djupe-calfano

 

Evangelicals and Immigration – Sea Change in the Making?

The
path to comprehensive immigration reform appears to have been smoothed by the
2012 presidential election. It was widely perceived that the Republican Party’s
tough stand on immigration, supporting a policy of “self-deportation,”[1]
limited their appeal and cost votes in key states. At the same time, a crucial
component of the Republican coalition, evangelical Protestants, have been
making efforts to push immigration reform efforts as well for several years now.
For instance, The Evangelical Immigration Table[2],
a coalition of 150+ evangelical leaders, issued a post-election letter to
President Obama calling for comprehensive immigration reform within the first
92 days of his second term (“92” is significant as the number of times the
Hebrew word for immigrant “ger
appears in the Bible).[3]  This would appear to portend great change in
the American political landscape.

One
of the crucial lingering questions, then, is what evangelicals in the pews
think of immigrants and immigration reform and what shapes their attitudes? It
is no surprise that white, born-again respondents to a recent survey by PRRI have
a distinctive outlook on immigrants and immigration, which the attached Figure
1
shows. In essence, evangelicals are more concerned about threats to an “American
way of life” and are more in favor of deportation or self-deportation as policy
options (thought not in huge majorities). White evangelicals are also more
likely than other Americans to believe that the growing number of newcomers from
other countries threatens American values and way of life (58% vs. 40%).
Finally, a survey list experiment designed to uncover concerns about the
changing racial and ethnic makeup of America also found that white, born-again
Christians were more likely than whites overall to be worried or bothered by
the U.S. becoming a majority-minority nation.[4]
Half (50%) of white, born-again Christians agreed with the statement: “The idea of America
where most people are not white bothers me.” In contrast, among whites overall,
fewer than one-third (31%) agreed with this statement, and among all Americans
fewer than 1-in-4 (23%) agreed.

White
evangelicals are less likely to report having friends who were born outside the
US, but this factor plays little role in shaping evangelicals views toward
immigrants or immigration (in logistic regression models of the variables
listed in the figure). This evidence helps us to focus our attention on
evangelicals’ values and worldview, which by this logic should be the most
significant determinants of their immigration attitudes. It turns out that is
true, but the problem is that the two dominant values at play in this debate
are cross-cutting. Those who believe enforcing the rule of law is more
important are more likely to think that, for instance, the American way of life
needs to be protected from foreign influence. On the other hand, those who
believe that welcoming the stranger is more important believe the opposite –
that the American way of life is not under threat. As of this polling snapshot,
more evangelicals believe that enforcing the rule of law is extremely important
(41%) than believe that welcoming the stranger is extremely important (25%). And
few evangelicals (14%) believe that welcoming the stranger is more important than
enforcing the rule of law. So, here’s the rub: this set of values probably
leaves evangelicals resistant to opposing the current law and, thus, opposed to
immigration reform. Perhaps the only way to garner broad evangelical support is
to change the law first, which would allow compassion for the undocumented to
mesh with the law of the land.

Given
the cross-cutting effect of the two primary values in play, it is no surprise
that those who have heard their clergyperson speak out about immigration do not
have systematically different views toward immigrants and immigration. If those
clergy are following the scripts set out by the Evangelical Immigration Table,
which emphasize the rule of law and
welcoming the stranger, then we shouldn’t expect evangelicals in the pews to
change their minds anytime soon.

Moreover, befitting their voting behavior, more
evangelicals remain attached to the Republican Party. Evangelicals trust the
Republican Party to deal with immigration and illegal immigration by a 2-1
margin (52-30% and 52-29%, respectively). Thus, the value conflict evangelicals
hold is compounded by adherence to political figures and political beliefs who
are only grudgingly supportive of immigration reform. Evangelical elites have
taken a position in favor of comprehensive immigration reform for several years
now and that shift may have given Republicans some cover. But, if there is
going to be comprehensive immigration reform, we might give more credit to high
ranking Republicans who read the tea leaves after November, 2012 and have since
staked out positions in favor of a path to citizenship.

Originally published here.

[1]
http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/republican-immigration-platform-backs-self-deportation/

[2]
http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/

[3] According to Wheaton
political scientist Amy Black in her op-ed: 
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2013/0108/Why-Evangelicals-are-the-new-partners-for-immigration-reform)

[4] For more discussion of
a list experiment, please see an earlier post of mine:
http://pauldjupe.com/updates/2012/12/16/anglo-saxon-hits-the-campaign-trail

PRRI Post: “Anglo-Saxon” Hits the Campaign Trail

By design, presidential contenders face the significant challenge of cobbling and holding together constituencies of enormous diversity. Uniting Main Street and Wall Street, religious and secular, farm and factory has always posed problems for candidates, now compounded by the inability to confine stump speeches to particular groups. Campaigns have to imagine that what they say to the religious will be heard by the secular, and so on. The trick is to convey a message such that only the target group truly understands it – coded communication.

By design, presidential contenders face the significant challenge of cobbling and holding together constituencies of enormous diversity. Uniting Main Street and Wall Street, religious and secular, farm and factory has always posed problems for candidates, now compounded by the inability to confine stump speeches to particular groups. Campaigns have to imagine that what they say to the religious will be heard by the secular, and so on. The trick is to convey a message such that only the target group truly understands it – coded communication. For instance, would all Americans understand that a “welcoming” congregation means it is accepting of gays and lesbians or that “inner city” is another way of saying “black”? 

A survey experiment from PRRI conducted in May 2012 delves into this complicated terrain, helping to assess just who holds views that Mitt Romney’s campaign may be attempting to activate.

In the past two weeks, the Romney campaign has focused its attention on attacking the foreign policy of the Obama administration. According to Governor Romney or his surrogates, President Obama has been weak in the face of America’s greatest threats (like China, Russia, and Iran), he has “leaked” state secrets (in the capture of Osama bin Laden), and he has been too proud in his accomplishments (again, regarding bin Laden).

But the framing of the attacks also carries another important theme that is less about foreign policy and is being reprised from Obama’s first presidential run – that he is un-American. In an interview with the British paper The Daily Telegraph, anonymous Romney advisors suggested that Romney shares an “Anglo-Saxon” heritage with the UK that Obama lacks. Another advisor offered about Obama that, “He’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’” (a British patriotic song asking God to “make thee mightier yet”). Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, another advisor, last week suggestedthat Obama should learn “to be an American,” a comment for which he has since apologized.

Given Romney’s extraordinary wealth, not to mention a religious background that some find unconventional, he needs to bridge a likely gap with his base and more generally with working class whites. He can either offer appealing policies or he can build common ground by creating an outgroup – a “they”. With this latest series of attacks, Romney appears to be taking the latter path. Though triggering group boundaries is a common tactic for campaigns (recall the “99%”?), this specific strategy has long been known as the Republican party’s “Southern Strategy.” In that strategy, poor whites would be encouraged to vote Republican by keeping the image of the Democrats as the party of black Americans in the forefront of their minds. The issue of busing, the image of welfare queens, and the use of “state’s rights” all were coded communications in service of the Southern Strategy.

In PRRI’s “list experiment,” survey respondents were offered a list of reasons some people say for not supporting Obama. They were instructed to tell the interviewer how many reasons they agreed with, not which ones. This procedure gives people with controversial opinions cover from revealing themselves in public. Half of the respondents were offered the first 3 reasons, while half were presented with all 4:

1—His political views are too liberal

2—He’s not a strong leader

3—He doesn’t believe in the principles of capitalism

4—He doesn’t understand the problems of white Americans

Since the two half samples are statistically equivalent, the difference between their mean scores of how many reasons they agreed with gives us an estimate of how many people in the population believe the racially charged 4th reason. The attached figure shows the results for the total sample as well as a variety of important groups in this election. The percentage after the group name is an estimate of the percent who agree that “[Obama] doesn’t understand the problems of white Americans.”

Twenty-five percent of the sample is estimated to believe this statement, though support for it is concentrated in particular subgroups. It is no surprise that strong majorities of Republicans (83%), Southern whites (59%), and evangelical Protestants (58%) are estimated to take this view. Tellingly, these are just the constituents with whom Romney has had problems connecting with and firing up, especially after a bruising, divisive primary season in which these groups tended to back other candidates. Indeed, Romney has been found to suffer an enthusiasm gap, with about 15 percent fewer likely supporters feeling enthusiastic about him than Obama’s core supporters according to a January 2012 PRRI survey.

Coded communication is nothing new in American campaigns as I and my coauthor Brian Calfano have found, nor is the tussle to redraw group boundaries that are more advantageous to one side. Policy debates are often carried out on several levels with text and subtext as candidates attempt to persuade new voters as well as mobilize components of their base. This particular one seems very likely to be the Romney campaign attempting to shore up a crucial part of its base as we race toward the general election.

Originally posted 7.26.12 here.

PRRI Post: The (Continued) Politics of Racial Resentment

A

fter a sound defeat in the race for the White House, Republicans are still searching for answers about why their “most electable” presidential candidate lost and what if anything they should do differently going forward. The message from the candidate himself is consistent with some of the less popular campaign themes. In a call to his finance committee, Mitt Romney argued that Barack Obama won because of the “gifts” he bestowed on young people and minorities. In remarks that dovetail Romney’s, VP nominee Paul Ryan indicated that urban, minority turnout was to blame for their loss. These comments reflect a broader theme: that Obama did not understand the problems of white Americans, and primarily focused his policies on the needs or demands of racial minorities. The challenge, of course, is to determine just how many Americans, if any, agree.

After a sound defeat in the race for the White House, Republicans are still searching for answers about why their “most electable” presidential candidate lost and what if anything they should do differently going forward. The message from the candidate himself is consistent with some of the less popular campaign themes. In a call to his finance committee, Mitt Romney argued that Barack Obama won because of the “gifts” he bestowed on young people and minorities. In remarks that dovetail Romney’s, VP nominee Paul Ryan indicated that urban, minority turnout was to blame for their loss. These comments reflect a broader theme: that Obama did not understand the problems of white Americans, and primarily focused his policies on the needs or demands of racial minorities. The challenge, of course, is to determine just how many Americans, if any, agree. 1 2 3 4

It is instructive to go to public opinion data to gauge the depth of distrust people may feel toward the President. Public Religion Research Institute’s post-election American Values Survey included a “list experiment,” a technique used to give us an estimate of the proportion of the population that believes something they would probably not admit in public (I provided more details about this in my previous post). The statement is a measure of the extent to which Americans believe that “[Barack Obama] doesn’t understand the problems of white Americans.” Overall, we can estimate that roughly one-fifth of the population believes that statement (see the attached figure, where a * next to the category label indicates a statistically significant difference), but of course there are segments that believe it in much higher proportions.

In my analysis of these experimental data, I concentrate solely on whites. It is not surprising that Republicans are most likely to believe Obama is out of touch with white Americans. As I argued in my previous post, in attempt to appeal to white working class voters, the Romney campaign used a set of messages that tried to draw out this resentment. The belief is much less common among white independents and Democrats, but is still non-trivial – over 20 percent of white Democrats are estimated to feel Obama doesn’t understand their problems. Given the politics of right-leaning groups, it is also not surprising to see the degree of overlap between racial resentment against Obama and the belief that religion does not have prominent enough a role in society. Majorities to super-majorities of self-described members of the religious right, those who feel like religious liberty is threatened, and those who believe that public officials should pay more attention to religious leaders have a sense of racial resentment toward Obama.

Perhaps most telling in terms of the election results, I was able to compare white Americans’ reactions in battleground and non-battleground states. In non-battleground states, the balance of which went for Romney, 40 percent of white Americans are estimated to harbor this racial resentment, whereas the estimate among battleground state whites is not significant—that is, there is no evidence that whites in such battleground states as Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Florida felt that Obama did not understand their problems. The Ohio result could be explained, in part, by the popularity of the auto bailout, but that does not explain the reactions of voters in other states. The most likely explanation is the Obama campaign itself, which tried to provide a portrait of an empathetic president who was concerned with Americans’ everyday problems.

The empathy gap remained a significant advantage for the President throughout the campaign. The 2012 American Values Survey post-election survey found 53% of voters said the statement “cares about people like me” better describes Obama than Romney, while 41% said the statement better describes Romney.  Even among white voters Romney held only a modest 8-point edge (50% to 42%). This raises two intriguing possibilities: the Obama campaign’s focus on empathy mitigated racial resentment or at least diminished its impact, or that empathy could be a relative quality, and a more empathetic GOP candidate could have resulted in a more racialized vote.

Originally posted 11.28.2012 here

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