It doesn't take a graduate degree in family-life studies or anything like that to be able to spot the religion ghost in this week's think piece.
In fact, author Nicholas H. Wolfinger of the Institute for Family Studies finally points it out, over half way through this short piece on the institute's website. The headline: "Sex in Red and Blue America."
Frankly, I thought the headline on this one would attract some press coverage, especially since it (a) is about sex, (b) is framed in terms of politics and (c) it's a perfect topic for those trendy lifestyles and features sections that seem to run ANYTHING that pushes buttons about (a) and (b).
So I have kept this think piece stashed away for a few weeks, figuring that I would eventually see mainstream news coverage of some of the hot-button material in it.
Guess what? I haven't seen anything. Have you? Ready for some of the steamy details? Here is a solid slice of core info:
... Republicans have more sex than Democrats and cheat less on their spouses. Political independents have sex even more often than Republicans but cheat at the same rate Democrats do. Republican sexual frequency is entirely explained by the fact that they’re more likely to be married than are Democrats. On the other hand, there’s no obvious explanation for the partisan difference in adultery.
Really now? Can anyone thing of some rather obvious statistical differences between people in red-state, flyover country and the power elites who are at the heart of the modern Democratic party?
At the center of the study is lots of data -- 25 years worth -- from the omnibus General Social Survey. The question isn't perfect, but it's blunt: “About how often did you have sex during the last 12 months?” Yes, that has lots of loopholes. Just ask Bill Clinton.
So why are the Republicans and red-zip-code people having sex more often than the folks whose lives get made into steamy novels, movies and pop songs?
Hint: It's time to start looking for religion-news ghosts.
The more active sex lives of Republicans are entirely the product of political differences in marriage: married Americans are more likely to be Republicans, and anyone with a live-in relationship has more sex than does an otherwise comparable single person.
What about that other headline grabber, the one about people cheating?
Democrats and independents cheat on their spouses at equal rates, but Republicans have starkly lower rates of infidelity. Controlling only for survey year and basic demographic differences between respondents (age, sex, race/ethnicity), Republicans have 23% lower odds of cheating than do Democrats. The adultery gap between independents and Republicans is nearly as large.
So what are the logical places to look for factors that help people achieve and, apparently, enjoy fidelity (if sexual activity is any indicator of happiness)?
Given the strong association between marital status and party identification, it’s not surprising that current marital status can help explain the association between political beliefs and being in or having been in an adulterous union. Church attendance also has predictable effects on the relationship between adultery and party ID. Republicans go to church more, and churchgoers cheat less.
I think we had better stop there, for now.
Reporters and editors: Please read it all.
Trust me: There are stories in here about people in all kinds of zip codes. Do you have the guts to ask some hard questions and report what people say about these edgy subjects?