surveys

Let's be honest: Many voicing opinions about Colorado baker Jack Phillips don't know the facts

Let's be honest: Many voicing opinions about Colorado baker Jack Phillips don't know the facts

Everybody, it seems, has an opinion about Jack Phillips.

But not everybody — trust me on this — has taken the time to review the facts of Phillips' case.

Does the Colorado baker — in whose favor the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 this week — really "refuse service" to gays and lesbians as a matter of general business practice? 

Not according to him.

His position — one that resonated with the court's majority — is more complicated than that.

Yet headlines such as this one in USA Today serve only to fuel the misperception:

Poll: 51% of white evangelicals support business' refusal of service to LGBT customers

Here is the question that the survey covered by the national newspaper asked:

Do you support or oppose allowing a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide products or services to LGBT individuals if doing so violates their religious beliefs?

I have the same concern with that question that I did one asked in a previous survey that I highlighted last year: I'm just not sure it's the right one. There are better questions to get closer to the real issue.

For example, why not ask something like this?: 

Do you support the government forcing a small business owner in your state to create messages that conflict with their religious beliefs if doing so advances the cause of LGBT individuals?

Might the responses to that question be different from the one covered by USA Today?

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Sex, religion and rock 'n' roll — oh wait, this time let's forget about the rock 'n' roll

Sex, religion and rock 'n' roll — oh wait, this time let's forget about the rock 'n' roll

What a difference a question makes!

Hang with me for a moment, and we'll delve into the latest national poll tied to gay rights vs. religious liberty.

But first, some crucial background: As you may recall, we highlighted a Religion News Service report last week on PRRI survey findings indicating that "no major U.S. religious group opposes refusing service to gays."

In that post, we noted that this was the question asked by PRRI:

Do you favor or oppose allowing a small business owner in your state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people, if doing so violates their religious beliefs?

In response, I said:

Here's what I wonder: Is that the right question for the pollster to ask?
Moreover, would defenders of religious freedom propose an alternate wording? If so, might those voices be helpful in a story reporting on the poll results?

Earlier this week, the issue became even more timely with the U.S. Supreme Court deciding to take up the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. 

Fast-forward to today, and RNS (for which I write occasionally freelance) has a different story on a different survey that asked a different question. And the results of that LifeWay Research survey are fascinating, especially when placed side by side with last week's numbers. Godbeat veteran Bob Smietana, who writes for LifeWay, has the full details.

 

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Who's not with the program? White evangelicals, according to RNS

Who's not with the program? White evangelicals, according to RNS

Who is out of step with the country? Oh, you know. It's the white evangelicals.

That’s the apparent upshot of a story by the Religion News Service on a new survey.  The study, by the Public Religion Research Institute, highlights anxieties among Americans about immigration, terrorism, discrimination and cultural change.

But for RNS, it seems to come down to a single social-racial-religious class: white evangelical Protestants.

Americans also are split on whether American culture and the country’s way of life have mostly changed for the better (49 percent) or worse (50 percent) since the 1950s.
And, the PRRI/Brookings report said, "no group of Americans is more nostalgic about the 1950s than white evangelical Protestants," with 70 percent saying the country has changed for the worse. Americans also split politically on the question: 68 percent of Republicans agree things have gotten worse, while nearly the same share of Democrats (66 percent) say times are better.

This despite the next paragraph, which says that overall, 72 percent of Americans agree that "the country is moving in the wrong direction" -- up from 65 percent in 2011. "And most (57 percent) believe they should fight for their values, even if they are at odds with the law and changing culture," the article adds.

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Most U.S. Christians believe Muslim values are out of sync with America, but why?

Most U.S. Christians believe Muslim values are out of sync with America, but why?

In recent weeks, I've started reading the Houston Chronicle on my iPad — via an e-replica app that affords me all the joys of the print edition but leaves no ink stains on my fingers.

For the record, I'm totally fine with no ink stains, although I do miss the sweet smell of newsprint! 

Even though I'm a relatively new Chronicle subscriber, I'm already becoming a bigger fan of religion writer Allan Turner. I had, of course, praised some of his stories in the past. But I didn't follow his work on a regular basis (in part because of the Houston newspaper's paywall.)

In today's City-State section, the lead item is a commentary by the Chronicle's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg (with whom I worked at The Associated Press in Texas in the early 2000s) suggesting that banning Syrian refugees plays into terrorists' hands. My thanks, by the way, both to Falkenberg and Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy for retweeting the link to my post yesterday concerning media coverage of the refugee issue (Kennedy even quoted me in a column).

To be clear, I wasn't calling out the Texas lieutenant governor. I was making the journalistic point that reporters should dig deeper when a politician such as Patrick cites "Judeo-Christian values." 

But I digress: Back to Turner and the reason for this post.

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Front-page news in Indianapolis: 5-year-old survey data on 'animus' toward same-sex marriage

Front-page news in Indianapolis: 5-year-old survey data on 'animus' toward same-sex marriage

In a front-page story this week, the Indianapolis Star reported on "the real reason behind opposition to same-sex marriage."

Prepare to be shocked.

Religion plays a role:

Why do you oppose same-sex marriage?
Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell posed this question to hundreds of people across the nation as part of a research project.
He was curious to see if what people say actually matches the legal arguments being made to justify bans on same-sex marriage.
The legal arguments are rooted in public policy considerations. The public responses decidedly were not.
From his survey results, published recently in the sociological journal Social Currents, here's one response that reflected the majority of opposition to same-sex marriage: "Because I don't believe God intended them to be that way."
"It's beastly," said another. A third: "Well, they're sinners."

What the Star doesn't bother to mention: While Powell's paper was published recently, the survey itself was conducted in 2010 — five years ago.

As you might have noticed, there has been a little publicity on the issue since then — and rapidly changing attitudes, from the American public to the U.S. president. 

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Heavens above! Doing a good job of covering a British religion survey

Heavens above! Doing a good job of covering a British religion survey

Reporting on religion surveys can be a perilous business, but journalist Jonathan Wynne-Jones shows how the job can be done well.

His article in The Independent titled “Two per cent of Anglican priests don't believe in God, survey finds” invites the reader into the story with a catchy lede, yet it offers a sober and balanced interpretation of the results.

Some expecting a story bashing the Church of England might cry foul, and claim Wynne-Jones was engaging in a bait and switch -- offering a story that appeared to confirm the pottiness of the local vicar. But he reports the situation has improved -- that the Church of England clergy are becoming more robust in their faith, not less.

The story opens with a strong rhetorical flourish:

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Putting a real face on Pew's Latino religious identity survey

The Pew Research Center released a report Wednesday titled “The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States,” based on a nationwide survey of 5,000 Hispanics, and it’s making headlines. As always, it’s interesting to see the specific angles taken by major news organizations.

By all accounts, Hispanics are the future of Catholicism in America. Already, most young Roman Catholics in the United States are Hispanic, and soon that will be true of the overall Catholic population. But the Hispanicization of American Catholicism faces a big challenge: Hispanics are leaving Catholicism at a striking rate.

It has been clear for years that Catholicism, both in the United States and Latin America, has been losing adherents to evangelical Protestantism, and, in particular, to Pentecostal and other charismatic churches. But as an increasing percentage of the American Hispanic population is made up of people born in this country, a simultaneous, competing form of faith-switching is also underway: More American Hispanics are leaving Catholicism and becoming religiously unaffiliated.

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Putting a real face on Pew's Latino religious identity survey

The Pew Research Center released a report Wednesday titled “The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States,” based on a nationwide survey of 5,000 Hispanics, and it’s making headlines. As always, it’s interesting to see the specific angles taken by major news organizations.

By all accounts, Hispanics are the future of Catholicism in America. Already, most young Roman Catholics in the United States are Hispanic, and soon that will be true of the overall Catholic population. But the Hispanicization of American Catholicism faces a big challenge: Hispanics are leaving Catholicism at a striking rate.

It has been clear for years that Catholicism, both in the United States and Latin America, has been losing adherents to evangelical Protestantism, and, in particular, to Pentecostal and other charismatic churches. But as an increasing percentage of the American Hispanic population is made up of people born in this country, a simultaneous, competing form of faith-switching is also underway: More American Hispanics are leaving Catholicism and becoming religiously unaffiliated.

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NPR stumbles on GOP and Darwinian orthodoxy

Here’s a shocker, but not really. More Democrats than Republicans believe in evolution, or so says a survey from the Pew Research Center. Overall, Pew says: …six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that ‘humans and other living things have evolved over time,’ while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that ‘humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.’ The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

The predictable party gap seems of interest to many, though mostly political pundits.

National Public Radio is not content to leave speculation to mere political bloviators, however, and trumpets the change in party affiliation of creationists as a major political issue:

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