On That New Survey About Religion In The US

February 26, 2008 at 3:59 pm (neat things, politics)

Here are some fun tools for viewing, parsing, comparing, and visualizing the data of a recent study done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. There’s been some discussion around the blogosphere about the results, mostly regarding what they say about atheism, the number of secular people, and the rates at which people are leaving religious traditions. The really interesting thing about the afore links tools, though, in my opinion, is the opportunity to compare demographics across religions. So, for example, I decided to compare my group, Jews, against the group I sometimes think of as The Enemy: Evangelical Christians.* I learned that, on average, evangelicals are a significantly poorer and less educated than Jews. Just 3% of Jewish adults haven’t finished high school, compared to 16% of Evangelical adults, and 59% of Jews have a college degree or higher, compared to 20% of Evangelicals. Thirty-four percent of Evangelical adults make less than $30,000 a year, with 14% of Jews making the same, and 24% of Evangelicals make $75,000 or more, while 58% of Jews are in that income range.

Now, I can’t say I was that surprised to see that so many Jews get graduate degrees, stereotypes being what they are. The survey doesn’t contain any info about political beliefs, but if stereotypes will continue to serve us well, we can guess that, on average, Jews are significantly more progressive than Evangelicals.** Obviously, it’s no coincidence that the educated group is more progressive. That softens me a little to Evangelicals; it makes it seem more like they’re basically being taken advantage of by their leaders, to me, especially given that they’re comparatively poor. It’s abundantly clear that progressive policies are in the best interest of the poor, yet Republicans con them into opposing their own well-being via “God, Guns, and Gays” issues. Blah.

Anyway, I’m sure there are a lot of other interesting ways to breakdown those numbers. Explore.

* Though maybe they’re not, after all.

** Especially given that the research chooses to separate Evangelical churches from “mainline Protestant churches,” and that it reports that 41% of Jews are Reform.



  1. jonolan said,

    I don’t think that I would describe Jews as progressive. A large number of Jews are quite Conservative and there’s a strong minority that “support” a Conservative agenda in the US because they fell that agenda will further their own agenda, Israel.

    Progressive policies in the US rarely actually benefit the poor. We have seldom enacted any policies that foster self-reliance, individual responsibility, or entrepreneurship among the poor. The Progressives and (L)iberals seem to favor an entitlement / endowment system that fosters nothing but a Govt. controlled welfare state.

    I’m not saying I favor a “let them starve” neo-con approach, but programs to help and encourage people to stand up on their own two feet and start small businesses is the model that would work in the long run. This has been proven in many other countries – including freaking Pakistan.

  2. jonolan said,

    Oh! Quick follow-up for the sake of honest disclosure:

    I’m one of the supposedly wealthy (low-mid six figures) people that the Progressive want to heavily tax to support their welfare programs. I’m also one of those non-college graduates. I’m not one the Evangelicals unless Evangelical Pagan counts ;)

  3. Daisy said,

    Hi jonolan! Haven’t seen you in awhile.

    I do think Jews on average are progressive, especially as compared to Evangelicals. This survey corroborates that; see also this info from the same survey about opinions about the Israel/Palestine issue, which shows that 46% favor the creation of a Palestinian state, and 36% believe we should be willing to make a compromise about that status of Jerusalem. Those aren’t stellar progressive figures, but they do show that a large contingent of Jews aren’t so conservative about Israel/Palestine stuff.

    About social programs: it’s probably true that our success so far has been mixed, but I don’t think poor people, as a group, are less responsible or less interested in self-reliance that middle class people. Poor people aren’t poor because they’re irresponsible or lazy or anything like that, but because of the effects of systemic racism, a broken school system, a broken health care system, etc. So that’s why I lean towards entitlement programs: I don’t think an attitude shift is going to help the vast majority of poor people, and if I were poor, I imagine I would feel very condescended to by that suggestion.

    But maybe that’s not what you’re talking about. I think a good program to help people start their own business would be great.

    I’m not one the Evangelicals unless Evangelical Pagan counts ;)

    Evangelical Pagan! Hehe : )

  4. jonolan said,

    Hi, Daisy! I’ve been dealing with RL life & death (literally) issues so haven’t been blogging as much as usual.

    I’m still researching the Pew study for my own post. Like all their surveys, it’s takes a bit of parsing, which is good. Yes, a majority of American Jews are very much not Zionists. That’s why I describe the situation as a “strong minority ” – read that as AIPAC.

    I disagree with you on the attitudes of the poor people, at least the urban poor. They’re very much caught up in the entitlement system. This is not a diatribe against them though. How many of us would be different placed in the same position? It’s a sadly seductive mindset; it’s not my fault and I’m owed something…

  5. Daisy said,

    Ah, yes. You’re certainly right about that strong minority.

    I hope everything is alright with the issues you’ve been dealing with. Welcome back to the ‘sphere.

    Re: poverty and attitude, I disagree with you back, but I don’t know that there’s any easy way for either of us to prove it. I’ve known many poor people, none of whom had that attitude or anything resembling it. All of them were hardworking and wanted badly to break out of their situations. Those who could did.

    I can imagine many people slipping into that mindset, but only if it they were actually able to mooch off of someone/something. Government assistance seems to barely help people survive, if that, let alone provide enough for them to get comfortable. I also think many people feel considerable shame if they need to get food stamps or something similar.

  6. jonolan said,

    Part of our disagreement may just stem from where we live. I live in NYC, which has a large inner-city urban poor population; you may well in a different social climate. There’s a large dichotomy in common behaviors between urban poor and suburban / rural poor.

    I’ve also traveled the world and have seen the truly poor. Their actions and attitudes – very close to what you describe – may have colored my opinions.

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