Monday, May 07, 2012

Religious conservatives in the US more liberal than the Muslim masses are

Addressing the oft made assertion (or at least insinuation) "that conservative American Protestants are roughly equivalent with conservative Muslims", Razib tapped the World Values Survey to compare the positions of conservative Protestants in the US with those of Muslims in predominately Islamic countries on some representative social issues. He presents a table that shows all scaled response distributions for each group on each question.

Below, I essentially replicate his results with the purpose of trying to reproduce them in a way that is a little easier for mere mortals like myself to digest. Instead of showing the entire distribution, I use mean values for each group. Razib concludes:
The general qualitative result: American conservative Protestants are in the main to the center or social liberal end of Muslim public opinion. They are not comparable at all to Muslim reactionaries.
As the averages make clearer, conservative Protestants (defined here as those who expressed a preference for the Republican party) are in fact more liberal on each of these issues than Muslims in any of the countries included are. Keep in mind, the comparison here is between conservative Protestants and all Muslims, not just between evangelicals and reactionary Islamists. The latter comparison would show conservative Protestants to be even more liberal relative to Muslims than this comparison does.

Finally, using standard deviation values reported in the WVS, each of the tables also shows where the average conservative Protestant fits into the Muslim distribution*. So, on the question of the justifiability of homosexuality, the average conservative American Protestant is at 71st percentile of the Muslim population. Because the wife-beating question is inverted, the figure shows where the average conservative Protestant falls on the another-black-eye-to-explain-to-the-neighbors-is-unjustifiable distribution. The higher the value (on a 1-10 scale), the more justifiable the act or behavior in question is viewed as being:

Conservative Protestants (US)3.2
Malaysia (Muslim)2.9
Jordan (Muslim)1.0
Iran (Shia)1.5
Turkey (Muslim)1.7
Conservative Protestant percentile among Muslims71st percentile

Conservative Protestants (US)3.5
Malaysia (Muslim)2.8
Iraq (Shia)1.2
Iraq (Sunni)2.4
Jordan (Muslim)1.2
Iran (Shia)2.3
Morocco (Muslim)1.8
Turkey (Muslim)2.3
Conservative Protestant percentile among Muslims73rd percentile

Man to beat his wifeScore
Conservative Protestants (US)1.3
Malaysia (Muslim)3.1
Jordan (Muslim)1.5
Iran (Shia)1.8
Morocco (Muslim)2.3
Turkey (Muslim)1.5
Conservative Protestant percentile among Muslims63rd percentile

WVS variables used: V185, V231(Republican), V202, V204, V208

* Arrived at by simply averaging the averages of each of the Muslim groups on each question. This skews Muslim opinion towards that of the Middle East and North Africa and away from South Asia, which, in terms of sheer numbers, is unrepresentative of the world's roughly 1.6 billion Muslims. Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh all have far more Muslims than any of the MENA countries do, but with the exception of Pakistan, when Americans think of Muslims, they primarily have Arabs and Persians in mind.


Dan H said...

These are softball questions for the Muslim societies. The real questions that show how illiberal many Muslims really are, are not even asked in the World Values Survey.

Questions such as: should someone face death for leaving the faith (Islam or Christianity, respectively)?

Results you get are 76% in Pakistan, 84% in Egypt and 86% in Jordan, three illiberal countries.

Maybe these results by Pew overstate things a little, but Pew has no history of right-wing bias, and there are presently people on trial for apostasy in more than one Muslim country and facing death.

In America I have lived 33 years and interacted with tens of thousands in my lifetime and never known of anyone who believed in death as punishment for leaving the faith.

By this measure, ~80% of Muslims are less liberal than the most illiberal American. The most illiberal Christian I can think of Terry Jones, the illiberal pastor in Florida, has not gone as far as 80% of Muslims.

And isn’t tolerance of other faiths what liberalism is really about?

Stoning for adultery? Similar result.

rjp said...

Yes but conservative Protestants don't believe that there is a night during which God can't see them so they can go out and partake in Man Love Thursdays.

Also conservative Protestants don't usually have sex with animals.

This is where I have a problem with surveys, people lie, answering the in manner they wish to be perceived or in the manner in which they perceive themselves.

In response to Dan H, Islam is is more than just a religion, it is basically considered a religion of the state, so when one leaves the state religion, maybe they are seen as being a traitor to the state/society. There is more to this than a Protestant becoming a Catholic.

pat said...

These kind of articles are difficult to react to, because there is no real agreement on the property space topology.

The simplest and most universally accepted property space topology is the left-right political stance that we have inherited from the seating arrangement of the Estates-General. We call conservatives rightists and liberals leftists. This is a one dimensional model.

In personality theory Eysenck had a two dimensional property space. Intelligence was one dimension and introversion-extroversion was orthogonal to it. Every person could then be mapped onto the plane with Cartesian coordinates.

Another two dimensional map of people might be intelligence crossed with political stance. This would yield smart conservatives, dumb liberals, smart liberals and dumb conservatives. People seem to think this way and argue that certain quarters are filled or empty. I think the evidence is that the scatter-gram is symmetrical.

But even with the simplest mapping of one dimension there is controversy. Witness the empty debate raised by Santorum over Romney's conservatism. Romney we kept hearing wasn't a real conservative.

The GOP website lists six issues that distinguish a Republican from a liberal. I added another half dozen like gun control, or welfare reform. Santorum, Romney and Gingrich end up with nearly identical scores. Obama maps very far from them, but on the basis of the issues, they all cluster very closely together.

There used to be a website that allowed you to rank yourself based on a quiz of real legislative proposals. You had to read the proposed law and then "vote". I came out more conservative than Gingrich but less conservative than Ashcroft. That seemed about right to me.

If people confined their judgements about left-right to questions like national defense or monetary policy there wouldn't be much controversy.

But alas people seem to confound rationality with religious dogma. When Santorum questioned Romney's conservatism he seemed to only mean that Romney was a Mormon. You can't just make fun of someones religion. Or rather a serious national candidate can't, I'll be happy to ridicule the Mormons for you or the Baptists or the Catholics. But Santorum, constrained from attacking LDS directly, seemed to adopt the term "real" conservative as a code word for non-Mormon.

Similarly Islam not in the same property space as what we normally think of as left-right.


Olave d'Estienne said...

I think Albertosaurus is exactly right. Rightist ideas about playing by the rules, forthrightness, respect culture and civic life as distinct from science, government, and everything else, don't apply to Muslims. Even more so, rightists have warm feelings toward individual accomplishment even though they are somewhat ambivalent about individualism.

Really, Muslims are from a dramatically different culture that is nothing like our own.

I do think that AE's post is an excellent one, because it shows how hollow "liberal" leftist "anti-conservative" feelings are. Leftists are anti-white, anti-civilization, anti-morality. If they were really anti-conservative, pro-woman, whatever, they would want to shut off immigration by Muslims faster than you can say Susan B. Anthony. I hear leftists kvetching about scary "fundamentalist" (Protestant) "right-wingers" (social conservatives, who often care nothing about the National Question). Yet none of them ever breathes a word of criticism against gay-stoning, wife-beating, abortion-hating Muslims. It no longer surprises me.

Anonymous said...


Have you done a post on this study?

Audacious Epigone said...

Dan H,

Great point. The WVS is designed around Western sensibilities, so there are a lot of potential questions that really highlight how wide the cultural chasm is that aren't asked at all.


The one dimensional left-right political topology definitely has limited usefulness when it comes to comparing cultural disparate groups like these. But as Noah alludes to, the point is to highlight how silly the Religious Right = Conservative Muslims insinuation is. Religious Right = Moderate Muslims doesn't even work, as the former are less socially conservative than the latter on a purely Western left-right social scale.

Audacious Epigone said...


No. That IBD article pretty much hits the major points (with a partisan flair). It's pretty straight forward, so I didn't think I'd be able to add much value by posting on it.