Friday, May 22, 2009

Conservative vs Republican, by demographic group

A couple of months ago, Stopped Clock wondered if "conservative Democrat" is more-or-less a synonym for politically engaged blacks. Among Democrats, blacks are more likely than other groups to be conservative, although not to the extent that the two phrases can be thought of as being synonymous.

The Pew US Religious Landscape survey suggests blacks are more likely than other groups to self-describe as conservative while still voting Democratic. The GSS allows racial groups to be looked at directly instead of just by proxy. The following table shows the proportion of a group's members who are politically conservative relative to the percentage who are Republicans. If 9 are conservative and 10 are Republican, it is displayed as 90 (9/10, multiplied by 100 for ease of viewing). The 1.5% of respondents who indicated membership to a third party are excluded, since specifics on which party are not given. To insure contemporary relevance, results are from 2000 to 2008:

Religious* blacks405.9
Black women365.7
All blacks347.1
Black men321.3
Educated** blacks316.9
Irreligious^ blacks282.9
Uneducated^^ blacks270.5
Religious Hispanics218.7
Hispanic women208.3
All Native Americans184.0
Educated Hispanics183.7
Uneducated Hispanics181.7
All Hispanics170.6
Native Hawaiians/PI162.5
Irreligious Hispanics148.2
Hispanic men142.1
Asian women123.5
All Asians112.8
All Jews102.6
Asian men101.7
Uneducated whites94.2
Religious whites93.6
White men88.0
All whites87.3
White women86.8
Educated whites85.3
Irreligious whites83.7

* Religious = Attending a place of worship at least once a week
** Educated = 16+ years of education
^ Irreligious = Attending a place of worship once per year at most
^^ Uneducated = 12 years of education at most

The percentages serve as a good gauge for social conservatism paired with support for redistributionist policies and special privileges for the disadvantaged--think of the values as anti-libertarian scores.

Face validity is apparent. The value for all blacks from the GSS is virtually identical to the value for those who claimed affiliation to historically black churches in the Pew survey (347.1% and 350.0%, respectively). Men tend to be more libertarian-leaning than women are among non-whites, while among whites there is little gender disparity. Jews and Asians are not only similar in educational and economic attainment, but politically as well.

The racial 'hierarchy' is not surprising. Notice, though, that race trumps education, gender, or religiosity in political orientation and partisan identification. Blacks of all stripes are disproportionately socially conservative Democrats. Whites across the board are more libertarian in their outlook than non-whites are. Hispanics fall in between, along with Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. Asians and Jews are as well, although they are nearer to whites than Hispanics are.

Frequency of attendance at places of worship better predicts conservatism than it does propensity to vote for the GOP.

Interestingly, higher educational attainment is associated with a stronger libertarian bent among whites while the opposite is the case among blacks. Put in another way, blacks with modest levels of education (high school or less) are more conservative than college-educated blacks are. For whites, the opposite is true. (That the value for all blacks and all Hispanics does not sit in between the values for educated and uneducated blacks and Hispanics, respectively, is a result of slightly different respondent pools and also the exclusion of the 13-15 years of education contingents).

GSS variables used: YEAR(2000-2008), RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10)(11-14)(15-16), JEW(1-4), ATTEND, SEX(1)(2), EDUC(1-12)(16-20), POLVIEWS, PARTYID(0-6)


Jokah Macpherson said...

Great post. I like the anti-libertarian score idea. The racial hierarchy is not surprising but I would not have expected it to be that clear cut either.

Regarding religiosity, I sometimes get the feeling that much of the public bile directed towards Christians has more to do with their propensity to hold the "wrong" political views than with any principled argument against religion.

Soul Searcher said...


I wish conservatives would stop framing everything as "elites" vs. the oppressed. I think the bile you reference is directed towards a very specific type of Christian, the oooga-booga Evangelical, and it simply arises from the cultural distance of those who have an "official" voice in the formalized structures of the Left's power - lawyers, doctors, journalists with official institutions like the APA with license to make official pronouncements - versus those who don't have the inclination to create such institutions of their own, alot of that probably due to differing natures. John Emerson, who comments over at GNXP, and who I understand to be some sort of socialist (no pejorative intended), really believes that his personal experiences confirm that most scientists believe conservatives to be stupid because of their opposition to their personal wedge issues of evolution and climate change. The dogma of PC isn't just crafted ex nihilo by some group complete with all-encompassing claims, but rather constituent groups of both sides expand on their most closely held beliefs about the nature of the world to incorporate the ideas of those closest to their social milieu, and from hence stems the messy amalgamation that define 'conservatism', 'liberal', 'libertarian', 'progressive', etc. If the entirety of PC thought was top-down constructed it would be remarkable that anyone actually believed it. Most groups are just rationally ignorant about issues they are not psychologically driven to claim jurisdiction over, and so accept their defining doctrine kit and kaboodle. Razib wrote a good post in the GNXP archives some time ago along those lines, when he told his story about second-generation Jewish friends he grew up with and their deep alienation towards fellow Southern Baptists, only a few of whom satisfied the "redneck" caricature, even though they might have been expected to have concordant views on say, Israel. I think another example would be the high-IQ "rationality cult" over at Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong, who nevertheless too often tend to accept Robin Hanson's glib "signaling" theories about everything that coincidentally that fits pretty neatly with their techno-nerd self images.

I take a pretty hard-line but non-evangelical atheist stance on religion's utility, which I think is better acknowledged by those capable as more of a tool, not an end. I particularly the Romans' frank use of their state religion as a political tool to achieve desired ends, whilst all the same preserving its unifying features. I am not sure how one rightly criticizes the left for failing to separate their values from the objective reality if the right is unwilling to modify itself to objective if changing realities - e.g., wedded to abolishing abortion in light of massive immigration.

Pyro said...

"John Emerson, who comments over at GNXP, and who I understand to be some sort of socialist (no pejorative intended), really believes that his personal experiences confirm that most scientists believe conservatives to be stupid because of their opposition to their personal wedge issues of evolution and climate change."

Liberals have their own glaring blind spots when it comes to science. Liberals are more likely than conservatives to believe that all radioactivity is man made, more likely to believe that the mother's genes determine the sex of a child, more likely to believe that astrology has a scientific basis.

Jokah Macpherson said...


I guess I wasn't very clear in my comment. The fact that the bile is directed specifically towards the ooga-booga (white, southern) Evangelical, who is probably the most likely to vote solid Republican is what makes me believe that it is a politcal war (or cultural, as you say), rather than a religious one.

The edictorial pages of major newspapers don't seem to target the AME or Episcopalian church much since they're more likely to be in the Democrat column.

Elites vs. oppressed is the language of politics whether it's whites vs. blacks, corporations vs. workers, corporations vs. environment, government vs. taxpayers, scientists vs. evangelicals, selfish mothers vs. fetuses, or xenophobes vs. illegal immigrants.

I will look for the Razib post you reference but first, Biscuitville.

Audacious Epigone said...


There's surely some truth to that. Were major media outlets pulling for a certain horse in the Episcopalian schism over the appointment of a gay bishop six years ago? And the term "Evangelical" carries a lot more baggage than "Protestant" or "Christian" does.


I share your general sentiment, although NPR's national programming, for example, seems to adhere to the PC orthodoxy almost without deviation. And on human biodiversity, outside the intellectual domains of various academics like anthropologist John Hawks and experimental psychologist Stephen Pinker, the Steveosphere is about the only public area where honest discussion is permitted.

Another example regarding Jews is their celebration or at least acquiescence to Hispanic immigration, despite the fact that the deluge is bad news for Jews.

Re: the Roman state religion, but if the populous begins to feel it has no stake in that religion and turns to something else, the state itself loses legitimacy for being tied to a tired mythology. Promoting Sol Invictus isn't enough once another truth has been bought into.


Are those findings coming from the GSS? I recall seeing them somewhere, but can't seem to place it. Any help?

Anonymous said...

Hell, I don't know what liberal or conservative means anyway nowadays. Self identification is often pretty inaccurate, and I wouldn't waste too much time analyzing GSS, since surveys that proffer a question along with set responses only invite self deception. What I'm saying is people don't know what in hell they think, because most don't!

When I am trying to feel out a person's political persuasion, I simply attempt to determine if that person belongs to either of the following two groups: the first group are people who believe that humans are good by nature (mostly blank slaters and liberals etc) and then there is the second group who believes that humans are by nature selfish and not so good (mostly Neo Darwinists and Hobbesian materialists).

Now I'm not sure which group is conservative or liberal, but a lot of political views (liberal, conservative, libertarian) can be extrapolated based on that criteria.

Blacks are more exposed to crime and disorder and thus view human nature more from a Hobbesian perspective. I spent 30 years as a police officer in a large American city, so I can say that with some authority. Blacks are socially pretty conservative.

On the other hand, a person's true political views (and personality) will be demonstrated most accurately in chaotic and stressful venues where people can be judged on their actions rather than their words.

Audacious Epigone said...


Where does the h-bd crowd fit into your spectrum? Seems to me that some people are genuinely altruistic while others are sociopathic. Individuals differ, mostly due to what they inherit and also due to environment and 'noise' (that is, what is presently not understood). Groups differ systematically as well.

While political self-descriptions are not terribly useful on an individual level, in aggregate they are--of those who consider themselves extremely liberal, 71.5% support abortion for any reason; of those who are extremely conservative, only 25.5% do. This is a simple but obvious example of how these descriptors are clearly not meaningless, even if they are imprecise.

Thanks for your service. You have balls. I've spent some time on KC's east side--I can only imagine what patrolling a night beat there must be like.