Study Proves Existence of Religious Left

Apparently, by using “communal” indicators for religious involvement instead of “individual” indicators, you can find a whole lot of politically liberal, religious folks out there whose existence hasn’t been plumbed by previous studies on the topic of religious identity and politics.

See a press release from the University of Florida here, announcing the release of the study headed by UF professor Kenneth Wald. A juicy tidbit from the publication: 

American commentators, scholars and the public have assumed Republicans are more religious because studies have gauged devotion by such traditional measures as daily prayer, Scripture reading and regular church attendance, Wald said. Such individual acts of piety are important to evangelical Protestants, who tend to vote Republican, he said.

“We sensed there was a style of religious attachment that is less individualistic and more focused on the social and communal aspects of people’s lives,” Wald said. “This orientation is much more based on who one’s friends and family are and how involved one is with the life of the religious community.”

The researchers first proposed broadening the scope of questions about religious practices in the 2006 American National Election Studies Pilot Study survey of 675 people, and the ANES later incorporated them into its regular 2008 presidential election year survey of 2,100. Respondents who scored high on these newly included communal measures of religiosity were much more likely to vote for Democratic candidates for both Congress in 2006 and president in 2008, he said.

(Unsurprisingly, by the way, Prof. Wald is apparently teaching a course called “Religion and Public Policy” and another called “Survey Research” this semester.)

I guess we all knew it was true for Jews that religiously involved Jews were at least as likely to be liberal as conservative . The ostensible chiddush here is that many religiously committed Christians support progressive policies as well. Is this surprising?

4 Responses to “Study Proves Existence of Religious Left”

  1. For similar reasons, I find the statistics about whether young Jews are lighting candles, marry Jewish, and other metrics pretty unreflective of how I’m Jewish. We’re being measured by an old yardstick. And of course, I’ve long pointed out that it’s not a phenomenon limited to the Jewish community — it happening to American youth at large, Jews among them.


    Kung Fu Jew · November 2nd, 2009 at 3:36 pm
  2. It’s not surprising to me at all. It only confirms statistically what I’ve long sensed anecdotally.


    David A.M. Wilensky · November 2nd, 2009 at 7:42 pm
  3. None of this Jewish discussion about Christian findings seems to take into consideration that there are all kinds of ways of “doing Jewish” that are not connected to religion or ritual behavior.

    The Jews I know of who are politically conservative tend to be religiously Orthodox, and their conservative (small C) positions are based on what’s good for their institutions (e.g., vouchers). Whether Reform Jews are liberals because of the historic universalistic social action mode of the movement or whether the liberalism of its members drives that of the movement, I’m not sure.

    Chilul Who says “I guess we all knew it was true for Jews that religiously involved Jews were at least as likely to be liberal as conservative.” I for one didn’t know that — in my experience, religiously involved Reform Jews are twice as likely to be liberal as conservative. So only if you’re equating religious with Orthodox – chas v’chalila — might that assertion be true.


    Larry K · November 2nd, 2009 at 8:38 pm
  4. “Twice as likely” still falls in the category of “at least as likely”.


    BZ · November 2nd, 2009 at 8:44 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik