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November 14, 2009

Creationism vs. Abortion, Left, Right, elites and the masses

Filed under: abortion,class,Culture,data,Evolution — David Hume @ 3:11 pm

As a follow up to the post below on Sarah Palin and Creationism, it strikes me that those on the Right & Republicans seem more divided and emotive on this issue than abortion. More specifically, libertarian and secular Rightists seem more likely to express their displeasure about Creationism than abortion. Why? A lot of it probably has to do with identity markers. Even if you are a pro-choice Republican, you know that the party’s position is pro-life, just as if you are a pro-life Democrat you know that the party’s position is pro-choice. Some of this was evident with the Stupak Amendment, where liberals blew a gasket. I personally support abortion rights and do not believe that a first trimester abortion should be made illegal. But I can understand why those who are pro-life would fight to prevent public funds, or the appearance of public funds, from going toward the provision of abortion. In contrast, many Left-liberals seem to be complaining about the amendment as if is a horrible deprivation of basic female health services, like a pap test. This is an instance of Left-liberals living in their own ideological bubbles, even if most Americans do not think abortion is murder, they do not conceive of it is as just another health service. (well, that’s obvious, as there are whole lobbies who are focused on abortion, pro and anti)

Moving to Creationism, there never seems to be a debate about this issue among Democrats. And yet black Americans are by and large Creationist. The difference between the political parties and ideologies isn’t that great. My own hunch is that the difference here between the two parties has to do with the degree of unanimity among the elites.

To explore these issue I looked to the GSS. In particular, the variables:

ABANY
EVOLVED
POLVIEWS
PARTYID
DEGREE

For PARTYID I looked only at Democrats and Republicans. For POLVIEWS I only looked at liberals and conservatives. For DEGREE, I created two categories, those with 4 year college degrees or higher, and those without. ABANY & EVOLVED are both dichotomous yes/true vs. no/false. I also limited to the sample to 1998 and later. Here are the exact questions for ABANY & EVOLVED:

Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if: The woman wants it for any reason?

Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals. (Is that true or false?)

The table below shows the difference between college and non-college educated among the two political parties and ideologies when it comes to evolution & abortion:

College vs. No College Degree

Evolution True
Percent Difference Ratio
Democrat 30.2 1.62
Republican 16.1 1.44
Liberal 31.3 1.58
Conservative 13.9 1.4
Abortion – Yes
Percent Difference Ratio
Democrat 27.1 1.67
Republican 6.2 1.21
Liberal 26.7 1.54
Conservative 3.3 1.13

The data above show that there is a difference between college educated and non-college educated in both variables, both as a raw percentage difference and as ratio. In both cases those with college degrees support abortion on demand and accept that human evolution is true more than those without college degrees. But, the difference between the elites and the masses among the Democrats/liberals is greater than among Republicans/conservatives, in particular on abortion, where among Republicans/conservatives there is convergence. Though the Republican/conservative education gap isn’t as large as for Democrats/liberals on evolution, it is far greater than for abortion.

The following table now compares the ratios of opinions within a particular category (e.g., college educated Republicans). The closer the ratio is to 1, the more balanced the opinion (i.e., 50% support abortion on demand and 50% oppose abortion on demand in a particular class means a ratio of 1).

Evolution Abortion
No College Degree
Democrat 0.95 0.69
Republican 0.57 0.41
Liberal 1.19 0.97
Conservative 0.54 0.35
College Degree+ Democrat 3.72 2.11
Republican 1.11 0.54
Liberal 5.99 3.15
Conservative 0.96 0.41

I put in bold ratios between 0.8 and 1.2, which indicates a balance of opinions within a demographic segment. When it comes to evolution, liberals and Democrats who are not college educated are divided, as are liberals without college degrees on  abortion on demand. When it comes to evolution, college educated Republicans and conservatives are divided! This to me explains why there is no controversy about evolution in the Democratic party, the Democratic elite is totally unified, and can ignore the masses. By contrast, the Republican masses are unified against evolution, while the elites are split. When it comes to abortion Democrat and liberal elites are exceptional in their support for abortion-on-demand. This goes back to my suspicion that the peculiar manner in which pro-choice Democrats talk about abortion emerges out of an ideological bubble where they simply never encounter anyone who might think that an abortion is a more morally charged health service than say a biopsy.

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