Current Research – March 2018

In a new study, researchers find that Republicans who view God as actively involved in the world tend to support more generous welfare policies, in opposition to their party’s platform. The study, conducted by Paul Froese and Robert Thomson and published in the journal Sociological Forum (online January 30), is based on an analysis of the Baylor Religion Survey (2007 wave). The authors note that Republicans are consistently and distinctly more conservative on both issues of social justice and retributive justice than Democrats. Conservatism predicts negative views toward such policy positions as distributing wealth more evenly, improving the standard of living for ethnic minorities, seeking social and economic justice, and taking care of the sick and needy. “Conservatives who feel close to God tend to go to church more, volunteer more, but are also more likely to want help from the government to take care of the poor. Republicans with a distant God tend be less compassionate,” according to Froese and Thomson. The sample size was 1,588 respondents, excluding atheists because they did not have an image of God to compare with other respondents’ perceptions. The group’s makeup was 41 percent Republican, 37 percent Democrat, and 22 percent Independent.

(Sociological Forum:

A survey of 9,500 individuals between 2010 and 2014 that traces their religious journeys finds considerable movement both into and out of non-denominational churches. In an article in Christianity Today (February 20), the study finds that Catholics tend to stay in their church, changing churches less than half as often as Americans as a whole (8.8 percent compared to 18.9 percent). Of the 2,112 Catholics in the study, 39 became Protestants, six became Orthodox, and three became Buddhists. The defection rate from Protestantism was about the same as Catholicism (9.1 percent). Switchers tend to leave Christianity altogether, with 6.4 percent becoming agnostics, atheists, or “nothing in particular.” Within Protestantism there was considerable switching, with 16 percent changing from one Protestant group to another. Since 9 percent have left completely, this means that 25 percent of Protestants changed their religious affiliation over the course of four years.

As has often been noted, the major beneficiary of such switching is the burgeoning non-denominational movement, with non-denominational churches comprising the second-largest category of all Protestants. But non-denominational congregations also show the largest number of defections. About 24 percent of all members of non-denominational churches—almost one in four—switched churches. This is double the number of Baptists (12 percent) and Methodists (12.9 percent) who changed, and nearly three times the number of Episcopalians (8.6 percent) and Lutherans (8.6 percent). Baptists received the largest share of non-denominational switchers, with 6.1 percent. Others migrate to even less definable groups, with 5.6 percent selecting “none of these” on the survey, according to researcher Ryan Burge.

(Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188)

A study by the American Psychological Association finds that fewer Americans are engaging in prayer to relieve stress. The survey of 3,440 adults finds that the public’s overall stress level remains the same as the previous year’s, with an average level of 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stress. But how Americans respond to stress is changing. Only 29 percent of Americans polled said they pray to relieve stress, a steady decline from the high of 37 percent recorded in 2008. While a growing number of Americans are turning to alternative spiritual practices such as meditation and yoga, they are still not very widespread, with only 12 percent of Americans reporting they meditate or do yoga, up from 9 percent in 2016. Listening to music (47 percent) and exercising (46 percent) were the main ways of relieving stress.