All opposed? (to family change)

Over on his Iranian Redneck blog, Darren Sherkat has an interesting series of posts on religion and attitudes toward same-sex marriage, using new data from the 2012 General Social Survey (fundamentalism, denominations, young Republicans 2x, race, and the 2004-2012 trend) — all extensions of his academic work on the subject (2x). All of this shows that, in addition to political conservatism, religious fundamentalists and people in sectarian Christian denominations are (or were) driving opposition to marriage rights.

But same-sex marriage (homogamy) is only one aspect of growing family diversity. I was reminded of a survey the Pew Research Center did with Time in 2010, called “The Changing American Family,” which asked a question I like:

These days there seems to be a growing variety in the types of family arrangements that people live in. Overall, do you think this is a good thing, a bad thing, or don’t you think it makes a difference?

I’m not sure what to make of the people who think it’s “good” versus those who think it makes “no difference.” But the people who think family diversity is a “bad thing” — 28% of the population — might be the definition of family conservatives. So who are they (or, who were they in 2010)? Think of them as the sky-is-falling set.

Couple looking up

The good people at Pew offer a data download, which (once you get it out of SPSS format) is pretty easy to use. Using religion, political affiliation, education, race/ethnicity, and some other demographic variables, I made a simple regression model that explained 19% of the variance in “bad thing” attitude. Rather than show the regression table, here are the bivariate relationships between “bad thing” and those characteristics (I also labeled the blocks with how much of the variance they independently explained).

bad-thingAs with Sherkat’s findings for same-sex marriage, the most important predictors of opposition to family diversity are religion and political affiliation – but religion is by far the strongest. For example, people who don’t think family diversity is bad were about 3-times more likely to never attend religious services. The absolute majority – 54% of people who chose “bad thing” – described themselves as born again Christians, and a quarter of them attend church more than once per week. The counter-stereotypical findings are:

  • Latinos are less likely to oppose family diversity than anyone else.
  • Those with high school education or less are the least likely to say “bad thing.” (In the multivariate model, college graduates also choose “bad thing” less, making the some-college crowd the most conservative.)

This is not a scientific study, but an illustrative exploration. I don’t know enough about the data collection to know how well these data could withstand peer review, or whether this could be done with a more rigorous dataset such as the General Social Survey. But I like the question, so figured I’d share the results.

3 thoughts on “All opposed? (to family change)

  1. “These days there seems to be a growing variety in the types of family arrangements that people live in. Overall, do you think this is a good thing, a bad thing, or don’t you think it makes a difference?”
    The key phrase here is “These days there seems to be…”
    What is untrue is that there is a growing variety of anything. Want single parents? The Bible has some fine examples dating back 3000 years. How about out-of-wedlock births? Shakespeare, Dickens, Two members of the same sex raising kids? The Bronts maybe?
    It is pure vanity or a liberal-minded adolescent romance for revolution and change (not to mention egoistic satisfaction) that drives the abolish-marriage movement to make gender completely irrelevant–to take a millenia-old historical movement and obliterate it by governmental fiat.
    If gender is irrelevant, then why not number too? Why not age or species?
    Instead of asking a relevant question, such as: “are you conservative because you approve of marriage itself?” the interviewers make the absurd ass-umption that political affiliation drives the (one can only assume the word is “irrational”) effort to deny marriage “equality.”
    “Professors” of sociology receiving grants and institutional endorsements to ask nonsense questions. What a country!


      1. Since the territory of the United States was homogenous native American, about 500+ years ago, the diversity of types of families and peoples that we have seen has certainly increased. But how can you write, as you do that “the diversity of family types” is growing? We already have all kinds of people here and all kinds of living arrangements well documented long before you were born.
        What you mean to say, it seems is that the US isn’t so white and protestant anymore as it was in 1950; what the data says is that demographics are changing. And this is news because why…????
        What we might infer from your misleading conclusion is that diversity is inherently good. This is debatable.
        Getting back to the institution of marriage (the topic around here), we can conclude that one type of family is entirely PREFERRED historically, that is a conjugal married couple.
        While marriage is at least an honest value-judgement (also debatable, but here I see no signs of any fair-minded assessment of the assertion yet), your persistence with “diversity” is entirely value-less and meaningless, and your insistence that types are growing is just incorrect.


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