Thursday, December 09, 2010

Young, Catholic, and Open-Minded

Surprising hope and a bit of humor appear in a skewed survey of young Roman Catholics. A big punchline of the study is that this group is largely more liberal and, well, swinging than their non-Catholic peers as well as older folk.

Regular readers know that I am wont to ridicule worship of studies. If you pardon the expression, Lord knows that faddish doctors (nearly all of them) wave the latest medical journal as though a single study makes them smart. Yet with that background, I was surprised at what I saw in Columbia, the Knights of Columbus, maggy from April. It was in the freebie pile at the public library and one of the lead articles led me to track down the study of 18 to 29 year olds.

The joint survey cited was by the KofC and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was thus tainted, but the science was as solid as most. They surveyed 2,243 Americans, including 1.006 millennials in from 12/23/09 through 1/4/10. We can quibble with the questions and their framing, but the results fascinate.

Click around searching for the survey and you'll find many news returns on the results. The vast majority are like they appear on the KofC site, featuring the most conservative and stereotypical wholesome answers. Where the survey PowerPoint appears, it only shows pages that reflect those good-kids results.

However, buried deep within the KofC main site and apparently not appearing in the Marist poll one are breakouts that show the surprising pattern. Judge for yourself in the long version here.

Amusingly at the top of everyone's alleged moral no-no list is Claiming someone else's work as your own. There is nearly no difference among Americans, Millennials, American Catholics and Catholic Millennials. All are either 91% or 92% saying it is morally wrong, with either 2 to 3% saying acceptable and 6 to 7% saying it is not a moral issue.

What is fascinating is that plagiarism and such top martial infidelity, business decisions motivated by greed, profiting from inferior goods or services, and abortion. Same-sex marriage is five more down the list, homosexual relations below that.

Moreover, fornication (Sex between an unmarried man and a woman in the survey) is near the bottom. This seems to be worth a chart.

For fornication, the survey reports:

AcceptableWrongNo Issue
Americans34%39%27%
Millennials35%33%32%
RC Americans39%29%31%
RC Millennials38%20%42%

Then for same-sex marriage, the survey reports:

AcceptableWrongNo Issue
Americans23%54%23%
Millennials28%47%25%
RC Americans23%48%29%
RC Millennials35%37%28%

Likewise, for homosexual relations, the survey reports:

AcceptableWrongNo Issue
Americans22%51%27%
Millennials27%44%30%
RC Americans24%45%31%
RC Millennials37%35%28%

It may be fair to question an RC school arm and an RC fraternal order's poll, but this was a large group and is likely as meaningful as most surveys out there. In the main, it shows an openness to societal realities and a larger culture.

I have seen that before, as far back as the mid-1960s. National surveys of attitudes toward moral issues, race, and religion invariably had one such outlier — Jews. Christians of all sorts were never as liberal about matters of sex, their own or others. They were quick to claim strong moral standards they seemed to want all to follow. Inevitably, it was Jewish Americans who were more forgiving and cosmopolitan.

Odd indeed that the guts of this survey have RC Millennials as the most open-minded of all. They are very slightly (and not statistically significantly different) stronger in opposing adultery. You could make the judgment that they are stronger in their moral objection to abortion — they are more against it than any of the other three sets. Interestingly enough, their high of 66% finding abortion morally wrong, comes not from the morally acceptable column, which is in line with all three other groups. Rather only 13% of RC Millennials said abortion is not a moral issue, as opposed to 20% of Catholics and Millennials in general, and 25% of all Americans. RC Millennials were decidedly the least ambiguous on this one issue.

Otherwise, they are more accepting of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, babies out of wedlock, and on and on.

I rather doubt these are the results the Marist Poll or KofC folk wanted. They certainly don't report them as such. Instead, their obfuscating analyses suggest that RC Millennials are paragons of morality.

I looked at the results and differ. This group appears to be paragons of tolerance. It is a good thing.

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