Friday, August 04, 2006

What Culture Wars? Asks Pew

Well Reuters got it first. A new Pew Research Center report calls the widely accepted meme of an American culture war "overblown."

Coming, Coming: The Pew site has not posted the report and the dailies seem to have only the Reuters item. We shall analyze this as the whole thing becomes available to hoi polloi. And an update from this early-morning post. The report appears on the site now, in summary and a full 30-page PDF file.

After surveying 2,003 Americans, the Center concluded, "Despite talk of 'culture wars' and the high visibility of activist groups on both sides of the cultural divide, there has been no polarization of the public into liberal and conservative camps."

Everyone (often including us) sees the extremes and extrapolates from there. Many cry that they are oppressed and stifled by the raging ideologues on the other side. Meanwhile if this survey is accurate, the rest of the nation wants middle ground, slow change, and just to, well in the American way, get on with what they were doing.

Pew asked about five prominent issues -- abortion rights, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, adoption by homosexual couples, and the morning-after pill -- and surprisingly most of those surveyed "did not take consistent stances," reports Reuters. "

Liberal-ish views won, but remained weak. It was as though we had no real opinions and maybe didn't follow these key issues. Specifically:
  • 12% were conservative on all five issues and 22% liberal. The rest were mixed
  • 56% opposed SSM, but 53% favored something with marriage-like rights, such as civil unions.
  • 49% believe homosexuals cannot become ex-homosexuals (up from 42% on the same question 3 years ago), and 36% believe one is born homosexual, up from 30%.
  • 56% favored stem-cell research and 325 did not. Shockingly, 575 had heard little or nothing about the issue.
  • The most polarization the survey found was on abortion. It reports 31% want general availability, 20% allowed but restricted, 35% illegal with a few exception, and 9% banned absolutely.
So there you have it, or not. Let us muse on the possibility that Americans are not so much conservative as politically inert. Our implication at first glance is that change will continue to be slow, but easier to keep in a progressive direction.

Methodological note: Pew conducted the telephone survey from July 6th through 19th. It says the margin of error is 2.5%.

Followup note: More detail now appears on the SSM-related areas of the report here.

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Mark D. Snyder said...

The statistic here that I find scary is the stem cell research one. I wonder if the fact that 575 people never heard of it, or just a little bit, means that it would be very easy for the republican media machine to spread fear and misinformation to those folks about the issue.

The ex-gay statistic is slightly promising, it beats the margin of error. I might guess that the fact that that issue has been in the media a lot, and the gays were totally winnning the media game, really helped.

massmarrier said...

Well, I'm frequently willing to blame TV news for much of American ignorance, but I fear it lies more with the bulk of us. If you look at how many people don't know much about these hot topics, it's astounding and frightening.

Only abortion has really strong convictions.

I find it encouraging that folks are finally, slowly getting the innate nature of homosexuality. This suggests that the "lifestyle" excuse to discriminate will eventually fade into nothing. Damn, it's taking a long time and meanwhile many of our legislators don't get it yet.