The Opinionated American Public.

American religious affiliation:

70.6 percent: Christian in some way, shape, or form.

23 percent: None. I’m not sure that this tells us very much about their social views.

21 percent: Catholic.

15 percent: “mainstream” Protestants.

If 93.6 percent of Americans are Christians or “nones,” then the remaining 6.4 percent are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other faiths that don’t come to mind at the moment.

If 70.6 are Christian and 36 percent belong to one of the “mainstream” religions, then 34 percent belong to some other variant of Christianity. This suggests that something between 30 and 34 percent of Americans belong to non-mainstream Protestant churches. OK, there is a small bunch of Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I don’t know if Mormons get counted as “mainstream” Protestant. However, the majority probably belong to the free churches that dot the suburbs.[1] (Probably no role for Bing Crosby as the minister of one of these churches.) However, if there are 15 percent of Americans in “mainstream” Protestant churches and 30 percent in non-mainstream Protestant churches, then the non-mainstream Protestants would appear to be the mainstream and the mainstream Protestants would appear to be the non-mainstream. If you see what I mean. The media just haven’t caught up to this reality. It’s a “Christian” country and, within that, a “Protestant” country.

The decade and a half since 9/11 has been hard on American views of Islam. More than half (55 percent) of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam, while 21 percent have a favorable view. Almost a quarter of Americans aren’t sure.[2] The math says that a lot of the “favorables” and “not sures” must come from the 70.6 percent who self-identify as Christians.

The Republicans opposed gay marriage. How did that work out for them? The Republicans are opposed to illegal immigration.[3] A recent poll showed that 29 percent of Americans want to round up and ship home all the illegal immigrants now in the United States.   In contrast, 57 percent of Americans—essentially twice as many—want to let them stay and grant them the right to apply for citizenship. Only 11 percent favor granting the illegals “green cards” to stay in the United State, but barring them from pursuing citizenship.[4]

Savings patterns by income groups are a sort of opinion poll.[5] “How important is it to save for a rainy day or the monsoon of old age?” Eight percent of lower-income households save more than 15 percent of their income; Twenty-five percent of households earning between $50K and $75K save more than 15 percent of their income; and Seventeen percent of higher-income households save more than 15 percent of their income.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 22 May 2015, p. 15.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 24 April 2015, p. 17.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 22 May 2015, p. 15.

[4] Disclosure: this is my own position. The illegals came to the United States illegally. They can’t be allowed to crowd in ahead of people who took their turn. To do so would b to privilege those immigrants who have the easiest access to the United States across a land border over those who would have to cross the Pacific or the Atlantic. I admit that this is an argument that will resonate more in Britain than in France or Italy. On the other hand, I’m also in favor of open borders. Massive immigration of ambitious people would do the USA a lot of good. However, I’m also in favor of democracy and the rule of law. The fact that a lot of Republican businessmen want cheap labor and a lot of Democratic politicians imagine that Hispanics will vote Democratic doesn’t mean that the laws should just be ignored.

[5] The Week, 10 April 2015, p. 30.

Some American Public Opinion in Spring 2015.

Standardized testing has been all the rage among educational reformers for more than a decade.[1] Only 20 percent of Americans think that it has done more good than harm to the students or the schools; 49 percent think that it has done more harm than good; and 31 percent “don’t know.” However, “don’t know” isn’t one of the options on a standardized test. Would it count as a correct answer if it was an option?

Americans frequently “don’t know” where they stand on public issues, but that isn’t the case with gay marriage. Today 61 percent favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.[2] Opposition to gay marriage rallies 35 percent. That leaves just 4 percent who don’t know.

Reading the statistics above can obscure, rather than clarify, where Americans stand on the issue. Liberal media and public figures heaped abuse on Indiana’s “religious freedom” law on the grounds that it permitted discrimination against gays. Polls revealed that 49 percent of Americans agreed with the law’s critics. However, 47 percent believed that wedding-related businesses should be able to refuse their services to gay couples. Naturally, the vast majority of the dissenters were Republicans (68 percent), but a third of Democrats (33 percent) also supported business’ “right to choose.”[3]

Support for capital punishment has been slipping in America in recent decades. In 1988, 78 percent favored the death penalty for murder. In 2015, 56 percent support the death penalty for murder. Slightly more of the nation, 60 percent, supports imposing the death penalty on Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber.[4] However, opposition to the death penalty is stronger among some groups than among other groups. Thus California juries are more willing to assign someone the death penalty than are California judges to allow the penalty to be carried out. Currently, there are 751 people on death row in California, but there have been no executions in almost ten years.[5] In a remarkable demonstration of core values, in early April 2015, 62 percent of Boston voters favored sentencing Dzhokar Tsarnaev to life in prison, rather than to death, if/when he was convicted for his part in the Boston Marathon bombing.[6]

The following is no new thing, but it has come to the attention of white America as a reasonable possibility. While 61 percent of all Americans express “great” or “fair” confidence in their local police, the number plummets to 36 percent among African-Americans.[7] That means that 39 percent don’t feel “great” or “fair” confidence in their local police. Who are these people? They can’t all be members of the ACLU. Since African-Americans make up about 11 percent of the population, that would suggest that 7-8 percent of the American population (the two-thirds of the 11 percent who are African-American) lack “great” or “fair” confidence in their local police. If 39 percent of Americans over-all lack “great” or “fair” confidence in their local police, then 31-32 percent of Caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic Americans also lack “great” or “fair” confidence in their local police. The crisis of confidence in local police reaches far beyond high school students rioting in Baltimore when they should be in study hall.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 3 April 2015, p. 15.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 8 May 2015, p. 17. Of course the phrasing of the statement allows for the comic possibility that many Americans think that gay men want to marry lesbians. “Marriage means one man and one woman.”   So that would be—you know—OK.

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 17 April 2015, p. 17.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 1 May 2015, p. 17.

[5] The Week, 10 April 2015, p. 14.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 3 April 2015, p. 15.

[7] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 8 May 2015, p. 17.