Guns, God and acceptable in-laws

 
An unhappy couple attends a wedding Liberals and conservatives have different opinions on who constitutes an acceptable spouse for their child

This week, the Pew Research Center released the largest political study in its history on what may be the most important issue in American politics - partisan and ideological polarisation. And we found that the right and left are divided over more than just politics.

Americans differ over what they want in a community, what types of people they want as neighbours and even over whom they would welcome into their families. (The full study is available here.)

In some ways, this last point may be most revealing: are Americans so politically divided that they would not like to see a family member marry someone from a different political party? For the public at large, a future in-law's partisan affiliation would be a minor factor: Just 9% say they'd be unhappy if a relative married a Republican, while about as many - 8% - would be unhappy with a Democratic in-law. Overwhelming majorities say it would not matter.

Yet these figures rise among those who hold consistent ideological attitudes and values: 30% of across-the-board conservatives would have a negative reaction to a relative marrying a Democrat, while 23% of consistent liberals would be bothered by a family member tying the knot with a Republican.

Other factors matter more, however. For the left, gun ownership would be a bigger potential negative than affiliation with the GOP. Nearly a third of across-the-board liberals would be unhappy if someone in their family married a gun owner. By contrast, gun ownership is a potential positive for many on the right: 49% of consistent conservatives say they'd be happy if a relative married someone who owned a firearm.

The Pew report revealed Americans are becoming more politically polarised in recent years. The BBC's David Botti looks at the numbers

The left and right make up a relatively small slice of the public - only 21% have ideologically consistent views across nearly all issues, but that figure has doubled over the past 20 years.

Among the public at large, the most negative reaction - among eight tested - would be toward a future in-law who did not believe in God. There is a huge divide between left and right over a relative marrying an atheist: it would be a problem for 73% of consistent conservatives but only 24% of consistent liberals.

Yet the gap is about as wide in positive reactions over a prospective in-law who is a "born again" Christian. A majority on the right - 57% - would be pleased if a family member married a born-again Christian; on the left, just 16% would have a positive reaction.

Large majorities of both conservatives (71%) and liberals (85%) say it would not matter if a relative married someone of a different race. Yet while the percentages are small, this would be a bigger potential negative for those on right than the left - 23% of consistent conservatives, compared with just 1% of consistent liberals, would be bothered by this.

On one level, these reactions may not be so surprising. We know that conservatives view religion as more important than do liberals, while liberals are more supportive of gun control than are conservatives. For both sides, these attitudes are a reflection of deeply held political opinions.

On the other hand, if the right and left have such profound differences over the traits and characteristics of potential in-laws, is it any wonder why they disagree so much about what to do in Washington?

Carroll Doherty is the director of political research at the Pew Research Center.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 78.

    67 mscracker
    What was written was "You are also not American so try and be respectful of other cultures"
    As far as I am concerned, as an American, anyone can say anything they want about America
    I can refute or support it, but a comment should not be silenced with this kind of criticism. If not respectful, thats part of his opinion

    Chris A's views are shared by many Americans anyway.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 77.

    Re 74. Just a further note - Bush Jr let Bill Clinton's 'Assault Weapons Ban' of 1994 expire in 2004 under pressure from the NRA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban When coupled with the 'well regulated militia' repeal by Jr's loaded SC in 2008, the 'assault weapons' recent landscape was a foregone conclusion! And much-more to come the logical forecast.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 76.

    @73.Agent 00Soul ,
    Thanks for the link. I'd say "reel" as opposed to "real."

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 75.

    @53 AllenT2
    Why shouldn't anyone have an opinion on a "domestic issue" in another nation?
    +++
    Seriously ?
    You really think that apartheid in South Africa was not considered a Domestic issue and subject to that same argument.
    It's no good saying we have the best country in the world regardless of how we behave.
    You have to behave like the Best in the world and hear from others to make a comparison

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 74.

    72. Why is the issue of gun ownership now freedom to buy whatever fire power is on offer from the semi automatic folks who also build automatics for the military? A rifle for hunting or a .38 for home security is a far cry from the weapons used in the Gabby Giffords, Aurora and Sandy Hook massacres! The 2008 SC decision trashed the 1939 ruling: Feds & States to decide firepower!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 73.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 72.

    268.Moonwolf,
    Sure, that's possible. It would be helpful to see how the questions were posed.
    And yes, I know all sorts of diverse folk who are gun owners.Hunting's becoming popular among people wanting "natural" foods.I know Mennonite pacifists who own firearms for huntng, too. It's not so much a political thing as practical.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 71.

    @Agent

    That is not what I said - re-read the preceding paragraph please.

    I've even called Mark Mardell out on some of his reporting of NDN issues with the same observation.

    In fact I would go further - if your opinions are shaped by TV shows or the media, they're even less likely to contain data.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 70.

    69. Moonwolf
    "If you have never been here, you're missing data."

    So by this definition, only people who have once traveled to a place being reported on and have sufficiently embedded themselves in the local culture should be posting? If so, it's not realistic.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 69.

    No-one is saying "stop posting" to anyone - if that was happening there'd already be a host of abused "Report" posts.

    But, if you have no direct experience of the culture, your opinions are likely to be absent aspects. I don't see any problem with pointing that out to people who post opinions.

    If you have never been here, you're missing data.

    And vice versa.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 68.

    (Repost to change language for mods)

    @mscracker

    I'm heathen, married to a Native American Pagan, I'm conservative he's liberal, we both own firearms, and both of us think the extremes on the spectrum are plain *expletive* crazy.

    But, the survey probably concentrated on born again Christians as it's the fastest growing religious tradition right now?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 67.

    65.bepa
    #53 AllenT2
    Why shouldn't anyone have an opinion on a "domestic issue" in another nation?
    What is your reasoning?"
    **
    I think the comments were asking for respect, not silence. Certainly everyone is entitled to an opinion, but cultures differ.Americans aren't unique in not taking that into consideration at times.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 66.

    This is an international news site and people should be encouraged to comment on any domestic policy of any country without being told to mind their own business. Should the BBC restrict comment to ISPs based only in the country a news story is set?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 65.

    #53 AllenT2

    Why shouldn't anyone have an opinion on a "domestic issue" in another nation?
    What is your reasoning?

    I have zero respect for Saudi Arabia not allowing women to drive cars. Should I be silent? I support Amnesty International which is very interested in human rights in other nations around the world. Are they wrong?

    I welcome reading what people in other nations think of US policies

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 63.

    I have no problem with gun ownership. I have a feeling this might be needed eventually considering this trend of polarization. I do hope that the youth dilute the electorate more quickly like some people have suggested but I do not know if it will happen soon enough. I am very frightened of the country of my youth being trashed by the economic views of the new conservative party of the '80's.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 62.

    I should have added"conservative atheist/agnostic" as well. "Born again Christian" doesn't describe all conservatives, nor all conservatives ' choice of spouse for their child.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 61.

    "A majority on the right - 57% - would be pleased if a family member married a born-again Christian; on the left, just 16% would have a positive reaction."
    **
    Was this question posed to Catholic,Mormon,Orthodox,Muslim, or Jewish conservatives?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 60.

    You find your facts where you want to. There seem to be those on the left that would find problems with born again inlaws and gun owners but this seems not to be a problem for the writer. Both sides are intolerant.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 59.

    53.
    AllenT2
    2 Hours ago

    bepa wrote:

    You can't just demand respect it has to be earned and even then people have a right to criticize those things they do not agree with.
    For a nation so big on freedom you yanks seem very keen on undermining it for others.

    Whether it is someone's culture to own a gun is another thing entirely.

 

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