To examine racial and religious differences in views toward abortion, we examine Pew’s question, “Do you think abortion should be, legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases, illegal in all cases” for both Blacks and Whites in different religious groups by education in Figure 1
and Figure 2
and Figure 2
present the findings of our regression analysis for both Blacks and Whites in different religious groups by education.17
At lower levels of education, Blacks and Whites are not overall very different on abortion: For instance, at nine years of schooling there is little difference (0.29) between Whites of no religion (2.49) and Blacks of no religion (2.2). Previous literature has suggested that Blacks are more supportive of abortion than Whites (Strickler and Danigelis 2002
), yet we find this is only true at higher levels of education. Moreover, studies have suggested this is a result of less religious (Evans 2002
) Blacks; although this figure shows, Blacks of no religion have the most conservative positions, aside from Black Catholics with under 15 years of education.
Education is positively correlated to more liberal views on abortion, as is the accepted wisdom in the literature (Evans 2002
; Jelen and Wilcox 2003
; Kiecolt 1988
; Petersen 2001
), but it has much greater effects for some groups than for others—most notably little effect on White Conservative Protestants who are known to be, along with Catholics, most resistant to liberalization on this issue (Abramowitz and Saunders 2008
; DiMaggio et al. 1996
; Emerson 1996
). Overall, the education effect is similar for Blacks and Whites on abortion, such that Black Protestants look closer to White Mainline Protestants than they do to their more theologically similar White Conservative Protestants. In fact, at the highest levels of education, Black Protestants show the highest acceptance (3.04), while White Conservative Protestants have the lowest (2.39).
3.2. Gay Marriage
We present the findings for the responses of Blacks and Whites in different religious groups by education to the question: “Do you strongly favor (4), favor (3), oppose (2), or strongly oppose (1) allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?” in Figure 3
and Figure 4
and Figure 4
show, in contrast to their views on abortion on which education is correlated modestly with more progressive views, education has a much smaller effect on Black Protestants’ views on homosexuality. On this issue, like White Conservative Protestants, they remain relatively conservative regardless of their educational backgrounds. In comparison, education is liberalizing for other Black religious groups.
Unlike abortion, Blacks of no religion are more progressive than most other black religious groups, after 11 years of education. Still, even the most progressive Blacks remain more conservative than all other Whites in groups except Conservative Protestants.
Other than the strong effect of education for Blacks of no religion, there is, by and large, much less variation among Blacks regarding gay marriage.18
This means that at their most highly educated, Blacks vary from a high of 2.8 for Blacks of no religion to a low of 2.5 for Black Catholics on gay marriage (mid-way between favoring and opposing gay marriage). This is much less variation than compared to the variation in Whites, where Whites of no religion are a 3.2—far above the score that represents “favoring” legal gay marriage—but White Conservative Protestants are a 2.3—close to unilaterally “strongly opposing” legal gay marriage.
3.4. Political Party Identification
The picture regarding political identification for Blacks by religion and education is remarkably similar to that regarding redistribution. Our five-point scale with Republicans (1), Republican-leaning Independents (2), Independents (3), Democrat-leaning Independents (4), and Democrats (5) is presented in Figure 7
and Figure 8
The low variation among Blacks compared to Whites is visible within Figure 7
and Figure 8
. Blacks of all religious persuasions are more Democrat leaning (3.8–4.5) than all White groups. It also demonstrates that at all levels of education, all Black groups are more likely to identify with the Democratic party than any White group, even among Whites with other religions and Whites of no religion with the highest levels of education.
Black Americans with no religion are the only Black subgroup that are significantly impacted by education. Unlike their White counterparts of no religion who tend to be more progressive and Democratically identified than other White groups, Blacks of no religion are the least Democratically identified Blacks. In fact, Blacks of no religion, below 13 years of education, are the only Black (non)religious group who report lower than Democrat-Leaning Independents (4). That said, they are still stronger Democrats at their lowest identification than any White religious groups at their highest education and Democratic affiliation.
Like abortion and gay marriage, education is significant for all White religious groups. However, similar to redistribution, White Conservative Protestants are unique to their White counterparts in the impact of education: Higher levels of educational attainment are correlated with more Republican identifications. This is true also for White Catholics, albeit to a lesser, but still significant, extent.
3.5. Differences among Black Protestants
The analysis presented above examines the key religious groups in the US for both Blacks and Whites. As the existing research to date almost exclusively examines Black Protestants on these issues, if it examines Blacks at all, the addition of Black Catholics, Blacks of other religions, and Blacks of no religion is a contribution, in and of itself. Our findings suggest that while many have attributed Blacks’ progressive stances on redistribution and strong support for the democratic party to the role of the Black Church—it seems that race is a much bigger factor than religion on all four of the issues we examine here.
However, up until now, we have not examined any possible differences among the three-quarters of Blacks who identify as Black Protestants. When we do so, using the new coding scheme developed by (Shelton and Cobb 2017
), we can see that there is substantial variation among Black Protestants. Table 3
presents the results of our regression analysis on all dependent variables. We discuss each of these in turn below.
demonstrates the varied influence of education for various Black Protestant denominations on different political issues. For instance, for Baptists, higher education is correlated with more progressive views toward abortion, homosexuality, and political party identification, while Blacks in Historically White Evangelical Protestant denominations do not show an effect of education for any political issue.
Of all the political issues, education has the largest effect on views toward abortion for all Black Protestant groups, besides Methodists, as seen in Figure 9
. This is in alignment with the findings from our nine-category race and religion model where education was not significant for Black Protestants’ identification with a political party and had minimal effect on views toward gay marriage and redistribution.
Not including Methodists, at nine years of education, all groups are relatively unsupportive of abortion (with scores contained largely between 2.1 and 2.2). Although the influence of education was significant when looking at Black Protestants as a group, education is not significant for Methodists, who hold the most progressive views of all Black Protestant groups from nine to 15 years of education, and those in Historically White Evangelical denominations, who remain conservative like their White Conservative Protestant counterparts.
At the highest levels of education, Blacks in Historically White Mainline denominations, Baptists, and Methodists indicate abortion should be legal in most cases. This more closely resembles the acceptance we saw of Black Protestants as a group than the more conservative beliefs of those in Non-denominational, Historically White Evangelical, and Holiness/Pentecostal denominations. These findings corroborate the importance of distinguishing denominational affiliation for Black Protestants.
Compared to the range in support for abortion, Figure 1019
shows even more variation in views toward gay marriage at the highest levels at education.
At the highest levels of education, Holiness/Pentecostals are again the most conservative and oppose gay marriage with a score of 1.9. This is a full point lower on the Likert scale of support than the most progressive group, Historically White Mainline Denominations who come close to favoring gay marriage (2.9). Under 12 years of education, Historically White Evangelicals are the most likely to oppose gay marriage; however, at the lowest level of education, this is less than half a point lower on the scale of support than Methodists (the most progressive group). Like abortion, the gap in support widens with educational attainment.
When looking at Black Protestants as a whole, education has a significant but small effect (0.044) on views toward gay marriage. However, when we take a closer examination at different denominations, education is significantly more likely to be connected with more progressive views for Baptists, Methodists, and those in Historically White Mainline Protestant denominations. Unlike any other Blacks in religious groups, education increases demonstrate more conservative viewpoints for Holiness/Pentecostals, although this effect is not significant. These findings reiterate the need to disaggregate the Black Protestant category.
shows that all Black religious groups are for redistribution. Education does not significantly influence any Black Protestant denomination’s views toward redistribution.
In terms of views toward redistribution, those in Historically White Mainline denominations are the most progressive at all years of education. Still, the variation amongst groups decreases throughout additional years of education at the highest years of education, and the difference between the most progressive (Historically White Mainline at 0.8) and least progressive (Historically White Evangelicals at 0.7) is marginal. This is a change from views on abortion and gay marriage, where Holiness/Pentecostals are the least progressive group at higher levels of education; however, they still hold the most conservative under 14 years of education.
As would be predicted from our nine-category race and religion model, the results of political identification for Black Protestants notably resemble the picture presented regarding redistribution. Figure 12
shows the lack of education effect we saw in Black Protestants as a group on political identification is mirrored closely by all denominations but Baptists.
Baptists are the only Black Protestant group who are significantly influenced by education in their political party identification. While increased education demonstrates more Democrat identification for Baptists, it is somewhat (but not significantly) related to more Republican affiliations for those in Non-denominational, Historically White Evangelical, and Historically White Mainline denominations. Here we see that Historically White Evangelicals are again among the less progressive religious groups.
Only three groups surpass the threshold of 4.5 (mid-way between Democrat and Democrat-leaning Independent). Methodists at all years of education, Baptists after 14 years of education, and those in Historically White Mainline denominations before 15 years of education. Still, at all levels of education, every Black Protestant group is above Democrat-leaning Independent (4).