Data-Mining Denominations: Same-Sex Marriage Edition

Grooms at a same-sex wedding. Image via

We’re running out of Mondays before the Supreme Court hands down its ruling on the constitutionality of marriage equality. Ahead of the expected decision, the polling firm Public Religion Research Institute released a round-up of its data, titled appropriately enough “Everything You Need to Know about Same-sex Marriage for the Upcoming SCOTUS Case.”

Following that lead, it seems like a good time to review where various religious traditions come down on the question. Using PRRI’s data, I put together a couple of charts to illustrate.

The first is relatively straightforward: on the vertical axis, the size of the group. On the horizontal axis, their support for same-sex marriage.

Hover over the circles to get more information about that tradition. A couple of geek notes here:

  1. “Sample” refers to the number of participants in the PRRI poll, out of a total of about 40,000. They’re roughly proportional to the size of that group in the population.
  2. I’ve given the vertical axis a log scale so you can make out the smaller groups.
  3. PRRI divides certain groups into Evangelical and Mainline camps, hence the “Ev.” and “M” in front of some labels.

These results aren’t terribly surprising. It does illustrate just how wide a spread there is between different traditions, all the way from 12 percent approval among Jehovah’s Witnesses to 94 percent support in the admittedly small Unitarian-Universalist sample. If you’re curious, the “pro” traditions outweigh the “con,” 23068 to 12530. The “Nones” are both big and supportive of marriage equality.

The second chart shows where people are by intensity, measured with the simple hack of subtracting the number of people Strongly Opposed to same-sex marriage from the number Strongly In Favor.

Not surprisingly, since the Unitarian-Universalists only had 6 percent opposed, their position on the chart hardly budged at all. Other groups traveled a little more. Mainline Baptists, for example, strongly disapprove just a little more than they strongly approve. Evangelical Baptists, on the other hand, really, really dislike same-sex marriage, as do evangelical members of the Churches of Christ or Disciples of Christ.

Interestingly enough, Orthodox Christians—a tradition hardly known for its liberalism—hover around Hindus, both in size and net approval.

My unscientific guess? We’ll probably see both pros and cons continue to move in their respective directions, with precious little left in the middle. And of course, that big blue ball in the upper right will continue to get bigger, but that’s a chart for another day.


  •' Jim Reed says:

    UUA is united at 94%. If you drew this chart 5 years ago, where would they be? Far out, or toward the middle? They may be following a pattern of tightly pushing away from Baptists, and influencing each other. I don’t know yet if this means anything, but they might be a test case of what happens when you reject Baptists and evangelicals. The nones only have weak influences over them, so the group moves slowly. The UUs get together at church every week and influence each other, so when things start going in a progressive direction, the group just moves faster. Could this possibly be showing us where we will end up many years from now as Christianity continues to lose influence over society?

  •' cmbennett01 says:

    The UUs have always been way out there. The only thing that surprises me is that 6% don’t support SSM. They probably didn’t hear the question right.

  •' William Burns says:

    Muslims at 42% support? Interesting, although it could be just a small sample.

  •' lsomers says:

    The more adverse self-styled Christians are to equal rights for everyone, the less they have to do with the real Jesus, his teachings, his life and his legacy. The more like the Scribes and Pharisees they actually are; you know those folks Jesus called hypocrites: Matt 23 passim “They invent heavy burdens and lay them on folks’ shoulders, but they themselves won’t lift a finger to move them. Everything they do they do for show. ,,, They love the best couches at banquets and the prominent seats in synagogues (churches) and respectful greetings in marketplaces and having everyone call them Rabbi.” …”You scholars (teachers) and Pharisees (preachers), you are imposters! Damn you! You slam the door of the empire of Heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves don’t go in and you block the way of those trying to go in.” … “You scholars and Pharisees, you imposters! Damn you! You’re like whitewashed tombs; on the outside they look beautiful but are full of dead bones and every kind of decay. So you look like upright people on the outside, but on the inside you are doing nothing but posturing and subverting the law.” Scholars Version from the Jesus Seminar’s “The Complete Gospels”. Baptists in general, along with the so called fundamentalists and evangelicals are so far from the Empire of God taught by Jesus that you will never even see the first hings of the dawn there.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Those Jesus quotes are really just another level of the church trying to trick you. As religions fail, they constantly blame the last guy and reclaim the righteous high ground. That just makes the problem continue for another round. It will continue until we say forget Jesus, forget the church, forget religion. There is only humanity, and the environment. We can’t work for them until we stop preaching religion.

  •' Judith Maxfield says:

    This is sad. For me:cherrypicking such passages were morphed into the later persecution of the Jews as time lost and forgot the beginning. There was a time I probably would have said the same thing publicaly and have. I take theology seriously and now am very uncomfortable with the standard criticism of the Pharisees and company. It was Luke, not Jesus who made this claim and its only a small part of the N.T. Luke was a later writer, trying to make the Romans look good to have Christianity more acceptable. Soblame the Jews. To me, it far more truthful to understand the time and circumstances Matthew was written, the why and where. What was happening to the fledgling church in turmoil? There are now serious theological / scholarly “best guesses” and hopefully, some answers. We need to be more careful. Are we not using the Gospel to condemn? Our anger will not change a thing but the authentic kindness and the gentility of Christ in us can. I experienced this in meeting a young priest and his family who visited my Episcopal church for Pentecost. He is from the conservative and questionable “anglican” Church of N. America, a group who broke off from the Episcopal Church (recognized by the C of E) and has caused endless grief and comdemnation for the rest of us. How could I be unkind to a newly ordained young man, eager to serve, who probably knows nothing this story? I truly enjoyed our conversation. A good lesson, not that hard.

  •' fiona64 says:

    The more adverse self-styled Christians are to equal rights for
    everyone, the less they have to do with the real Jesus, his teachings,
    his life and his legacy.

    Exactly so.

  •' George M Melby says:

    As a retired Baptist minister/hospital-hospice Chaplain, I left the Baptist church the day I retired and became a “real” Christian the next day, at a church which was an inclusive fellowship of ALL God’s children, not just the ‘frozen chosen’. I now enjoy full support within the Mennonite-USA fold in a GLBT supportive climate… “WHAT a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine”! 🙂

  • Blacks still aren’t treated 100% equal since the 1960s/1970s. Heck, even woman aren’t treated equally. This won’t change anytime soon, regardless of legislation. Which also has the ability to white wash history with the old “Oh, he wasn’t a ‘real’ Christian”… The pass given to Hitler, the KKK, doctor killers, slave traders, etc. . Yes it is wonderful having legal rights, priveleges and protections, but I live in Boston Massachusetts, right in the middle of the city, all I have to do to chance being called a “faggot” and come into so physical harm, just for walking into a store, is walk a few minutes outside the city. In the USA, class, rights, laws, protections, powers, etc. are all part of culture unfortunately, there will never be true equality until there actually is the equal number of all kinds of people, when there will be no minorities. This will never happen unfortunately !

  •' Matthew Berry says:

    It is hard to escape the fact that Jesus was probably illiterate, certainly from a particularly xenophobic background, and most importantly was an apocalyptic preacher who fervently believed the world was on the verge of being remade in very violent fashion.

    The caricature of literate groups within first century Judaism is an example of this; what they were actually doing in Jewish society, as far as can be worked out, was not particularly egregious, and in seeking to lead ritually pure lives, not original. In the eyes of Jesus and other apocalyptic preachers, these groups were tainted by association with the Romans. The solution to this problem was not seen as a non-violent one, and drew a great deal of inspiration from the Maccabean revolt.

    It is hard to harmonize this background and life with a message of universal equal rights, except within a group defined to include these apocalyptic preachers, and to exclude their enemies. Maybe that’s what you get in Paul and Acts, but that’s no longer Jesus.

  •' Chris Larosa says:

    Isomers – you are most certainly a kindred spirit. I have been regurgitating Matthew 23, especially verse 13 for 2 years now and I’m not sure any of these people get it. It’s so painfully clear to me, as a believer of 30 years, and a guilty member of the Modern Pharisees for the preponderance of that period, that much of the Church has slid into this awful role of oppressors and hypocrites and are no longer the light and salt of the world as Christ has called us to be. The ramifications of this are everywhere in our society. And if the People of God won’t be the reconcilers and those that ‘set the captives free’, then the unbelieving populace will be used by the Holy Spirit to do so…which is precisely what we see him doing now. All-the-while we have the SBC and right-wing Christians (I refuse to refer to them as ‘conservative’ anymore) calling down the fires of Heaven and declaring Satan himself has taken over the land. And this, my brother, is the fruit of pride and arrogance and spiritual gluttony. How tragic.

  •' Chris Larosa says:

    “I left the Baptist church the day I retired and became a “real” Christian the next day…”
    You made my day, bro!

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