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.