When we began the research project we formed two hypotheses: (H1) The more religious a person is, the less likely they are to support pro-women’s rights and gender equality issues, and (H2) Women will be more likely to support pro-women’s rights and gender equality issues than men, regardless of religiosity. After examining data from the 2016 American National Election Survey, we found that we were partially correct on both of these predictions, and the correct answer was more complicated than we anticipated. Our results are represented using tables and graphs with all numbers plotted as percentages unless otherwise noted. The color coding represents the level of church attendance for each respondent with dark green meaning “often”, red meaning “sometimes”, and light green indicating “never”.
Within the first hypothesis – that the more religious an individual was, the less likely to support pro-women’s rights and feminist issues – the data suggested that we were correct about the specific subcategories of Reproductive Rights and Women’s Movement. To test this, we compared survey responses to the question “Employers who object to providing birth control on religious grounds should/should not be exempt from federal requirements to provide it as part of healthcare packages?” We then coded respondents based upon their self-professed level of religiosity (defined as the self-reported church attendance).
We found that 17.7% of respondents who attend church often feel that companies should be exempt from providing it, while only 7.2% of respondents who never attend church feel the same way. On the other end of the spectrum, a combined 48.1% of respondents who either never or only sometimes attend church feel that companies should be required to provide the service, and only 14% of those who attend church often feel that there should be mandatory compliance with federal regulations on birth control as seen in Figure 1. This data supports H1 on the basis of support for reproductive rights.
Figure 1: Employer Birth Control Exemption
We then tested our H1 hypothesis on the same participatory sample to gauge their level of support for the feminist movement, defined as a self-reported feeling thermometer with 100 being complete support for feminists and 0 being opposition to feminists. What we found is that respondents who attend church often view feminists as mostly negative with an average rating of 44.63. Respondents who never attend church view feminists much more positively with an average rating of 58.5 showing an 11.87 point difference. Of those that attend church sometimes we found that they were close to the average of all groups with a rating of 51.77 (Table 3). On this subcategory, we conclude that the data supports H1 on the basis of support/opposition to the feminist movement is affected by church attendance.
Table 3: Mean Feeling Rating about Feminists
Our next evaluation of our H1 hypothesis measured respondents’ answer to the question “How much discrimination is there against women?” Of those who responded “a great deal of discrimination” 2.1% were respondents who attend church often, while only 1.6% of respondents who never attend church feel the same way. Of those who responded that there was “no discrimination” 3.5% were respondents who never attend church, paired with only 3% of respondents who attend church often. We found that the vast majority of respondents polled somewhere in the middle, believing that there was either “moderate discrimination” or “a little”, and there was no distinction between religiosity levels (Figure 2). This finding does not lend support to our hypothesis.
Figure 2: Discrimination against women
We then tested our H1 hypothesis measured by respondents’ answer to the question, “Do you favor/oppose employers paying men and women the same amount for performing the same job?” To this question 23.8% of those who attend church often said that they favor equal pay for equal work, and 27% who never attend church favor economic equality. Of those who said they oppose it, 3.4% said they attend church often, while 1.8% who never attends church opposes the measure. The bulk of respondents, roughly 78.5%, supported equal pay, and this support was roughly equal across all three religiosity levels (Figure 3). The data from these samples did not support our hypotheses that religiosity would determine support for equality.
Figure 3: Favor/Oppose Equal Pay
Our second hypothesis stated that women were more likely to support women’s rights and equality issues than men, no matter the level of religiosity. To test this, we once again compared survey responses to the question “Employers who object to providing birth control on religious grounds should/should not be exempt from federal requirements to provide it as part of healthcare packages?” however, this time we focused on the correlation between men and women, instead of the connection between religious and non-religious respondents. We maintained the coding for respondents based upon their self-professed level of religiosity (defined as the self-reported church attendance). Of these respondents, 25% of men who never attend church expressed that companies should not be exempt from providing birth control to employees, and a (surprisingly) equal percentage of women who never attend church feel the same way. Of the men who attend church often, 18% feel that businesses should be exempted from the birth control requirement, as compared to 17% of women who attend church often. The data returned from this subcategory did not support our H2 hypothesis, as the data suggested that there was a stronger correlation between religiosity and support/opposition than gender and support/opposition (Figures 4 and 5).
Figure 4: Figure 5:
Our next measure of testing for our H2 hypothesis was to gauge the sentiments of respondents when asked the question “How much discrimination is there against women?” Less than 1% of men who never attend church stated that there was “a great deal” compared to more than 2% of women who attend church. When examining the other end of the spectrum, that “no discrimination exists against women”, roughly 5% of men who do not attend church agree with this statement, while less than 2% of women think that there is no discrimination against women. This data supports our H2 hypothesis when tested based upon perceived levels of discrimination, religious women are more likely to agree that there is discrimination than non-religious men (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Discrimination Comparison
In continuation, we tested our H2 hypothesis by comparing the responses of men and women to the question “How would you rate feminists?” with 0 being negatively and 100 being positively. Men that attended church sometimes, gave feminists a slightly unfavorable rating of 46.54, compared to women who attended church sometimes whose average rating was 56.68. When examining levels of support, men who never attend church view feminists somewhat positively with a rating of 53.04 while women who never attend church agree that feminists are positive with a rating of 63.82. These findings do not support our H2 hypothesis, as the correlation between religiosity and support/opposition tends to be stronger than the correlation between gender and support/opposition (Figure 7).
Figure 7: Men and Women feelings about feminists
We then examined responses from the same group of participants who answered the question “Do you favor/oppose employers paying men and women the same amount for performing the same job?” 25% of men who never attend church reported that they support equal pay, while 27% of women who attend church often agree. 10% of men who never attend church stated that they oppose equal pay for equal work, while only 2% of women who attend church often announced opposition.
Figure 8: Comparison of Men and Women on Equal Pay
These data support our H2 hypothesis, and it appears that women are more likely to support economic equality than men, regardless of religiosity (Figure 8).