In order to examine the potential effect of religion on gender related and women women’s rights issues, we used nationally representative survey data from 2016, designed and gathered by the American National Election Study(ANES) staff. This data shows the influence church attendance has on various aspects of gender related policy issues. The ANES 2016 Pilot Study surveyed 1,200 US citizens over the age of 18 from across the country through an online opt-in panel. The respondents were selected from a large panel and matched in order to make the individuals completing the survey representative of the US population. Each respondent was asked a series of questions related to presidential primaries, stereotyping, the economy, discrimination, race and racial consciousness, police use of force, and numerous policy issues.
Our first independent variable, religiosity, was measured by examining the ANES question on church attendance. The question text was posed by stating:
Lots of things come up that keep people from attending religious services even if they want to. Thinking about your life these days, do you ever attend religious services, apart from occasional weddings, baptisms or funerals?” (IF YES:) “Do you go to religious services: 1. More than once a week, 2. once a week, 3. once or twice a month, 4. a few times a year, 5. seldom or 6. never?
This question allowed us to analyze a person’s views on religious service through a numerical measure self-reported attendance of religious services. The question’s language is helpful in that it controls for occasional or invitational events. In order to reduce the number of measures and provide more evenly represented groups we combined some of the response categories. We coded “more than once a week”, “once a week” and “once or twice a month” as “Often”. Then “a few times a year” and “seldom” were coded as “sometimes”. These measures were lumped together because their representation could viewed as very similar as both categories could be seen as sometimes or not often when compared to someone attending more than once a month. The category “never” was unchanged. It should be noted that two measure are missing from the final dataset, respondents that answered “Don’t know” or skipped the question. These respondents account for 26 total respondents or about 2.2% of our sample and have been excluded from the tables. Tables 1 and 2 provides the sample sizes for each category and shows that, when the recoded data set of 3 categories is compared to its original 6 category iteration, a more even assortment of groups is viewed.
Table 1: Church Attendance, Original 6 Categories
|More than once a week||95||7.9%|
|Once a week||184||15.3%|
|Once or twice a month||96||8.0%|
|A few times a year||147||12.3%|
Table 2: Church Attendance, Revised 3 Categories
Our next independent variable was gender which was asked as a binary, “Are you male or female?” The 2010 census reported a gender composition of 49.2% male and 50.8% female. The sample size for this measure was representative of the general population with 570 men (47.5%) and 630 women (52.5%).
The next challenge was to find issues and measures that would represent popular women’s rights and gender related issues. For these measures we researched the websites of major women’s rights organizations including, National Organization for Women, League of Women Voters, The Association of Women’s Rights in Development, etc. From here we gathered the most prevalent issues that received attention from most of the organizations. These issues included reproductive rights, support for women’s movements, defending against gender discrimination, and fighting for economic justice through equal pay. These four issues are the major subjects of this studies dependent variables. In order to measure each of these issues, related measures were found through the ANES questionnaire.
Reproductive rights and women’s health were topics listed on all of the major women’s organizations websites and included issues such, access to legal, safe and affordable contraception and abortion and funding for reproductive healthcare.
First, we attempted to get a gauge on the general population’s attitudes towards abortion. Within the ANES questionnaire, the most relevant measure on abortion was an issue ranking question that asked respondents to select and rank 4 issues as, “The most important to you in terms of choosing which political candidate you will support?”, from a list of 21 total issues. This measure was not helpful for this research as it did not include an acknowledgement of feelings toward abortion. Someone that ranks abortion as their most important issue could be either for greater access to abortion or opposed to the practice entirely. Further, this measure does not provide a gauge on the general population’s view on abortion as 1,098 or 91.5% of respondents did not list abortion as in their rankings.
The next issue examined was access to and funding for contraception and reproductive healthcare. The survey addressed this issue by asking respondents, “Do you think employers who object to birth control and other contraceptives on religious grounds should or should not be exempt from the requirement that health insurance for their workers cover prescription birth control?” They were then given the option to respond “Should be exempt” or “Should not be exempt”. This measure works very well for this research as it intersects the bounds of religion and gender politics on its own. The next issue examined was access to and funding for contraception and reproductive healthcare. The survey addressed this issue by asking respondents, “Do you think employers who object to birth control and other contraceptives on religious grounds should or should not be exempt from the requirement that health insurance for their workers cover prescription birth control?” They were then given the option to respond “Should be exempt” or “Should not be exempt”. This measure works very well for this research as it intersects the bounds of religion and gender politics on its own and will be used to test both hypotheses.
In order to gain an idea of peoples support for women’s movements we used the ANES feeling thermometer rating battery in which respondents were asked to rate their feelings about feminists on a scale of zero to one-hundred. Support for feminists is a good way to determine people’s views toward women’s movements as they are both groups that work closely to defend the rights of women. For this reason, viewing negative and positive feelings towards these groups can also give us a gauge on how respondent’s view gender equality (Winter 2008). To plot this data we used the average feeling rating of each church attendance group which can be seen in Table 3. This data will be used to test our second hypothesis by splitting the results by controlling for gender. Past ANES surveys also contained questions on feelings toward women’s movements specifically, but presently the feeling thermometer for feminists is the only gender attitude measure available.
This variable was also recoded to attain a 5 category scale so it could receive a more specific analysis. This scale was later scrapped in order to reduce excessive information in graphs.
Our second hypothesis is also tested by viewing each respondent’s perception of discrimination against women. The ANES asks respondents, “How much discrimination there is in the United States today?” against nine different groups with women being one of them. This measure works well for our findings as it is an explicitly gender related issue.
Finally, we examine how men and women view policies that support economic justice and pay equality. To test this question we used the ANES measure on pay equality policies which asked, “Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose requiring employers to pay women and men the same amount for the same work?” This measure touched on our research explicitly and is used to test each hypothesis.