Tag Archives: poll

Revising History? Or Ignorance Of It?

A recent article in the Charleston Post and Courier reported on the results of a poll conducted by Winthrop University. It was pretty disheartening.

The Winthrop University Poll randomly dialed and questioned 969 residents in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia between Nov. 10-20 and Nov. 26-Dec. 2. Results have an error margin of plus or minus 3.15 percent.

The poll found that half of residents either agree or strongly agree that America was founded as an explicitly Christian nation.

Among white evangelicals, three-fourths agreed or strongly agreed with this belief about how the nation was founded.

The immediate question raised by such results is whether these respondents have chosen to ignore what they (presumably) learned in history class  or whether they are simply uninformed. Whatever the answer, the poll results explain a number of things about Southern political culture.

The poll’s director noted that the belief in a Christian founding is central to Christian Nationalism.

“Research has shown that increases in Christian Nationalist beliefs lead to more exclusionary views on immigration and more negative views of multi-culturalism in America,” Huffmon said. “Those who hold these views care more about whether they have a strong leader who will protect their religious and cultural values than whether a leader is individually pious.”

Forgive me if I suggest that the “cultural value” they want to protect is Christian social dominance.

It is virtually impossible to reconcile this belief in a Christian Nation with American history, or with what we know about the origins of America’s constitution–or for that matter, with the plain language of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is one thing for Christian fundamentalists to prefer that the country affirm the superiority of their particular creed; it is another thing entirely to falsify history in order to convince themselves and others that the Founders agreed with them.

If these folks have made a conscious decision to falsify history, that’s reprehensible. But it is far more likely that they are ignorant of history, that they’ve never heard of the Enlightenment, or encountered the (then radical) political philosophy that privileged personal autonomy over religious and political beliefs endorsed and imposed by the state.  The widespread belief in Christian nationhood reflected in the poll results is a stark reminder of Americans’ deficit of civic literacy, and the failure of our schools to teach history and government accurately and adequately.

It’s interesting–and telling– that this particular fantasy about America’s founding is almost exclusively a phenomenon of White Christians who consider themselves the only true Americans.

The Rev. Joseph Darby, first vice president for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Charleston, disagreed with claims that the country was intended to be explicitly Christian.

Darby, who also pastors Nichols Chapel AME in Charleston, didn’t mince words in describing Christian nationalists and white evangelical denominations with exclusionary views on immigration and multiculturalism.

“It’s called Christian hypocrisy,” Darby said.

Darby added that the country should not be in favor of one particular religion. Rather, he said politicians and voters should “love God and love others as we would be loved.”

“If the laws reflect that, we’d be one nation under all,” he said. “If you have something that’s exclusively Christian, you’re walking a very slippery, nationalist slope. Everyone in America is not Christian.”

I suspect that White Christian Nationalists are more worried about the threat civic equality poses to their cultural hegemony than they are about America’s spiritual prospects.

Policymakers can’t do much about chosen ignorance, but polls like this should be seen as yet another reason to make civic education a national priority.

Getting From Here to There

MIBOR and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce sent out a media release announcing the results of recent polling on Indianapolis’ upcoming transit referendum.

Poll results released today shows broad-based support across Marion County registered voters for this fall’s ballot initiative to improve mass transit in Indianapolis. Following last week’s public rollout of the grassroots initiative, Transit Drives Indy, there is clear momentum and public support for the Marion County Transit Plan.

As American Strategies reported, “Fully 61 percent support the referendum, which will appear on the ballot this November, with just 33 percent opposed. The measure attracts bipartisan support and majority backing in each region of the county.”

Support was broad-based. According to the self-identification of respondents, 74% of Democrats, 55% of Independents, and 47% of Republicans support the effort to expand transit and intend to vote for the tax necessary to support it.

 Across the region, support was strongest in the northern (66%) and central (62%) parts of the county, though support was strong across the entire county.

“We are pleased with the broad support among Marion County residents who recognize the value that improved transit service will bring to our neighborhoods, our business community and our city—jobs, quality of life, and greater independence,” said Mark Fisher, vice president of government relations and policy development of the Indy Chamber. “The Marion County Transit Plan will better connect job seekers and employers while ensuring Indianapolis remains competitive for talent.”

MIBOR (Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors) president Roger Lundy pointed out that all of central Indiana will benefit from improved mass transit. Transit is key to connecting neighborhoods, to providing access to housing opportunities, and enabling independence for vulnerable populations–the disabled, and especially the aging population that is growing dramatically as residents of central Indiana live longer.

It isn’t just older Hoosiers who want the ability to move about the city without a car. Downtown Indianapolis is in the midst of a housing boom, and despite the whopping number of new units being built, and the premium rents being charged, occupancy rates have remained well over 90%. Many of the people moving into the center city are millennials, and of that age cohort, some 10% do not own–or want–a car.

What they and their grandparents do want is what so many cities have: reliable, frequent, modern mass transit options that enhance the quality of community life. Convenient, cost-saving and environmentally friendly transportation options.

We’ve waited a long time to join the ranks of cities that actually work.

 

 

You’re Fired!

In the wake of the Duck Dynasty dust-up, the Chik-Fil-A controversy and other events triggering “right to free speech” debates, we get this report from Huffington Post:

In the new survey, 45 percent of Americans said the First Amendment does not allow people to be fired from a job for expressing their views, while only 36 percent said such firings are allowed under the Constitution. Twenty percent said they weren’t sure.

Answers to other questions in the poll were equally depressing. The article’s provocative title was “Do You Know More About the First Amendment than Sarah Palin?”–and when the answer to that is “no,” you’ve really hit bottom.

The dismal poll results remind me of the young man who called the ACLU, back when I was Executive Director, and demanded that we sue White Castle for denying him his First Amendment rights. They’d refused to hire him, apparently because he was so heavily tattooed they found it unappetizing. I still remember him insisting “I have a right to free expression!” As I tried to explain, yes, and so does White Castle.

If the City of Indianapolis–or any unit of government–passes a law forbidding you from tattooing your body, then you’ve got yourself a genuine, real-life, rootin’ tootin’ constitutional challenge. When White Castle disapproves, you don’t.

If the government told A & E that it couldn’t suspend Mr. Homophobic Duck Guy, it would be violating A & E’s rights. If a local government refused to zone a Chik-fil-A because its owner is a homophobic jerk, it would violate Chik-fil-A’s rights. (Annoying as it may seem, jerks have constitutional rights too.)

Listen up, Americans! The Bill of Rights restricts what government can do. And one of the things government can’t do is protect you from being fired for shooting off your mouth.

Now was that so hard?

The End of the Culture War

Granted, reports like this one suggest that gays and lesbians still face formidable amounts of bigotry. But a recent Political Insiders poll conducted by the National Journal suggests that even those who exploited the bigots for political advantage know the culture war against gay folks is pretty much over. And while that North Carolina restaurant owner may not realize it, the good guys have won.

The poll asked operatives of both political parties–political insiders–the following question:

Which statement comes closest to your political views on gay marriage?

My party should support it

My party should oppose it

My party should avoid the issue

Other

The Democrats, predictably, were overwhelmingly in favor of having their party support same-sex marriage. After all, they just won a national election in which the party and its President strongly supported marriage equality. Ninety-seven percent chose the first option, and zero percent chose the second. Two percent said “avoid the issue.”

The response of the Republican insiders was more surprising. Twenty-seven percent said that the GOP should support marriage equality. Only eleven percent said oppose. A whopping forty-eight percent recommended avoiding the issue entirely.

As one of the “avoiders” put it, “The lines have been drawn on this. Such a polarizing topic, and given other pressing issues, this is a red herring with dynamite taped to its back. No good can come from messing with it.”

Translation: the days when we can win elections by bashing the gays and warning of “the homosexual agenda” are over.

Good riddance.

The New “N” Word

I learn a lot from my friends on Facebook.

Yesterday, a couple of people linked to a Slate Magazine report of a poll of Republican electorates in Mississippi and Alabama. The results were eye-opening, in more respects than one: by considerable margins, GOP voters in both states rejected evolution (66% in Mississippi, 60% in Alabama), and believed that President Obama is a Muslim (in Mississippi, only 12% said he was Christian, while 52% said Muslim and 36% were unsure; in Alabama, 14% said Christian, 45% Muslim and 41% unsure).

My first reactions were predictable. 1) A country that rejects science is a country in decline; 2) People who insist that Obama is a Muslim are probably are many of the same people who criticize him for attending a church where Rev. Wright was pastor–i.e., intentionally ignorant people; and 3) So what if he were Muslim? Being Muslim shouldn’t be any more out of the American mainstream than being Mormon or Jewish or Unitarian.

But of course, this isn’t about the comparative merits of different theologies. This is about pathology. It’s about the hate that dare not speak its name.

Another friend’s post hit that proverbial nail on its head. “Muslim” he wrote “is the new “N” word.”

We’ve come far enough in America to make the use of the original “N” word unacceptable, even among people who harbor very racist beliefs. We come far enough to actually elect a black President, and by a pretty substantial margin. That’s progress, and I don’t mean to diminish its significance.

But to dismiss the immediate and irrational response to that election and this President–to insist that every criticism of Obama is grounded in policy differences–is to ignore the elephant in the room.

The “birthers” and their ilk–the folks who insist that the President was born in Kenya, or that he is an adherent of a religion they have also demonized–are intent on labeling Obama as alien, as Other. But they don’t want to admit to themselves–or betray to others–the true source of that Otherness, or the real reason for their animus: the color of his skin.

At least they are true to their own beliefs: they haven’t evolved.