I recently read the Witherspoon Institute’s teaser article about attitudes toward seven different aspects of sexual morality in America from an upcoming study by Mark Regnerus. Regnerus concludes that
“Churchgoers who oppose same-sex marriage sense that they are out of step with the rest of the nation about sex and relationships. (The numbers above reinforce that.)”
I want to briefly re-analyze his reported data to show you why the reported data, if anything, show the direct opposite of this conclusion.
We’ll start with the first survey item, “Viewing pornography is OK”. Regnerus reports that 31.4% of the population agreed or strongly agreed with that statement. So what is the majority position on pornography? Regnerus’ own data show that 68.6% of people do not agree or strongly agree that viewing pornography is OK (to work this out, take 100%, the total population, then subtract 31.4%, the population average for agree or strongly agree). Now it might be that the majority position is that people do not think pornography is OK, but we don’t know that for certain because the 68.6% may also include neutral people and those who are undecided, which might drop 68.6% down to below 50%. The key point is this: whatever the majority population position on porn is, it is not that viewing pornography is OK.
If we then look at all the survey items, taking the majority to be the usual 50%, and then look at the population findings reported by Regnerus, we find that the population does not have a majority of people agreeing or strongly agreeing on any of the seven issues.
To state this again, the population overall does not have a majority of people who agree or strongly agree with any of the sexual morality statements.
Now, if we look at the majority position among Christians who oppose SSM and then compare it to the population majority, we find that Christians who oppose SSM hold the majority position on most issues (that majority position not being to agree or strongly agree with any of the seven statements):
The exception (highlighted in bold above), is that churchgoing Christians who oppose SSM think couples should stay together for the children but the population doesn’t think so.
Overall, if we look for a simple majority, none are in the direction reported by Regnerus. His conclusions are the opposite of what his data actually show. However, I would strongly advise not taking my conclusions at face value either. There are many other holes in Regnerus’ research, from the fact that the population results double-dipped and included the Christians as well, to his misunderstanding of how population based samples can still be biased (and I strongly suspect the real devil is in the detail on this point), to the ambiguous questions (I could disagree with the statement “Porn is OK” either because I think viewing porn is terrible or because I think it is wonderful, not merely OK).
In fact, the holes are so big they probably would fill the Albert Hall, and I would ignore these findings completely, because there is every chance this research is just as dubious as Regnerus’ other research. However, if you do take the numbers seriously, then the conclusions are as follows:
1. The majority sexual opinion is nowhere near as sexually liberated as one might imagine (the majority position is not to agree or strongly agree with things such as porn or abortion, but it is to not stay together for the kids).
2. Christians who oppose SSM hold the same majority position as the population on 6 out of 7 issues (the difference being that they would still stay together for the kids).