‘Trumpism,’ fear of others revealed as national pattern in newest wave of Baylor Religion Survey

Video by Rylee Seavers | Broadcast Reporter, Story by Brooke Hill | Staff Writer

The fifth wave of the Baylor Religion Survey revealed that Trump’s most Trump voters are religious, gender traditional and view America as a Christian nation.

In addition, Baylor sociologists found that nearly half of Americans believe they are heaven-bound, people who believe they are going to heaven are less likely to have depression or anxiety and most Americans say they don’t share their religious beliefs online.

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On, Sept. 7, the latest analysis of “American Values, Mental Health and Using Technology in the Age of Trump” was presented at the Religion Newswriters Association’s annual conference in Nashville.

The survey was conducted by the Gallup Organization. Over 10,000 pen and paper surveys were mailed out February 2 with an invitation letter, return label and $1 cash incentive. They received 1,501 responses. The surveys were sent out in both English and Spanish.

The survey was broken up into four parts: The Sacred Values of Trumpism, Faith and Mental Health in America, Old and New: Religion and Technology 1.0 and Location, Location, Location.

The Sacred Values of Trumpism

“Trumpism” is defined by the survey as a new form of nationalism, which merges pro-Christian rhetoric with anti-Islam, anti-feminist, anti-globalist and anti-government attitudes.

The survey was sent out in February, an ideal time for people to reveal their thoughts on Trump since he had just been inaugurated. Researchers found that Trump voters tend to:

• Say they are very religious

• See Muslims as threats to America

• View the United States as a Christian nation

• Believe in an Authoritative God

• Value gender traditionalism

“Things are changing very rapidly now,” said Dr. Paul Froese, professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and director of Baylor Religion surveys. “So this data comes from February and March, right after the election. This is a window into people’s thinking then, things might have changed since then. However, one of the things I think the survey is good at doing is giving you a sense of… is people who voted for Trump, why did they do it.”

A little over half of respondents who classified themselves as “very religious” voted for Trump, while nearly three-quarters of respondents who said they were not religious or spiritual voted for Hillary Clinton. Americans who believe that the United States should be a Christian nation voted overwhelmingly for Trump, while those who feel that the United States was never intended to advocate Christian values voted for Clinton, according to the survey.

“Every single religious indicator predicts voting for Trump, except two. That is, if you belong to a black Protestant church or if you belong to a non-Christian house of worship,” Froese explained.

Froese said that those who voted for Clinton tended to be feminist, non-religious, people who were struggling economically and people of color.

A majority of Americans who feel that men are better suited for politics, men should earn more than women, women should provide the primary child care and working mothers are deficient as mothers voted for Trump. Americans who believe that transgender people should be able to use the restroom of their choice, gays and lesbians should be allowed to legally marry and people do not choose to be gay or lesbian voted mainly for Clinton.

According to the survey, the most feared religious groups in the United States are Muslims, atheists and conservative Christians, respectively. The study shows that most Americans fear others who do not share the same beliefs as those do, and even feel that their freedom and physical safety is threatened by such “others.”


Faith and Mental Health in America

The survey found that 69.9 percent of Americans believe that they’re going to heaven and over half have “none or a little fear” of hell.

“What we’re interested in here is in examining here is whether asking people about their ultimate expectations tells us something about their mental health,” said Dr. Lindsey Wilkinson, assistant professor of sociology.

Researchers say that expectations about heaven and hell are “directly and powerfully” related to depression. Certainty of going to heaven is strongly correlated with a lack of depressive episodes. The most depressed Americans are the 10.2 percent who feel “life has no purpose.” The survey suggests that a meaningful world, even one guided by a judgmental God, is better than no meaning at all.

Certainty of going to heaven is also strongly correlated with being anxiety free. People who fear hell are some of the most anxious Americans. While the causality is unclear, mental health consistently predicts positive existential beliefs. Beliefs about the afterlife are related to one’s feelings of control in this life.

In an attempt to measure dignity, the survey found that in general, people feel that dignity is more important than health or sense of control. Increasing social class is linked to gains in dignity, but not evenly across social classes. Dignity is more common in society than health or sense of control.


Old and New: Religion and Technology 1.0

Over half of Americans say that they never use the internet to access religious or spiritual content. However, regardless of religious affiliation, nearly nine out of 10 Americans agree or strongly agree that technology exposes them to new perspectives. A whopping 77 percent of Americans say that have never used the Internet to share their religious views.

Overall, Americans tend to say they are not addicted to technology. However, Americans with no religious affiliation are more likely to feel addicted to their devices. The researchers concluded that while technology may play an important role in the social lives of Americans, most religious respondents resisted using the label of “addiction” when describing their own use of technology. They found that the more religious people are, the less likely they are to be addicted.

“If you pray, you’re less likely to say you’re addicted. If you go to church, you’re less likely to say you’re addicted. If you meditate you’re less likely to be addicted,” Froese said.

Findings showed about four out of five Americans own a smartphone. Fourteen percent of Americans report having been the victim of online harassment or threats by someone on the Internet. Along with this, 21 percent of Americans provide emotional support online to someone they have never met. Around one third of Americans would “panic” if their phone stopped working.


Location, Location, Location

The survey found that most church-going Americans live six to 15 minutes from their place of worship. Those that live closer to their place of worship tend to be more satisfied with their neighborhood.

Rural Americans are more likely to believe that:

• There should be a stronger relationship between religion and the federal government

• The federal government should allow religious symbols in public places

• The success of the United States is part of God’s plan

• The federal government should allow prayer in public schools

• It is God’s will that women care for children

• A preschool child will suffer if his or her mother works

• Men are better suited emotionally for politics than women

Froese said he wishes he would’ve included a question regarding abortion to get a sense of if people were voting for Trump strictly because of his influence in the Supreme Court. Dr. Jerry Park, associate professor of sociology, said he wishes that he had included white supremacists along with the other groups mentioned in the survey in order to see who was feared more between supremacists and conservative Christians.

Some have pointed out that the survey likely has a response bias, meaning that more religious people are more willing to answer the questions, which would call into question the validity of the results.

“That has been an accusation about this particular survey over the course of 10 years or so,” Park said. “Some years of the survey the sample tends to be more religious, because the front questions are all about religion. But what we found in this one and previous one, we’re actually finding extremes. We have more people that are more religious in their background and we have more people that are not. The other people want their opinion in there. They’re so upset by these questions, and they have a very decided feel on how this is supposed to sound.”

The sociologists were pleased with the range of topics the survey covered.

“I think the survey is special because it has a more comprehensive set of religion questions than any other national survey,” Froese wrote in an email to The Lariat. “I am also happy about the range of topics we covered on this wave of the survey – from mental health to technology use.”

However, there are always questions brought up afterwards that they wish they could have answered.

“Survey data shouldn’t be too surprising because it may mean that you got the methods wrong,” Froese explained. “Still, we have some original questions that one could only guess at the results. Many of these questions came from graduate students in our program who are doing cutting-edge research and bringing fresh perspectives to them.”

Baylor has compiled the results of all of the Baylor Religion Survey onto a new website.

“We hope that the general public can learn a little about America from our survey,” Froese said. “In addition, users can access the data online and conduct their own analyses.”

The Baylor Religion Surveys currently have five waves, conducted in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017.

Some findings from previous surveys include:

• Entrepreneurs pray more

• Worriers are less likely to attend religious services

• Southerners are more likely to see their work as a mission from God

• Liberals are less likely to believe in an afterlife

• Megachurches are surprisingly more intimate communities than small congregations of less than 100 members

• Over half of Americans believe they were protected from harm by a guardian angel at some point.


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