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Longitudinal Effects of Religious Media on Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage

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Abstract and Figures

Religion and anti-gay prejudice in the United States are closely connected. Yet we still know little about the specific mechanisms through which religious subcultures may shape adherents’ attitudes toward gays and lesbians. This study considers religious media consumption as a unique mechanism through which religious Americans are socialized and embedded within an anti-gay religious subculture. Drawing on panel data from the nationally-representative Portraits of American Life Study, and focusing on opposition to same-sex marriage as a measure of anti-gay prejudice, analyses show that more frequent consumption of religious radio and TV (but not internet) is associated with higher levels of opposition to same-sex marriage over time. These effects remain significant with different model specifications as well as controls for previous attitudes toward same-sex marriage, general media use, sociodemographic and religious characteristics, and intimate contact with gays and lesbians. We propose that consuming religious media over time may influence Americans’ views toward LGBT issues directly through explicit messages about homosexuality and indirectly by embedding Americans within a broader religious subculture (largely, conservative Protestantism) that opposes homosexuality.
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Longitudinal Effects of Religious Media on Opposition
to Same-Sex Marriage
Samuel L. Perry
Kara J. Snawder
Published online: 5 May 2016
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract Religion and anti-gay prejudice in the United States are closely con-
nected. Yet we still know little about the specific mechanisms through which reli-
gious subcultures may shape adherents’ attitudes toward gays and lesbians. This
study considers religious media consumption as a unique mechanism through which
religious Americans are socialized and embedded within an anti-gay religious
subculture. Drawing on panel data from the nationally-representative Portraits of
American Life Study, and focusing on opposition to same-sex marriage as a mea-
sure of anti-gay prejudice, analyses show that more frequent consumption of reli-
gious radio and TV (but not internet) is associated with higher levels of opposition
to same-sex marriage over time. These effects remain significant with different
model specifications as well as controls for previous attitudes toward same-sex
marriage, general media use, sociodemographic and religious characteristics, and
intimate contact with gays and lesbians. We propose that consuming religious media
over time may influence Americans’ views toward LGBT issues directly through
explicit messages about homosexuality and indirectly by embedding Americans
within a broader religious subculture (largely, conservative Protestantism) that
opposes homosexuality.
Keywords Attitudes Religion Media Gay Lesbian Homophobia Same-sex
&Samuel L. Perry
Department of Sociology, University of Oklahoma, 780 Van Vleet Oval, Kaufman Hall,
Norman, OK 73019, USA
Sexuality & Culture (2016) 20:785–804
DOI 10.1007/s12119-016-9357-y
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Hence, individuals who violate their religious values by having attitudes contrary to their stated values may also experience moral incongruence, that is, the experience of increased shame, and cognitive dissonance (Perry, 2017;Perry & Hayward, 2017). Consequently, a lack of congruence between one's religious values and attitudes toward BDSM may be related to increased physical and emotional distress (Grubbs & Perry, 2019;Perry & Snawder, 2016). Future studies could emphasize this association. ...
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Opposition and stigmatization toward BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism) preferences or lifestyles only recently have begun to be documented. BDSM is stigmatized since vanilla sexuality (standard or conventional sexual practice) is considered the norm assuming BDSM practitioners as socially unacceptable, and BDSM as an unethical and unacceptable form of sex. This study examined women’s attitudes toward BDSM practices in the Greek socio-cultural context. An exploratory cross-sectional study was conducted between October 12 and December 12, 2021, via an online survey. This study’s convenience sample consisted of female undergraduate students (N = 240) who were recruited from two universities in the northern part of Greece. A between-subjects, correlational design was employed. Bivariate correlation was generated to explore the associations between variables of interest. Next, a multiple regression model was employed to predict ASMS (Attitudes toward Sadomasochism Scale) from the other study measures, based on the significance of the associations. This study’s findings show that the more conservative participants (whether in political or religious terms) oppose BDSM practices. The current study adds to the limited literature that examines the attitudes of people toward BDSM intending to clarify the social-psychological and socio-cultural factors that shape prejudicial attitudes towards BDSM and enhance the efforts of advocacy groups to promote social justice.
... This is consistent with previous research that shows particularly strong negative views of LGBT people among Fundamentalist Protestant Christians (Worthen et al., 2017). Highly religious individuals may also consume religious media, which often includes anti-LGBTQ messages (Perry & Snawder, 2016). ...
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... The media has a major role in the debate over the legalization of samesex marriage but also influences social norms and beliefs about minoritized groups (Perry & Snawder, 2016), including LGBTQþ individuals; however, much of the media is predominated by heterosexuality, particularly television and movies (Rodriguez & Blumell, 2014). A greater number of role models for sexual minorities are needed given that media messaging has the power to impact public perceptions (Corrigan & Watson, 2002). ...
The Australian same-sex marriage postal vote effectively propelled policy change and legalized same-sex marriage. Leading up to the vote, campaigns both for (i.e. “Yes”) and against (i.e. “No”) it were launched to sway the outcome of the vote. This study explored the effects the campaign had on members of the LGBTQ+ community. An OLS regression of survey data (N = 123) indicated that personal well-being was greater amongst LGBTQ+ participants who felt less-impacted by the “No” campaign and experienced fewer interpersonal microaggressions. Positive messages associated with the “Yes” campaign were not significant. Content analysis of an open-ended question (n = 112) that asked participants to describe how they were impacted revealed five themes: negative feelings, negative personal consequences, negative consequences from the community, negative media impact, and positive outcomes. Negative emotions (e.g. anger, hurt) and negative interpersonal consequences (e.g. loss of family members due to lack of support) were overwhelmingly represented in these data; less than 5% of the responses were related to a positive outcome (e.g. new allies). This study highlights how members of the LGBTQ+ community in Australia were harmed by government practices, including feeling objectified by others “deciding” on their relationships, experiencing overt aggression, and feeling unsafe.
... However, gender differences in attitudes may be at least somewhat contingent on other life experiences and individual characteristics. For example, a recent study found no gender differences in opposition to same-sex marriage among regular consumers of religious media (Perry & Snawder, 2016), and another reported no gender differences in self-reported comfort with gay and lesbian people after controlling for contact with sexual minority peers, fear of AIDS, and beliefs about the development of sexual orientation (Eldridge, Mack, & Swank, 2006). Thus current literature indicates that life experiences and individual characteristics may predict attitudes about gender and sexual orientation above and beyond gender group membership. ...
Heteronormativity is a culturally embedded system defining acceptable identities and behaviors in romantic relationships. Recent literature has suggested that heteronormativity is strongly associated with political attitudes, personality characteristics such as tolerance of ambiguity, and key demographic variables such as gender and sexual orientation. However, interactions between gender and other factors have not been thoroughly explored as predictors of heteronormative attitude and beliefs. The current study (N = 306) expands the understanding of predictors of heteronormativity, particularly as they interact with gender. In the current study, higher education was associated with lower heteronormativity among women, but not among men, and expressiveness was associated with lower heteronormativity among men, but not among women. Finally, a 3-way interaction showed that the relationship between education and heteronormativity for men (but not women) depended on trait expressiveness. Future studies are recommended, including observation of changes in heteronormativity over time and exploration of mechanisms that reinforce or reduce heteronormativity.
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Abstinent Christian men are frequently challenged when selecting and navigating media due to the presence of sexual content that presents images and ideas not aligned with their sexual self-concept. In this study, we explored themes that emerged from qualitative in -depth interviews of abstinent Christian men to understand their media selection, navigation, and sexual self-concept in the context of the sexual media practice model (Shafer, Bobkowski, & Brown, 2013). Participants’ media selection and navigation were influenced by faith, and participants often attempted to control or avoid situations where sexual media content were present.
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Family forms that have historically been considered "nontraditional" and even "transgressive" are becoming increasingly accepted in the United States, bringing the United States into greater conformity with other western nations. The United States is still unique, however, in that religion continues to play an exceptionally powerful role in shaping Americans' perceptions of and engagement in non-traditional families. Focusing our attention on same-sex and interracial families specifically, we consider the recent work on how religion serves to stimulate and justify opposition or (in a minority of instances) support for such families. We contend that studies typically limit their focus to the cognitive aspects (beliefs, ideologies, identities, schemas, salience, etc.) of religion, while often ignoring the influence of religion's more structural aspects in shaping Americans' relationship to non-traditional families. Given that religion impacts Americans' approaches to family formation at the micro, meso, and macro levels, we propose a more Durkheimian perspective on the topic, one that synthesizes social psychological and structural frameworks in future studies, thus allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of religion's evolving role in American family formation. We also call for more attention to how religion shapes the functioning of non-traditional families.
Lagged dependent variables (LDVs) have been used in regression analysis to provide robust estimates of the effects of independent variables, but some research argues that using LDVs in regressions produces negatively biased coefficient estimates, even if the LDV is part of the data-generating process. I demonstrate that these concerns are easily resolved by specifying a regression model that accounts for autocorrelation in the error term. This actually implies that more LDV and lagged independent variables should be included in the specification, not fewer. Including the additional lags yields more accurate parameter estimates, which I demonstrate using the same data-generating process scholars had previously used to argue against including LDVs. I use Monte Carlo simulations to show that this specification returns much more accurate coefficient estimates for independent variables (across a wide range of parameter values) than alternatives considered in earlier research. The simulation results also indicate that improper exclusion of LDVs can lead to severe bias in coefficient estimates. While no panacea, scholars should continue to confidently include LDVs as part of a robust estimation strategy.
The positive relationship between family formation and regular weekly religious service attendance is well established, but cross-sectional data make it difficult to be confident that this relationship is causal. Moreover, if the relationship is causal, cross-sectional data make it difficult to disentangle the effects of three distinct family-formation events: marrying, having a child, and having a child who reaches school age. We use three waves of the new General Social Survey panel data to disentangle these separate potential effects. Using random-, fixed-, and hybrid-effect models, we show that, although in cross-section marriage and children predict attendance across individuals, neither leads to increased attendance when looking at individuals who change over time. Having a child who becomes school aged is the only family-formation event that remains associated with increased attendance among individuals who change over time. This suggests that the relationships between marriage and attending and between having a first child (or, for that matter, having several children) and attending are spurious, causal in the other direction, or indirect (since marrying and having a first child make it more likely that one will eventually have a school-age child). Adding a school-age child in the household is the only family-formation event that directly leads to increased attendance.
Using panel data of young adults, we find evidence that exposure to Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin's performance in the 2008 vice-presidential debate on Saturday Night Live is associated with changes in attitudes toward her selection as VP candidate and presidential vote intentions. These effects are most pronounced among self-identified Independents and Republicans.
THERE IS much in popular culture for theologically and politically conservative Christians to object to. The primary objection is to sex, violence, and profanity in the entertainment media.1 Media content objected to on these grounds can range from fullblown pornography to comedy programs like Monty Python's Flying Circus. In November 2006 and February 2007 network primetime television, 1 percent of programs were self-rated by their networks as TV-G, 55 percent as TV-PG, and 44 percent as TV-14. A content analysis of programs during the same period found that 80 percent contained at least some profanity, 61 percent at least some violence, 43 percent at least some sex, and 52 percent at least some suggestive dialogue. About half the time, the network did not flag the program with the relevant v-chip content descriptor (Parents Television Council 2007). Between February 1995 and March 1996, of films broadcast on week-nights in prime time broadcast and cable television, more than 20 percent contained nudity and more than 50 percent featured violence, with slightly higher figures on weekends (Hamilton 1998, 152). In 2005 on the commercial broadcast networks, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and the top four cable networks, 68 percent of programs discussed sex and 35 percent showed sexual behavior, about 30 percent of which implied or depicted intercourse. Furthermore, 45 percent of shows popular with teenagers featured sexual behavior (Kunkel et al. 2005). The report contrasts its findings with the team's results from 1998 using the same methodology, when they found appreciably lower levels of violent and sexual content. In other cases, conservative Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, object that they or religious people in general are either belittled or ignored by the media. These complaints are similar to, and sometimes consciously modeled on, those made by activists representing ethnic groups. For instance, the Reverend Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, argued that Americans are a very religious people but that this is not reflected on television, and, moreover, to the extent that religion is shown, it is denigrated (1997). In a similar vein, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights focuses not on content that is inconsistent with Catholic values, but on media stories it perceives to be insulting to Catholics. A popular example among conservative Christian of the belittling media came from a Washington Post article that described fundamentalists as "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command" (Michael Weisskopf, "Energized by Pulpit or Passion, the Public is Calling: 'Gospel Grapevine' Displays Strength in Controversy over Military Gay Ban," February 1, 1993, A1). Years later, this quote is still invoked as evidence of media bias against conservative Christians. Another complaint is that popular culture advocates ideologies that are contrary to conservative Christian values. One frequently cited early example concerned two episodes of the television show Maude in which the title character had an abortion. These episodes drew objections, because they deliberately dramatized the Population Institute's position that abortion is an appropriate way to handle an unwanted pregnancy (Montgomery 1989). More recently, conservative Christians have opposed a variety of programs with sympathetic gay and lesbian characters. The television show Will and Grace was a common object of opposition. Although part of the objection appears to have been to the stream of double entendres in the show, a more important base among conservative Christians was the fact that two of the four main characters were gay, the broader milieu was largely gay, and many episodes explicitly conveyed the idea that homosexuality was innocuous and opposition to it a form of bigotry. This sort of programming seemed a particular insult to conservatives Christians because in this case popular culture was not merely salacious, but, at least in their eyes, also engaged in partisan activism. Compounding these grievances has been a general lack of trust based on the notion that the people who work in the media don't share "middle American" values. This perception is partly based on anecdotes about the lifestyles and public statements of celebrities, but it is also supported by social science evidence concerning the attitudes of people working at high levels in the entertainment industry (see, for example, Lichter, Lichter, and Rothman 1983). Furthermore, conservatives Christians are sometimes offended by the business practices of entertainment companies; one of the reasons the Southern Baptist Convention decided to boycott the Disney Corporation in 1997 was that the company, like most of its competitors, had extended benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees. Religious conservatives took such actions as evidence that the objectionable aspects of entertainment media are not merely accidental by-products of a profit-seeking industry, but motivated attacks on their values that cannot be justified on demand-side business grounds (Baehr 1988; Medved 1992).2 Thus conservative Christians deplore many elements commonly found in the popular culture: sex, violence, profanity, insulting portrayals of religious people, and support for socially liberal positions and causes. The question, then, is how do they react to these grievances?
When state voters passed the California Marriage Protection Act (Proposition 8) in 2008, it restricted the definition of marriage to a legal union between a man and a woman. The act's passage further agitated an already roiling national debate about whether American notions of family could or should expand to include, for example, same-sex marriage, unmarried cohabitation, and gay adoption. But how do Americans really define family? The first study to explore this largely overlooked question, Counted Out examines currents in public opinion to assess their policy implications and predict how Americans' definitions of family may change in the future. Counted Out broadens the scope of previous studies by moving beyond efforts to understand how Americans view their own families to examine the way Americans characterize the concept of family in general. The book reports on and analyzes the results of the authors' Constructing the Family Surveys (2003 and 2006), which asked more than 1,500 people to explain their stances on a broad range of issues, including gay marriage and adoption, single parenthood, the influence of biological and social factors in child development, religious ideology, and the legal rights of unmarried partners. Not surprisingly, the authors find that the standard bearer for public conceptions of family continues to be a married, heterosexual couple with children. More than half of Americans also consider same-sex couples with children as family, and from 2003 to 2006 the percentages of those who believe so increased significantly-up 6 percent for lesbian couples and 5 percent for gay couples. The presence of children in any living arrangement meets with a notable degree of public approval. Less than 30 percent of Americans view heterosexual cohabitating couples without children as family, while similar couples with children count as family for nearly 80 percent. Counted Out shows that for most Americans, however, the boundaries around what they define as family are becoming more malleable with time. Counted Out demonstrates that American definitions of family are becoming more expansive. Who counts as family has far-reaching implications for policy, including health insurance coverage, end-of-life decisions, estate rights, and child custody. Public opinion matters. As lawmakers consider the future of family policy, they will want to consider the evolution in American opinion represented in this groundbreaking book. © 2010 by the American Sociological Association. All rights reserved.
It is now a common refrain among liberals that Christian Right pastors and television pundits have hijacked evangelical Christianity for partisan gain. The Politics of Evangelical Identity challenges this notion, arguing that the hijacking metaphor paints a fundamentally distorted picture of how evangelical churches have become politicized. The book reveals how the powerful coalition between evangelicals and the Republican Party is not merely a creation of political elites who have framed conservative issues in religious language, but is anchored in the lives of local congregations. Drawing on her groundbreaking research at evangelical churches near the U.S. border with Canada-two in Buffalo, New York, and two in Hamilton, Ontario-Lydia Bean compares how American and Canadian evangelicals talk about politics in congregational settings. While Canadian evangelicals share the same theology and conservative moral attitudes as their American counterparts, their politics are quite different. On the U.S. side of the border, political conservatism is woven into the very fabric of everyday religious practice. Bean shows how subtle partisan cues emerge in small group interactions as members define how "we Christians" should relate to others in the broader civic arena, while liberals are cast in the role of adversaries. She explains how the most explicit partisan cues come not from clergy but rather from lay opinion leaders who help their less politically engaged peers to link evangelical identity to conservative politics. The Politics of Evangelical Identity demonstrates how deep the ties remain between political conservatism and evangelical Christianity in America.
This paper explores the impact of the introduction of the widely viewed MTV reality show 16 and Pregnant on teen childbearing. Our main analysis relates geographic variation in changes in teen childbearing rates to viewership of the show. We implement an instrumental variables (IV) strategy using local area MTV ratings data from a pre-period to predict local area 16 and Pregnant ratings. The results imply that this show led to a 4.3 percent reduction in teen births. An examination of Google Trends and Twitter data suggest that the show led to increased interest in contraceptive use and abortion.