YouGov and the Unitarian Universalists

I was scrolling through Reddit last night; one of the subreddits (themed communities) I read is called r/DataIsBeautiful. One post had a ranking of the favorability of United States religions and the Unitarian Universalist came out quite low: net negative 10%, nestled between the Falun Gong and the Seventh-Day Adventists. Oof.

So I went to YouGov and pulled up the data breakout. (PDF) Depending on how you look at it. I don’t think the results aren’t quite as dire as the chart suggests: a third had neither a “favorable nor unfavorable” opinion of Unitarian Universalism and more than another quarter were “not sure.” You can find a larger version of the same chart used in the subreddit, too; see, too for the partisan breakout, mentioned below.

I did think it was interesting in the data (page 32) was that disapproval in Unitarian Universalism increased with household income, which cuts against our our folk wisdom of having the burden of being comfortably well off. The partisan split was more clear, with modest approval from Democrats, but strong disapproval from Republicans at a level comparable to atheism, Islam and Wicca. Hispanics, women and persons aged 30-44 tended to have more favorable opinions. The poll has a margin of error of 3.4%.

Maybe the win was making it to the survey in the first place.

2 Replies to “YouGov and the Unitarian Universalists”

  1. This actually seems about right to me, including the increase in disapproval with household income. Higher income are more likely to be church-goers, and my guess would be if you’re part of another church you’re more likely to disapprove of Unitarian Universalists (not least because of our no-hell stance).

    I also suspect that Unitarian Universalist support for same sex marriage might be one of our better-known features, and that alone could lead to a fairly high disapproval rating in some quarters.

    There are one or two small weirdnesses in this survey. The only branch of Judaism covered is Orthodox. Then in addition to The Episcopal Church, there’s also “Anglicanism” (I guess they’re lumping together the Anglican Church of North America and other tiny breakaway groups?).

  2. Mere disapproval is not always an informative measure. But it is fascinating to know the reasons for the disapproval.

    I’ve known people who simply see Unitarian Universalists as a cult. End of story. Blanket disapproval. Or they have parallel badly informed stereotypes about who we are.

    But I’ve known others who disapprove because their lived experience of us was very negative: knee jerk Christo-phobic behavior, bad experiences in youth ministry, disappointment when our stated values didn’t line up with our behavior, and experiences with clergy misconduct that was not held accountable. Over the years I’ve routinely run into all of these, felt so sorry that these events took place, but also had to confess that these experiences are very real (and we have routinely not handled them well).

    The motives behind the disapproval matter.

    But I also have a hunch (based on over 3 decades in UU congregations) that much of the general public is only barely aware that we exist. A footnote in the community.

    And as for the Amish, who seem to rank highly on this list… The popular opinion of them is likely based on popular stereotypes generated by idealized media representations, and not lived experiences. Living in a community with a decent sized Amish population, I must say that my opinions of them are tempered by regular reports of domestic violence, and the criminal mistreatment of farm animals. Not that this is typical for most members of the Amish community, but these are real problems in real segments of the Amish population.

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