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Social Science v. Santorum

Doug Mataconis noted in a prior post that Rick Santorum claimed that “Obama College Plan Part Of Plot To “Indoctrinate” Americans” and that going to college is harmful, especially in regards to secularizing religious young people.

Doug quoted the following from a National Journal story regarding Santorum’s appearance on Glenn Beck’s internet show:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Thursday that President Obama wants more young adults to go to college so they can undergo “indoctrination” to a secular world view.

[...]

Santorum said, “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring that universities that receive public funds have “intellectual diversity” on campus.

I suppose this stands to reason since, as James Joyner noted the other day,  Rick Santorum Thinks Satan Has Taken Over America and specifically universities.  Said Santorum in a 2008 speech:

[Satan] attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions. The place where he was, in my mind, the most successful and first successful was in academia. He understood pride of smart people. He attacked them at their weakest, that they were, in fact, smarter than everybody else and could come up with something new and different. Pursue new truths, deny the existence of truth, play with it because they’re smart. And so academia, a long time ago, fell.

But here’s the weird thing:  a study of religiosity and young adults found that those who attend college actually are less likely to experience religious decline than those who do not.

Jeremy E. Uecker, Mark D. Regnerus and Margaret L. Vaaler (sociologist at the dreaded University of Texas at Austin) published an article entitled “Losing My Religion:  The Social Sources of Religious Decline in Early Adulthood” in the journal Social Forces (June 2007, Vol. 85, No 4., pp. 1667-1692).  In the piece’s conclusion the authors note:

Emerging adults who do not attend college are most prone to curb all three types of religiousness [decline in church attendance, decline in importance of religion, or disaffiliation with religion] in early adulthood. Simply put, higher education is not the enemy of religiosity that so many have made it out to be.

[...]

The overwhelming majority (82 percent) of college students maintain at least a static level of personal religiosity in early adulthood.  Similarly,  86 percent retain their religious affiliation.  For most, it seems religious belief systems go largely untouched for the duration of their education (1683).

Here are the raw numbers from the study:

image

Note that group that had the highest incidence of disaffiliation from religion was that which did not attend college.

The article notes that other factors, which they call “life course factors” are moderately more helpful in explaining religious decline in young adults—those are at the bottom of the table such a marijuana smoking and extramarital sex.

But, of course, since we know (well, Rick Santorum knows) that universities were long ago taken over by Satan, I am sure that the above study is tainted and the numbers that Santorum is pulling out of thin air are actually the right ones.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. those are at the bottom of the table such a marijuana smoking and extramarital sex.

    extramarital sex is very different from premarital sex.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  2. James says:

    I really don’t see someone like Rick Santorum letting facts getting in the way of his narratives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    I was raised a Lutheran but I became an agnostic in high school – it just seemed silly to me. College certainly reinforced that view. I graduated form college in 1968 and soon found myself in the military. Within the first few hours of basic training I was asked what religion I belonged to so it could go on my dog tags. None was not an acceptable answer so I finally came up with Assyrian Agnostic which they accepted. They also accepted it from several of the people behind me. I still proudly display those dog tags.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  4. Rob in CT says:

    I can’t really think of anyone I knew in college changing their core values. I knew:

    a Catholic who had, as a teenager, decided to become one (his parents were non-religious). This was the same guy who, randomly, decided to take up smoking. He was… interesting. I liked him.

    a Catholic who was raised as such, was in Knights of Columbus.

    a secular Jew.

    a non-religious Catholic who was/is basically an atheist like me.

    a non-religious… something, raised vaguely Protestant, who still thinks there maybe “something” but that’s as far as she goes. My wife.

    a Catholic who wasn’t particularly Catholic and was still that way last I saw her (my ex).

    Those are the ones I knew really well (well enough to know what their spiritual lives were like). Seriously, not one of us changed. We talked, we gave & took, but in the end? We were the same people we always were.

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  5. Rob in CT says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    That’s pretty funny. Well played, sir.

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  6. @Stormy Dragon:

    extramarital sex is very different from premarital sex.

    “extramarital” can refer to adultery, but it can also simply mean sex outside of marriage (fornication). I prefer the term to “premarital” because the prefix “pre” assumes sex prior to marriage, which assume that marriage will take place at some point (which may not be the case). The prefix ‘extra” can simply mean “outside of,” so I think it is a more accurate term.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. @James:

    I really don’t see someone like Rick Santorum letting facts getting in the way of his narratives.

    Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Dazedandconfused says:

    I didn’t think it possible, but the melt-down of this Not-Romney has been even more entertaining than the previous ones.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    For the love of God, man, let’s leave Newt and Callista’s sex lives out of this ;).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. @Steven L. Taylor:

    According to M-W, extramarital refers exclusively to things related to adultery. In this case the prefix is used in the sense of “in addition to” (as in “extraciricular”), not in the sense of “beyond” or “outside” as it is used in other words.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  11. de stijl says:

    There may be a kernel of truth in what Santorum is saying (not a defense of Rih and certainly not of his pulled out of the ether statistic).

    I was 12 when I knew that any religion was not going to work for me. Now admitting this out loud to my family would have caused all sorts of troubles and monkey business that was just not worth the effort. So I went to church when my family went to church, sat in the pew, sang the hymns, bowed my head when others prayed.

    An hour a week was a fair price to pay for a lack of drama.

    I went to college at 17 and never went to church again except for weddings, christenings and funerals.

    If I’m not an outlier, many young people have decided in their minds that their faith tradition isn’t going to work for them, but wait until they leave the nest to stop practicing or to pursue a different spiritual path.

    From the outside it could look like college was the genesis for the religious disaffiliation, but in reality it’s just contemporaneous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  12. superdestroyer says:

    Isn’t this the idea that Charles Murray pushed in the media a few weeks ago. College graduates are more likely to marry, more likely to go to church, and more like to stay married.

    Since people who graduate from college have somewhat better time orientation skills that those who either failed college or could not get in, maybe having a future time orientation makes one more religious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Ben Wolf says:

    And who have we writing this post? One of the very same academics corrupting our youth! Did you sell your soul to Satan outright Dr. Taylor, or merely lease it with an option to buy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. @Stormy Dragon: If you poke around you will find that there are different usages of the term.

    We can agree to disagree (and the stakes are hardly all that high! :)

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  15. @Ben Wolf: Indeed. Clearly I am disqualified from the topic!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. @Stormy Dragon: One more point: I would argue that an “extramarital affair” is different than “extramarital sex.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Rick Almeida says:

    @de stijl:

    So I went to church when my family went to church, sat in the pew, sang the hymns, bowed my head when others prayed.

    An hour a week was a fair price to pay for a lack of drama.

    Ditto.

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  18. Franklin says:

    It’s true that I was going to church when I entered college and had stopped by the time I left, but I don’t think I had any class discussing religion other than some music history stuff. More than anything, I finally felt I had the freedom to follow through with doubts I had had for years.

    By the way, I note that Santorum also home schools his kids. Between that and his frothing during the debate the other night about Iran, I’m beginning to think he has some serious phobias to deal with before we give him the keys to the city.

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  19. grumpy realist says:

    Well, if Santorum is so much agin’ any new truths or discoveries, I guess the next U.S. government agency he’s going to try to cut is the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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  20. michael reynolds says:

    extramarital sex is very different from premarital sex.

    As marital sex is different from sex.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  21. michael reynolds says:

    Wait, did I post that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  22. Ron Beasley says:

    @Rob in CT: Perhaps I’m a prophet!

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  23. Ron Beasley says:

    @Franklin: I think the decision about religion is indeed made before you go to college. Once you go away to college you no longer have the family thing to coerce you into going to church. I have seen this among the Evangelicals I know – here in the Pacific Northwest Evangelical Christianity is a one generational thing. The exception seems to be the Mormons and I can’t explain that.

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  24. JohnMcC says:

    Trying to listen to the actual message that Mr Santorum gave — not just the words which we all can understand — one hears that the “elites” are after your children; they’re going to infect them like the invasion of the body snatchers.

    In this he is making a case that actually has some meaning to a few working-class caucasions in (for example) my homeplace in appalachia. It was apparently seconded by Sarah! (“….haven’t any on the MSM been to a Sunday School…)

    I suppose this is the meaning he intended. Does anyone think it will win a national election?

    But it will cement his standing as the 21st century Pat Robertson.

    This election is no longer about turning Barack out of the White House. The wing-nuts have given up on that. It is about who will lead (and profit from) the so-called-conservative “movement” in the next 4 yrs.

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  25. Justin Christian says:

    To say that Satan has taken over academia is a ‘bridge too far.’ However, to say that Satan has taken over the political arena and the media world is a ‘bridge we’re on.’

    The ‘funny’ thing about my assertion: if it’s correct then we have graphic illustrations of how bad it gets when Satan takes charge; if it’s not correct then we have graphic illustrations of how bad it can get without Satan taking charge.

    Mr. Santorum and cohorts get out of the way; we ‘bleeders’ desperately need capable leaders. Mr. Taylor and cohorts get out of the way; we readers desperately need capable ‘seeders.’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    [Satan] attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions. The place where he was, in my mind,

    Rick admits the truth. (Hey if it’s OK for Mitt, so can I)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0