Sunday, June 14, 2009

Utah the outlier

The respected statistical blog Five Thirty-Eight recently pointed to a fascinating chart that compared public attitudes about various gay rights questions across U.S. states.

This is from a study by Jeff Lax and Justin Phillips at Columbia.

Utah is one of the stragglers at the bottom the chart. But that's not the interesting part. Since the chart shows multiple measures of public support of gay rights, there's not just one number to look at.

Utah's pattern of opinion is unique. It shows dramatically lower support of basic gay rights such as equality in health insurance and housing than all other states. Also interesting is Utah's 50 of 50 ranking of gay parenting. If you study the numbers you could easily make the case that Utah is the state with the lowest overall public support for gay issues in the nation.

Public opinion in Utah is significantly out of step with the rest of the country, even political backwaters such as Alabama. One can speculate that Utah's status as a statistical outlier has a lot to do with the influence of the LDS Church on public opinion in the state. If the Church's influence really is behind these numbers, then this chart should be a cautionary tale for the Church's PR department-- they are at risk of seriously tarnishing the Church's brand with mainstream Americans.

It is also interesting that Idaho is the only other state that is similar to Utah's pattern of gay-related public opinion (for example, in very low support for gay parenting).


Grant Haws said...

I didn't realize how true this was until I left Utah for a few years and then moved back. Utah is not even a "gay tolerant" state.

As public opinion moves towards full acceptance of gay rights, this is going to make the Church and Utah look more and more openly hostile to gays, and no amount of PR will cover that up.

Sarah said...

That's because it is a sin, don't ya know? Or at least that is what my dad told me last week. "You never should have told anyone, especially not your kids and your ward."

Sickening and so sad. We can only keep trying to educate and change opinions one person at a time.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Grant,

It's funny and not funny at the same time. We might even see the gap in pro-gay and anti-gay states widen.

Hi Sarah,

I'm so sorry to hear what your dad said. I'm behind you and Scott 100%. Why don't you move to Seattle? Just a thought. :-)

MoHoHawaii said...

Hey Sarah,

I am reminded of the line from Shakespeare when King Lear says "I am a man / More sinned against than sinning."

Sins of the powerful against the powerless are grave. Anti-gay animus is not an attractive moral aspect of character.

C. L. Hanson said...

Wow, that's awful to see how many people don't even want to allow gay people the right not to be evicted from their homes for being gay!

Holly said...

that's awful, just awful. It's also awful that gays are losing their only real ally in politics, Gov. Huntsman.

SLC is of course its own weird island--there's a respectable gay community here, and they work REALLY hard, confronting the church and the legislature and lobbying for the rights they deserve. I truly admire these people.