God gets good job approval ratings in recent survey

I’m not sure why Public Policy Polling decided to recently include these questions in a mid-July survey (just to make comparisons with current politicians and Rupert Murdoch?) but here is how Americans rate God’s job performance:

While many polls have asked what Americans’ beliefs are about God, there has been little measurement of voters’ evaluation of its performance. It turns out, if God exists, voters would give God a strong 52-9 approval rating. This is hardly a surprise considering the vast majority of the country believes in an infallible deity, but some of the crosstabs are quite interesting.

There is a considerable age divide on God’s approval with those 18-29 approving 67-18 compared to a 40-6 approval rating among those over 65. What jumps out from this divide is not just that young voters are more likely to be critical of the job performance of the omnipotent figure, but that they are considerably more likely to voice their opinion. Only 15% of those 18-29 said they were unsure whether they approved of God, while 54% of those over 65 said they were unsure. This could indicate that the youth is much more comfortable answering silly questions about religion while the elderly feel a question on God’s approval is taking religion too lightly. There is also an ideological divide over God’s performance. Those who identify as very liberal approve of God 54-18, while those who identify as very conservative are almost uniform in their approval, 61-4.

God also performs well on some of the issues it could be responsible for if it exists. God scores its best rating on its handling of creating the universe. The big bang may be messy, but most voters must feel it gets the job done as they give God a 71-5 rating on the issue. As for the animal kingdom, if God exists it may have been off its game when it evolved up the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve, but perhaps the elegant Monarch butterfly makes up for it as voters give God a 56-11 rating on its handling of animals. As one would expect, God’s worst ratings are on its handling of natural disasters; however, Americans may feel the occasional earthquake or hurricane builds character as voters give God strong marks, rating it 50-13.

These figures seem pretty high but they are rather vague questions. If you are going to ask these questions, why not add a few more: do you feel God has treated you fairly lately? Do you think God has blessed the United States? Which political party do you think God would side with more? Do you feel that God approves of your job performance in life?

Maybe these figures do indicate some generational and political gaps. There are also some differences by race as African-Americans are more likely to approve of God’s performance. Or perhaps these figures don’t tell us much of anything. PPP could start asking this question more regularly and track the data over time.

It would be interesting to follow these questions by asking respondents why they gave the rating they did. Were respondents afraid to give God negative ratings?

Also, how come there is no indication of how many people didn’t answer this question since it starts with “If God exists”? Cross-tabs give us percentages but we don’t have Ns for the categories or cells.

New polling data on presidential legacies

A number of sources are reporting on a recent Gallup poll on the approval ratings of past presidents. The Atlantic provides a quick round-up of the trends: Kennedy has a strong legacy (85% approval), Clinton and the first Bush are both up 8% compared to 2006 (up to 69% and 64%, respectively), George W. comes in at 48%, and Nixon is still in the dumps (29%).

What is fascinating to think about is how these legacies get constructed. Part of it is based on the performance of the president while in office. But part of it is also based on what happens after the president leaves office and how the cultural narrative develops about that time period. Richard Nixon can’t shake Watergate and Lyndon Johnson can’t escape the turmoil of the mid 1960s. In contrast, Bill Clinton was president during a prosperous era and JFK is still seen in glowing terms. All of these presidents except for JFK had some years to tell their story and become involved in other causes, if they so chose. These legacies are shaped by cultural narratives, common stories by which a country understands its own history.

I would be interested in see how these figures break down by different demographics. For JFK: is his support higher among those who were alive at the time or younger people today? For Reagan: what is his legacy support among Democrats?

This reminds me of a lesson I once heard in class from a professor: don’t trust the information in political memoirs because the purpose of such texts is to promote a particular legacy.