Poll Shows Atheist Leaders' Open Letter More Acceptable to Men than to Women

 

Poll Shows Atheist Leaders' Open Letter More Acceptable to Men than to Women

Corinne Zimmerman, Ph.D.

On April 2, 2013, the leaders of a number of secular organizations released “An Open Letter to the Secular Community.” The Board of Directors at Secular Woman chose not to endorse the letter and we briefly describe our reasons here.  We found out on April 2 the reasons behind American Secular Census’ choice not to endorse this letter either. The president released a statement to explain her decision.

To gauge the initial response of the secular community, the American Secular Census (ASC) conducted a brief opinion poll:

The American Secular Census opened up an anonymous, public poll about twelve hours after publishing Why the American Secular Census didn't sign 'An Open Letter to the Secular Community'. The poll remained active for around 54 hours and was linked on that page, on the Secular Census Facebook page, and in the Secular Census Twitter feed. We left further promotion up to viral networking within the secular community, where it received diverse coverage.

The ASC received responses from a non-random, volunteer sample of 170 people. Survey respondents were asked to indicate their gender, and answer two opinion questions after affirming that they had read both the “Open Letter” and the response from ASC explaining the lack of endorsement. A summary of the initial results can be found here.

Secular Woman was interested in examining the pattern of results to the opinion questions based on the gender of the survey respondents. The first opinion question asked about the “Open Letter” itself, and provided four response choices (see Table 1). The pattern of results is consistent with the idea that women were more critical of the letter: Male respondents were more likely to rate the letter as “excellent” or “pretty good,” but female and genderqueer respondents were more likely to say that it is “fair” or has “major problems.”

 

 

Table 1

In general, what is your opinion of “An Open Letter to the Secular Community”?

Response Category

Male

Female

Genderqueer

Row Total

It's an excellent letter. I fully support it.

14

(56%)

11

(44%)

0

25

It's pretty good. I have some reservations, but they're minor.

22

(58%)

16

(42%)

0

38

It's a fair letter. It would take some work for me to support it.

21

(36%)

34

(59%)

3

(5%)

58

It has some major problems. I don't support it at all.

17

(35%)

30

(61%)

2

(4%)

49

Column Totals

74

91

5

N=170

Note: The percentage of each gender category within response categories is noted in parentheses.  The relationship between the two traditional gender categories and response choices did not reach statistical significance, Χ2 (3, N = 165) = 6.3, p = .09.  The sample of those who identified as genderqueer was too small and thus would not be representative of the population.

 

The second opinion question asked respondents to indicate whether they believed that the American Secular Census should have endorsed the letter by signing it (see Table 2). Overall, 51% of men, 60% who identify as genderqueer, and 77% of women agreed that ASC not signing the letter was the right decision.  For this question, there is a statistically significant relationship between gender and opinion. Female respondents were more likely to support the decision by the ASC to not sign the letter. Male respondents were more likely to believe that it was a mistake not to sign or were unable to decide.

Table 2

Should the American Secular Census have signed the letter?

Response Category

Male

Female

Genderqueer

Row Total

Yes. It was a mistake not to sign the letter.

24

(63%)

14

(37%)

0

38

No. Not signing the letter was the right decision.

38

(34%)

70

(63%)

3

(3%)

111

I can’t decide.

12

(57%)

7

(33%)

2

(10%)

21

Column Totals

74

91

5

N=170

Note: The percent of each gender category within response categories is noted in parentheses.  There is a significant relationship between the two traditional gender categories and response choices, Χ2 (2, N = 165) = 11.8, p = .003. The sample of those who identified as genderqueer was too small and thus would not be representative of the population.

 

Dr. Corinne Zimmerman is a Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University. Her research interests focus on cognitive development, with a particular emphasis on the development of scientific thinking skills and scientific literacy. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Developmental Review, International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology, Memory & Cognition, Public Understanding of Science, Sex Roles, and Science.

 

These data and related analyses represent an ongoing strategic partnership between Secular Woman and the American Secular Census.

 

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Secular Woman, Inc. is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) public charity. All donations and gifts made are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

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