Born-Again Divide on Environmental Issues

Rural Americans are divided along religious lines when it comes to environmental issues, according to “Religion, Politics and the Environment in Rural America,” a new report from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Overall, 43 percent of rural Americans favor conserving natural resources for future generations rather than using natural resources to create jobs, while 29 percent favor job creation, and 28 percent think both priorities should be weighed equally. But only 40 percent of born-again Protestants favor resource conversation (compared with 49 percent of Catholics and 48 percent of unaffiliated rural Americans), and these Protestants were significantly more likely to say that urban sprawl and global warming have no effects on their communities.
Rural Americans, “who are more often evangelical, may see the effects of global warming and other environmental issues first-hand, given how central natural resources are to their livelihoods,” says sociologist and report co-author Michele Dillon. “Yet we found that born-again Protestants tend to be the least likely to perceive the effects of global warming.”
Research show that born-again Protestants are especially prominent in chronically poor communities and declining resource-dependent communities, which are found mainly in Appalachia and the Midwest. In these declining resource-dependent communities, 59 percent of born-again Protestants see no effects of global warming (compared with 50 percent of nonevangelical Protestants). “There seems to be a confluence of experiencing decline and being born again that is particularly antithetical to perceiving environmental threat,” Dillon says. —Heather Wax

Category: Environment

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