The Quantum Pontiff

Plotting Religion iff Freedom

Last week Mitt Romney, in a speech on religion, said that “Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom.” Or, as I like to put it, “Religion iff Freedom.” This bothered me more than a little bit, until I realized that I could turn it into an empirical question. Or a least a question where I could make a plot! Below is a plot of importance of religion in people’s lives versus their political freedom for a 39 countries:
i-df49435dee4ac4bcc942fded353d9398-religionifffreedom.jpg


The views on religion were taken from a 2002 Pew survey and the political freedom index was taken from the 2007 Freedom House’s survey of political freedom. I used political freedom which according to Freedom House measures the ability of “people to participate freely in the political process, including through the right to vote, compete for public office, and elect representatives who have a decisive impact on public policies and are accountable to the electorate.”

Disclaimer: your mileage using this plot may vary, may get you into trouble in arguments, and may even result in you moving to Western Europe.

Comments

  1. #1 philip roberts
    December 14, 2007

    What are the three countries that are outliers in the lower right (low religion, not free)?

  2. #2 Dave Bacon
    December 14, 2007

    Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Russia (the 6).

  3. #3 Domenic
    December 14, 2007

    That’s a pretty cool little graph! Thanks for making it.

    Labels would be a nice addition to satisfy curiosity, but while we’re asking, who are the most upper-left ones?

    And, can you apply any tests/draw any lines through this to give us some kind of correlation? The best conclusion I can draw is that “in most countries that are not free, religion plays an important role.”

  4. #4 Jonathan Vos Post
    December 14, 2007

    At last answering the burning question: what do the nominally Communist nations Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Russia have in common?

    Before this, the best answer was: carving their names in stone, with straight-line chisel-strokes, all have the letter V.

  5. #5 Travis
    December 14, 2007

    I’m guessing the upper left-most dot (1/84) is Ghana, the middle-left dot (1/59) is the US, and and the lower left quadrant is primarily Western European nations + Canada + Australia + NZ.

    The graph seems to contradict Mitt’s statement, in that there’s a solid showing in the lower left quadrant of the graph. The question is–does this represent a steady-state situation or just a temporary anomaly? I’m guessing it’s the latter.

    If you want to make the graph even more informative, throw in birth rate (maybe using dot color). Nations with low birth rates are not going to be around all that much longer, at least not in their present form. The future belongs to those who show up for it.

  6. #6 Chris Granade
    December 15, 2007

    This is an excellent visualization, though it does suffer a bit from granularity in the political axis. That said, I’m curious what the three dots off in the lower right correspond to.

  7. #7 Steve
    December 15, 2007

    I’m not at all surprised to see Russia in the lower right, but I’m wondering where China is on this plot?

  8. #8 Chris Granade
    December 15, 2007

    Ugh. That will teach me to read the other comments first.

  9. #9 Physicalist
    December 16, 2007

    Very interesting. Thanks for the plot. (“The scientists are plotting against the world’s religious.”)

    @Steve: China didn’t allow Pew to ask about the importance off religion; thus I assume it isn’t on the graph. They obviously didn’t rank very well on freedom (a “6″). You won’t find Egypt, Lebanon, or Jordan either b/c the question was deemed to “sensitive.”

  10. #10 Dave Bacon
    December 17, 2007

    Here is the raw data. When I get time I’ll put up a better labeled plot…

    U.S. 59 1
    Canada 30 1
    U.K. 33 1
    Italy 27 1
    Germany 21 1
    France 11 1
    Poland 36 1
    Slovakia29 1
    Bulgaria13 1
    Czech 11 1
    Korea 25 1
    Japan 12 1
    Ghana 84 1
    Brazil 77 2
    Peru 69 2
    Mexico 57 2
    Argentina 39 2
    Indonesia 95 2
    India 92 2
    Senegal 97 2
    Mali 90 2
    Sout Africa 87 2
    Ukraine 35 3
    Gutaemala 80 3
    Honduras 72 3
    Bolivia 66 3
    Philippines 88 3
    Kenya 85 3
    Venezuala 61 4
    Bangladesh 88 4
    Nigeria 92 4
    Tanzania 83 4
    Uganda 85 5
    Russia 14 6
    Pakistan 91 6
    Angola 80 6
    Turkey 65 7
    Uzbekistan 35 7
    Vietnam 24 7
    Cote d’Ivoire 91 7

  11. #11 Sanmay
    December 17, 2007

    Wow, fascinating — what intrigues me is that if you think of the ones and twos on the political freedom spectrum, there’s a ton on both ends of the religiosity spectrum! I would have expected either a big cluster on the lower side, or a more-or-less uniform distribution a priori. But that’s what data is for, I guess :)

  12. #12 Phil Warnell
    December 23, 2007

    In looking at the data the only correlation I think one may find here (especially in the freer nations) is that it may be consistent with the quality of education afforded the average citizen.

  13. #13 Phil Warnell
    December 24, 2007

    After I wrote the above about the correlation with education I thought I’d check it out a bit. If you look at the PISA (The Program for International Student Assessment) study just published a few weeks ago you might consider this for yourself. It can be downloaded at:
    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/15/13/39725224.pdf

    Incidentally the U.S. ranked 29th on the science scale

  14. #14 Phil Warnell
    December 26, 2007

    Just as a follow up on importance of religion vs. freedom vs. education. I took the Pisa data I mentioned as to how 15 year old students in each nation ranked with each other’s science grading and added them to the data list. As you note the nations that don’t even important enough to test consistently had the ranked religion more important. There also seems to be a looser correlation between religion and science scores.

    Nation Rel Free Edu

    U.S. 59 1 30
    Canada 30 1 3
    U.K. 33 1 14
    Italy 27 1 38
    Germany 21 1 13
    France 11 1 26
    Poland 36 1 23
    Slovakia 29 1 31
    Bulgaria 13 1 43
    Czech 11 1 15
    Korea 25 1 11
    Japan 12 1 6
    Ghana 84 1 N/T
    Brazil 77 2 53
    Peru 69 2 N/T
    Mexico 57 2 50
    Argentina 39 2 52
    Indonesia 95 2 51
    India 92 2 N/T
    Senegal 97 2 N/T
    Mali 90 2 N/T
    South Africa 87 2 N/T
    Ukraine 35 3 N/T
    Gutaemala 80 3 N/T
    Honduras 72 3 N/T
    Bolivia 66 3 N/T
    Philippines 88 3 N/T
    Kenya 85 3 N/T
    Venezuala 61 4 N/T
    Bangladesh 88 4 N/T
    Nigeria 92 4 N/T
    Tanzania 83 4 N/T
    Uganda 85 5 N/T
    Russia 14 6 37
    Pakistan 91 6 N/T
    Angola 80 6 N/T
    Turkey 65 7 45
    Uzbekistan 35 7 N/T
    Vietnam 24 7 N/T
    Cote d’Ivoire 91 7 N/T

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