How political views and religious affiliations connect to peoples’ opinions on supporting youth mentoring

Hagler, M., McQuilin, S., Rhodes, J. (2019). Ideological profiles of US adults and their support for youth mentoring. J Community Psychology, 1-16. DOI: 10.1002/jcop.22247

Summarized by Karina DeAndrade

Notes of Interest: This study, conducted by members of our very own Center for Evidence Based Mentoring, looked at how political affiliations and religious beliefs in adults connect to their views on mentoring and government’s financial support of mentoring programs. These authors gave online surveys to a large sample of adults who were above the age of 18, receiving a total of 1,700 responses. Results revealed three categories of respondents as determined by latent class analysis: Classic Conservatives, Progressives, and Religious Outsiders. In addition to the classic dichotomy of progressives and conservatives, the third category of respondents (religious outsiders) were highly religious but felt as though the country was generally on the right track, supported social justice movements, and endorsed government-funded mentoring efforts, while still mostly identifying as moderately or strongly conservative. This third category of respondents reinforces the idea of a “conflicted conservative,” someone who takes on the conservative label while in fact demonstrating ideology that contrasts with that classification.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Little is known about the influence of political ideology and religiosity on adults’ support for youth mentoring as a strategy to address social problems. This study used latent class analysis in a large, national sample of US adults to identify underlying ideological profiles associated with support for mentoring programs. Three latent classes emerged. The attitudes of two classes, Classic Conservatives and Progressives, were consistent with traditional political conservatism and liberalism; the latter endorsed higher support for the theory of mentoring and government spending on mentoring programs. Members of the third class, Religious Outsiders, were highly religious, self‐identified as very conservative, and were highly supportive of the theory of mentoring and the use of government funds on mentoring programs. Ad hoc analyses revealed that Religious Outsiders were the most likely to actually participate in mentoring activities. These findings suggest that support for mentoring, while not universal, crosses traditional political lines.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Our LCA of a national sample of US adults suggested that there is significant heterogeneity in adults’ mentoring attitudes that are not fully captured by a conservative‐liberal dichotomy. Two latent classes emerged that represented traditional ends of the political spectrum. Classic Conservatives tended to be older, religious, and unsupportive of social justice programs. Somewhat surprisingly, only about half of this group felt the country was going in the right direction. Classic Conservatives endorsed the lowest perceived importance of mentoring and were least supportive of the use of government funds for mentoring programs. Progressives, on the other hand, were not religious and were more diverse in terms of age, largely felt the country was going in the wrong direction, and were supportive of social justice movements. Progressives perceived mentoring to be important and supported the allocation of government funds for mentoring programs at moderate levels. Consistent with research highlighting “conflicted conservatives,” a third class emerged which consisted of a group of young, highly religious, self‐identified conservatives who felt that the country was going in the right direction but supported social justice movements (somewhat unexpectedly, at higher rates than Progressives). This Religious Outsiders group was highly supportive of the theory of mentoring and the use of government funds for mentoring programs.

Perhaps more surprising, however, was Religious Outsiders’ high level of support for social justice movements, particularly because the item named Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street as examples, two movements that have been widely associated with political progressivism. However, it is possible that support for these movements represents an area of political crossover that is fairly common amongst self‐identified conservatives, particularly those who are younger and religious (Claassen et al., 2015). Alternatively, there is evidence that many conservatives say they support social justice and consider conservative causes such as antiabortion advocacy, religious freedom, and tax cuts to be pursuant of social justice (e.g., Anderson, 2017; Thyer, 2010). Even if these examples were not provided on the survey, the item did not define “social justice,” leaving respondents to interpret the term according to their own definitions.

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