New Connections alumna Amy Adamczyk (NC 2009) and colleagues highlight the significance of location in social science studies through her recent research, intersecting religion, race, homosexuality, and place. Previously, researchers had given little to no attention to how county characteristics shape attitudes toward homosexuality, focusing more on racial and ethnic differences in public opinions. Many of those studies showed that African Americans appear to be less approving of homosexuality than other ethnicities. This research challenges that premise from a spatial perspective.
This research challenges that premise from a spatial perspective–using county-level data from the American National Election Survey, the Census Bureau, and the Association of Religion Data Archives. Employing Hierarchical Linear Modeling techniques, the researchers found that after accounting for the geographical distribution of attitudes across counties, as well as religious involvement, strength of belief, and religious affiliation, African Americans appear to have warmer feelings about homosexuality than whites. They also found that there are no large correlations between race and religion with attitudes toward homosexuality, but that it is more so about county (location) variables.
These findings show that previous research was misestimated in regards to African American feelings, as that research did not account for the uneven distribution of attitudes in different counties. This is one of the first studies to examine contextual factors that may explain differences in attitudes about homosexuality.