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Ask Professor Burge 5 – The Trump Administration, Atheists and Jewish Peoples, and Sexual Partners


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/09/22

Professor Ryan Burge‘s website states: “I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science as well as the Graduate Coordinator at Eastern Illinois University. I teach in a variety of areas, including American institutions, political behavior, and research methods. My research focuses largely on the intersection between religiosity and political behavior (especially in the American context). Previously, I have completed an appointment as a post doctoral research fellow at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in Carbondale, Illinois. While there I was an adviser on issues of survey methodology and polling, as well as providing data collection and analysis.

I have published over a dozen articles in a number of well regarded peer reviewed journals including Politics & Religion, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Review of Religious Research, the Journal of Religious Leadership, RepresentationPoliticsGroupsand Identities, the Journal of Communication and Religion, the Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture and the Social Science Computer Review. 

In addition, my research has been covered in a variety of media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Vox, 538, BuzzFeed News, Al-Jazeera, Christianity Today, Religion News Service, The Daily Mail, Deseret News, World Magazine, Relevant, and C-SPAN. I am the co-founder and frequent contributor to Religion in Public, a forum for scholars of religion and politics to make their work accessible to a more general audience.

Finally, I am a pastor in the American Baptist Church, having served my current church for over thirteen years.”

Here we talk about some particularized questions within the research, in brief, on why people voted for Trump, atheists and Jewish peoples, and the number of sexual partners in the last 5 years.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, some quick questions based on the recent research. This is an interesting question. So, when you’re looking at what is more acceptable to say at a dinner party, “I voted for Trump because I want to end abortion,” or, “I voted for Trump because I wanted to end immigration.” Why did people vote for Trump?

Professor Ryan Burge: They’re Republican. He’s a Republican. That’s the simple answer. Aside from anecdotes, the reality is American society; we all understand is more based in religious belief than philosophy, logic, or science. If someone says, “I think Roe v Wade should be overturned and abortion should be illegal in America.” Most people will say, “Okay, I am not going to argue that position with you because you probably got that position from the Bible. You believe what you believe. I believe what I believe.” So, if people say they voted for Trump because of abortion, people will say, “Okay, I understand that.” Then the conversation moves onto something else.

If it is on immigration, like ending the “visa lottery” or something, even moderates or even slightly conservative Republicans will look at you like, “You want to end immigration too?” Evangelicals have gotten really smart at saying the thing that is kind of true, but not exactly true. Because they don’t want to have the conversation at a dinner party or a company party. Because if it is abortion, they know this will end the conversation. If you talk about immigration, you will get, “You’re a racist. You’re a xenophobe.” They are good at posturing themselves. They are really good at PR. This is how they manage to justify their own vote choice. Immigration is more consequential than abortion is for white Evangelicals.

Jacobsen: Why do atheists and Jewish people follow government and public affairs more than anyone else?

Burge: [Laughing] Because they have really high levels of education. Matters like that are tied to education; education is tied to income. Income is tied to following the news. If you own a business, then you will follow the news for business interests. I think it is highly correlated with overall levels of education. Especially for Jewish people, they are heavily populated in highly educated areas, like New England. They are news heavy people. It is who is the locus of where the information is coming from, which is the metropolitan areas. You have to soak into it for Jewish people.

It is all around you all the time. For atheists, 25% of atheists have a bachelor’s degree. It is really, really high, up there with Hindus and Buddhists. People care about education. It is more about demography and education, and less about the religious beliefs or the philosophical beliefs or structure that went into understanding the world. Jewish people have high levels of education as well. It is probably not religion there, and probably demography. 

Jacobsen: What about number of sexual partners in the last 5 years?

Burge: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: How has that trend looked from 1991 to 2018? What is the summary statement there?

Burge: I think very stable. That’s the thing for people who don’t follow this very closely. If you look at sexual behaviour in Americans, it is down. For instance, 70% of adults in the last 12 months have had 1 or no sexual partners. That’s a huge – and these are adults too – number. Also, other data show high school students, of them, only 40% of them have had vaginal intercourse in the last 12 months, when it was 55% 20 years ago. That’s a 15-point drop in 2 decades. The number of abortions in America is lower than it has ever been, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

So, when you look at all of these things that tie into sex and sexual behaviour, America is, actually, not nearly as promiscuous as lots of people think it is. Probably, less than 10% of people have had more than 5 sexual partners in the last 5 years. So, when we see these archetypes of these guys who are out being promiscuous with lots of different partners, the reality is that just not true. It is very small percentage of Americans. The reality: Most Americans are monogamous or celibate.

Jacobsen: And that’s a wrap.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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