Who do you know?

Just last week I finished up reading Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. The book  is not new. It has been around since 2007/2008.

In short, it’s based on the Gallup World Poll data and is one of the largest data collection surveys in history. The goal is to let people speak for themselves, rather than the more typical portrayal that is given by pundits or pop culture. There’s a lot of value in it. So I’d commend it to you as a starting point for reflection and discussions.

But what I really wanted to get at it is something more basic than what’s in the book. I guess, in some sense, it is a replacement for the book. Rather than having some massive study representative of billions of people tell you what the world thinks, my question is this:

Who do you know? What do they think? 

There are many perceived conflicts in the world. Whether along religious lines or political or social issues or even theological issues, there are a whole host of opportunities to find some group of people with whom you are at odds.

I’m in no way dismissing the importance of any of these stands. Oftentimes disagreements are truly over serious issues. There are many weighty debates. Not every dispute is petty trifling. They often emerge because people hold sincere beliefs. They stand for something.

But I wonder what we know of those on the other side?

Or, as I asked above, who do you know?

Have you ever spent time with those with whom you disagree? Have you sat down for a conversation? Not a debate, but just talked about life? Have you ever “loved your neighbor” (to put it in Biblical terms)?

We can start by reading a book – to tell us “what a billion Muslims really think” – but maybe, just maybe, we’d all be better off we knew what even just one person thought.


Values and Voting

By no means do I plan to give a full report or analysis on the results of values or demographics of the 2012 election, I do want to share a few interesting observations that were made on Tuesday.

First, Gender Matters: Men went for Romney 52% to 45% for Obama. Women went to Obama 55% to 44% for Romney.

But if you go a little bit deeper, you can say that Marriage Matters: Married women went to Romney 53% to 46% for Obama. Non-Married women voted for Obama in an overwhelming majority with 67% versus 31% for Romney.

While in some senses this might just be a result of the youth demographic, the under 30 voters, which Obama won by 23%, there is something to be said about a difference in values for married versus single voters.

A final area of interest that I want to highlight is that Theological Convictions matter: White Roman Catholics voted for Romney 59% to 40%. Among White Evangelicals the numbers were even higher at 78% for Romney and 21% for Obama. Yet, among those who declare “no religious affiliation” Obama won 70% of the vote and 26% for Romney.

These are just a few of the observations that have emerged and certainly there is deeper analysis to be made, but they help to illustrate some of the areas of division between voters.

For political strategists, particularly in the Republican party, there are some major trends that can’t be overlooked if you are aiming to win elections (E.g.: This from the Washington Post). The challenge is how to broaden your voting base and express individual values that cross traditional demographic barriers. This is something that needs to be done and, if the values espoused truly are for the good of all, can be and needs to be done.

There is lots more that can be expressed on this but hopefully this will be a helpful starting point.

If you are looking for a full report on values and the election look for more from Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute coming soon:

2012 Post-Election American Values Survey: Analyzing the Election and Looking ahead to the Budget Showdown