Where does Santorum’s 62% come from?

Where presidential candidate Rick Santorum found the research to substantiate his claim that college is a Indoctrination Mill decimating the religious faith (by 62%) remains a mystery, but it would take some doing today to find a left leaning blog which isn’t highlighting this quotation:

“I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring universities that receive public funds have “intellectual diversity” on campus.”  [CBS]

Actually, perhaps we can clear up part of the mystery of the 62% by conjecturing that what Mr. Santorum was speaking of was a 2006 survey by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government which found that 62% of college Republicans said “religion was losing its influence on American life.”

If this is the source of the Magic 62% figure, then the conservative commentary missed the report’s most important point:

“Seven in ten college students today say religion is important or very important in their lives. What’s more, a quarter of students (25%) say they have become more spiritual since entering college, as opposed to only seven percent (7%) who say they have become less spiritual.”

Interesting, while 62% of college Republicans bemoaned the declining influence of religion in American life, 25% of their cohorts were becoming more spiritual while only 7% were becoming less so.   A smaller study conducted by the Newman Society of specifically Catholic institutions found that only 6% of the young people educated at Catholic institutions had left the faith after graduation.  More to the point, SICHE research reported “… 54% of respondents say the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church. Thirteen percent (13%) say the experience decreased their support, 30% increased.”  [SICHE pdf]

Former Senator Santorum may also be amplifying another aspect of the SICHE report, while possibly conflating it with the Harvard Study, that the SICHE found young people engaging in “negative behaviors,” (drinking, pre-marital sex, watching porn) and tolerating dissent.  60% believed abortion should be legal, even if it violated their personal moral standards.  78% didn’t find using a condom to be sinful behavior, which is a good thing because 60% of the young people surveyed didn’t find pre-marital sexual activity to be untoward if it were done with “someone you really care about.”   Ah, some lines never change.

Be that as it may, after an afternoon of “Googling” to find the source of the serious 62%, as close as I could come was the Harvard Study, and it’s impossible to conclude that because 62% of college aged Republicans are dismayed by the “decline” in religious influence they perceive in American life that their collegiate friends are having the same experience.

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2 responses to “Where does Santorum’s 62% come from?

  1. Pingback: Santorum decries American Mills | Steel City Skeptics

  2. Pingback: The Village Square » Sunday at the Square: College & faith