Strong Evangelicals tend to be Republicans. Non-believers swing toward the Democrats.
“Overall party identification trends in the U.S. have shifted over the past six and half years,” reports Frank Newport for the Gallup organization. However, “the relationship between religion and party identification has remained consistent.”
What that means is very religious Americans are more likely to identify with or lean toward the GOP and less toward the Democratic Party, compared with those who are moderately religious or not at all.
The one exception occurs among black Americans. They tend to be the most Democratic of any major race or ethnic group.
Blacks are very religious on average, but the political orientation of blacks who are nonreligious does not vary significantly from those who are very religious. Democratic affiliation among black Americans hovers near 75 percent within all three religious groups of black Americans.
And what about the assumptions that Hispanics – particularly recent immigrants – will vote Democratic? Not the religious ones, says Gallup. Hispanics and Asians follow the same pattern as everybody else – with the very religious leaning toward the Republicans and non-religious toward the Democrats.
Gallup classifies Americans as “very religious” if they say religion is an important part of their daily lives and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week, says Newport.
During the first half of 2014, that group constituted 41 percent of all U.S. adults. “Non-religious” Americans – 30 percent of the population – are those who say religion is not an important part of their daily lives and that they seldom or never attend religious services.
The remaining 29 percent are classified as “moderately religious.” Gallup identifies them in two groups: 1) people who say religion is important in their lives, but they do not attend services regularly, or 2) who say religion is not important, but they attend services anyway.
What’s the bottom line? “The relationship between Americans' religiousness and their party preference is a persistent and well-documented social pattern that has remained extraordinarily stable over the last six and a half years,” says Newport.
“The underlying explanations for the relationship are complex, and have to do with the historical development of partisan politics in the decades since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were president, differing positions of the parties on moral and values issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and geographic patterns of residency that are simultaneously related to religiousness and partisanship.
“From a practical politics standpoint, Republicans face the challenge of expanding their party's appeal beyond the minority of Americans who are very religious.
“Democrats,” reports Newport, “face the challenge of attempting to broaden their party's appeal beyond the base of those who are moderately or nonreligious, a tactic that most likely will require effort to frame the party's positions on social justice and equality issues in a way that is compatible with a high degree of religiousness.”
Publication date: July 31, 2014