Connection between religiosity and political partisanship


Gallup has done a survey and found the not very surprising result that the nonreligious and moderately religious tilt Democratic while the very religious tilt Republican. This pattern holds true (though to a smaller extent) for all subgroups such as non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and Asians, but not for blacks who go Democratic whatever their religiosity.

Gallup religious

The survey concludes:

From a practical politics standpoint, Republicans face the challenge of expanding their party’s appeal beyond the minority of Americans who are very religious, and appealing to Hispanics and Asians given that even the most religious of these growing groups tilt Democratic, albeit not as much as others in these groups who are less religious. Democrats 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.

What I found interesting are the numbers who classify themselves as very religious, moderately religious, and nonreligious.

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. That group constituted 41% of all U.S. adults in the first half of 2014. “Nonreligious” Americans (30% of Americans in 2014) 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 group, 29%, are classified as “moderately religious.” These people say religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.

So almost 60% of Americans seem to be somewhat wishy-washy about their religion, which I take as a good sign.

Comments

  1. Matt G says

    The Republicans and Christianity have been on their way to a merger for a good 40 years or so. There are times when I ask “How can a Christian be a Republican?” and times when I ask “How can a Christian NOT be a Republican?”.

  2. doublereed says

    The African American thing is very surprising to me. You can pin it on the racism of the Republicans, but then you would think the other minorities would go that way as well.

    Perhaps African Americans have more of a culture of a highly religious but distrustful of religious-minded politicians or something? I remember in Maryland the Black Churches were the ones that spearheaded the anti-gay marriage movement in the state (leading to many black pastors trying to distance themselves from the bigots), but nonetheless I doubt they were Republicans.

    What leads to such a disparity?

  3. moarscienceplz says

    The remaining group, 29%, are classified as “moderately religious.” These people say religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.

    I’m not sure these two groups should be lumped together. The “say it’s important, but don’t go to church” people are either lying to avoid conflict with their neighbors, in which case I’d guess they would trend Democratic, or they probably haven’t thought much about it and are just sticking with their parents’ beliefs, which I’d guess would trend Republican. These probably can’t be teased apart, but they would tend to cancel each other out.
    The “say it’s not important, but still go to church” are probably just looking for the social experience, and I think they would fit better in the non-religious category, and they probably trend Democratic.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    What leads to such a disparity?

    I don’t see how anyone who is not a white male could ever vote Republican (and I’m a white male).
    The historically black churches have a strong tradition of Get Out the Vote organization, so that may tend to keep everyone together as a bloc.

  5. Chiroptera says

    moarscienceplz, #4: I don’t see how anyone who is not a white male could ever vote Republican (and I’m a white male).

    Actually, seeing how Republican policies hurt anyone who isn’t wealthy, I don’t see how even most white males could ever vote Republican. Presumably you aren’t looking at the real-life effects of the policies but to whom the demogogery and propaganda is meant to appeal.

  6. flex says

    What leads to such a disparity?

    While I can’t answer for the rest of the nation, there is a strong correlation in the SE Michigan area between blue-collar/union jobs and the black population. So it is possible that the political identification with the democratic party among the black population may be related more to class than religion.

    It is my observation (i.e. I have no studies to support this belief), that other ethnic populations like Hispanics, non-Hispanic Whites, and the multitude of various Asian groups work across a wide spectrum of classes. While there are plenty of blue-collar workers of these groups, there are also engineers, managers, shop-owners, doctors, and other professions represented. So a wide variety of religiosity is expected, as is a wide range of political beliefs.

  7. busterggi says

    Is it really all the highly religious going Republican or is it just conservative Christian and some ultra-orthodox Jews? I can’t see how very religious Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, etc would have any reason to go Republican as that party constantly bashes them.

  8. moarscienceplz says

    Presumably you aren’t looking at the real-life effects of the policies but to whom the demogogery and propaganda is meant to appeal.

    Yes, indeed. If everybody actually voted according to the real-life effects of Re-puke-ican policies, Mitt RMoney would have received about 10,000 votes.
    But really, how can a Hispanic-American look at what the hyperventilators on Faux News say about the southern border and decide that that is the political party that best represents her/his interests? (Although I have a brother-in-law whose last name is Flores and who certainly looks Hispanic and yet he says the most jaw-dropping things about “illegals”.)

  9. anteprepro says

    How come most African Americans don’t vote Republican? My guess? They noticed the Southern Strategy and they never forgot it. And they probably notice how it survives today, and notice all the racist dog-whistle terms flying below most other people’s radars.

  10. Ed says

    Sometimes I’m a little skeptical of results like these because the concept of ” very religious” is easy to conflate with “very dogmatic in matters of religion.” For example there are extremely liberal religious groups(Unitarians, Reform Jews, etc.) and very liberal factions within mainstream religious groups.

    Let’s say a person is a liberal and a member of a socially progressive religious institution of some kind. They attend services every week, belong to affiliated clubs and committees and donate generously. But attempts to quantify levels of religiosity sometimes take factors like literal interpretations of scripture and focus on the afterlife as evidence of higher levels of religiously.

    To me a person who is highly devoted to something that is generally designated as a religion is “very religious.” A person with less devotion and involvement is less religious to various degrees. This is a different issue from how conservative their religious preferences are. Plenty of people want to shove conservative religious values down everyone’s throats but can’t be bothered to actually practice the religion they are so dogmatic about.

  11. Mano Singham says

    Ed,

    I agree but the issue is finding a way to quantify religiosity that will allow people to be able to answer easily and unambiguously. When you try to quantify type of religious belief, things can get complicated pretty fast.

  12. Ed says

    Yea, I see what you mean. I think I’d focus mostly on questions about actual religious practices–going a lot to services and other activities at the place of worship, prayer and/or meditation, a high percentage of their reading or viewing material being religious in nature and so on.

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