Monday, October 31, 2011

The God Gap

Gallup reports on the connection between religion and party identification:

Religion remains a significant correlate of political party identification in the U.S. today.

The impact of religion is most evident among whites, whose net Republican orientation moves from +35 points among the very religious to -17 points among the nonreligious. A white American's degree of religiousness, in other words, is a strong predictor of that person's political orientation.

Highly religious white Americans are an important group in American politics, perhaps more so than one would think, given their 28% representation in the overall adult population. This segment of voters is highly active in politics, overrepresented in the Tea Party movement, and generally continues to be a force in driving political discussion and in voting.

Democrats to date have been unable to make a substantial dent in the Republican orientation of very religious whites, thus leaving a substantial segment of the electorate -- and by many measures, a highly motivated one -- to the opposing party.

It is notable that religiousness still makes a difference even within the Democratically oriented Hispanic and Asian segments of the population. The impact of religion is not strong enough to push even the most religious among these two ethnic groups to a net Republican orientation, but clearly, religion could be a factor that allows Republican candidates to make inroads into these groups if religiously oriented issues come to the forefront.

The situation among American blacks today is quite different. The historical ties between blacks and the Democratic Party are so strong that they overwhelm any of the independent impact of religiousness so evident among other racial groups. This is despite the fact that blacks are themselves highly religious on average, and on some social and values issues have more in common with traditional Republican than with traditional Democratic positions.