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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Liberals, Conservatives, and Religion

At AEI, Arthur Brooks looks at GSS data on worship attendance:
The first fact that jumps out is that no group has upped their churchgoing relative to the 1970s. Put aside all the media chatter about the conservative movement becoming the exclusive domain of intense Christians. What we actually find is that 57 out of 100 conservatives were frequent church attendees four decades ago and 51 out of 100 are now.
The much more dramatic shift actually came from self-identified liberals. Their 12-point decline in regular religious attendance doubled the conservatives’ change. At least when we look at simple church attendance, it is the left, not the right, that has seen the dramatic shift in religiosity.
Another interesting note: Back in the early 1970s, conservatives were 12% likelier to attend services regularly than the general population average, which was in turn 10 points above the average for liberals. But now, each political wing is precisely the same distance (14 points) away from the national average.
The unusual secularity of the left is reinforced when we look to the next generation of liberals. The same GSS data showed that in 1974, when 93% of all Americans identified with some type of religion, so did 83% of young liberals (aged 18-29). But in the intervening decades, that gap has swelled to a 21-point chasm: More than three-fourths of Americans still identify with some faith, but the odds that a young liberal citizen will follow suit are now barely better than a coin flip.