PRINCETON, NJ -- Very religious white Americans continue to be one of the most Republican segments of the U.S. population: 62% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, more than twice the number who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. This Republican skew is reversed among nonreligious whites, who are more likely to affiliate with the Democratic Party by a 17-percentage-point margin.
The 62% of very religious whites who identify as Republicans contrasts with the 48% of whites and the 40% of all Americans who identify as Republicans.
These results are based on an analysis of Gallup Daily tracking data from July 1 through Oct. 26, 2011, consisting of more than 116,000 interviews.
For the purposes of this analysis, an American's relative degree of religiousness is based on responses to two questions asking about the importance of religion and church attendance, yielding three specific groups:
- Very religious -- Religion is an important part of daily life, and these respondents attend church/synagogue/mosque at least every week or almost every week. This group constitutes 40% of the U.S. adult population in the July through October sample used in this analysis.
- Moderately religious -- All who do not fall into the very religious or nonreligious groups but who provided valid responses on both religion questions. This group constitutes 28% of the adult population.
- Nonreligious -- Religion is not an important part of daily life, and these respondents seldom or never attend church/synagogue/mosque. This group constitutes 31% of the adult population.
Very Religious Hispanics, Asians More Likely Than Counterparts to Identify With GOP
The three other major racial and ethnic groups in this country today -- Hispanics, Asians, and blacks -- are all more likely to identify as Democrats than are whites. However, very religious Hispanics and Asians skew less Democratic and more Republican than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious.
Very religious Hispanics are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans by 17 points, compared with a 30-point difference among nonreligious Hispanics. The impact of religiousness is larger for Asians, among whom net Democratic identification rises from 12 points among the very religious to 39 points among nonreligious Asians.
Blacks are the most Democratic of the four racial and ethnic groups, and are the most Democratic of any demographic or regional segment in American politics today -- with more than three-quarters identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic Party. Religion makes little difference in blacks' political orientation; very religious blacks are only slightly more Democratic in orientation than those who are less religious.
Broad Pattern Unchanged
The broad pattern Gallup has historically found among all Americans -- that those who are very religious are more likely to identify as Republicans and less likely to identify as Democrats than those who are less religious -- remains unchanged.
Forty-nine percent of very religious Americans interviewed in Gallup Daily tracking over the last four months identify as Republicans or lean Republican, compared with 30% of those who are nonreligious. The percentage identifying as Democrats rises concomitantly as religiousness decreases.
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.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking July 1- Oct. 26, 2011, with 116,307 national adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
For results based on the total sample of 92,295 whites, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
For results based on the total sample of 9,131 Hispanics, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
For results based on the total sample of 8,754 blacks, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.
For results based on the total sample of 2,627 Asians, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.