Twelve gates into the city

May 19, 2007

Beliefnet had an interesting piece on the microdemographics of religion in America, and its effect on politics. They identify 12 major religio-political groups, which they call “the twelve tribes”, and order them from most conservative to most liberal. In particular, they find that evangelicals are far from being monolithic, and that the religious right and religious left are nearly the same size. The right has had more impact because of their superior electoral organization.

For each group, their size is given both as a percent of the electorate, and as a percent of 2004 voters. Composition by ideology and political party, basic religious views, church attendance record, motivating political issues, and trend lines, fill out the picture for each bloc. Here I’ll just pick out several of the more prominent or interesting.

  • Religious Right: 12.6% of electorate and 15% of 2004 voters. Highly orthodox white evangelical Protestants, 87% of whom attend church at least weekly. 44% of them are located in the South.
  • Heartland Culture Warriors: 11.4% and 14%. Regular churchgoers, conservative theologies, Catholic or mainline Protestant or smaller groups like LDS. Vote primarily, like the RRs, on social issues, but also on foreign policy. (The rest of Bush’s base.)
  • Moderate Evangelicals: 10.8% and 9%. 35% of them attend worship at least weekly. 61% want to increase taxes on the rich to fund antipoverty programs. Side with RR on social issues, but less central to their voting decisions. Went for Clinton, then for Bush.
  • The religious left: 12.6% and 14%. Theologically liberal Catholics, mainline and evangelical Protestants. Less church-bound (less than one-quarter report weekly worship attendance) and pluralistic in their beliefs (two-thirds agree that “all the world’s great religions are equally true and good”.) Growing and trending more Democratic. Voted mainly on foreign policy in 2004.
  • Seculars: 10.7% and 11%. Non-religious, atheists and agnostics. Not surprisingly, the most liberal on social issues. Steadily growing, and 2:1 Democratic.
  • Black Protestants: 9.6% and 8%. Quite conservative on social issues, but they’re trumped by economic concerns.

I seem to fall between (theologically) the “Moderate Evangelical” and (politically) the “Religious Left”. It’s a pleasant surprise to learn how much company I have.


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