PRINCETON, NJ -- The latest poll from Gallup shows very religious white Americans are more than twice as likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, while nonreligious whites are significantly more likely to identify with the Democratic Party. This relationship between religion and partisanship is also evident to a lesser degree among Asians and Hispanics, but does not occur among blacks, who are strongly likely to identify themselves as Democrats regardless of how religious they are.
The findings are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted January through May of this year, in which 62% of very religious whites identified as Republicans or were independents who leaned Republican, compared with 28% who identified themselves as Democrats. By contrast, 33% of nonreligious whites identified themselves as Republican, compared with 51% who identified as Democrats. Moderately religious whites were in the middle of these two groups, with an eight-percentage-point Republican identification advantage. The three religious groups used in this analysis are defined by a combination of how important respondents say religion is to them and how often they say they attend religious services.
Asian and Hispanic Americans, regardless of religiousness, are more likely to identify as Democrats than Republicans. But the Democratic advantage goes from 14 points among very religious Asians to 44 points among nonreligious Asians. The differences are less substantial among Hispanics; very religious Hispanics are more likely to identify themselves as a Democrats than Republicans by 20 points, while nonreligious Hispanics are more likely to identify themselves as Democrats by a larger 36-point margin.
Personal religiousness makes little difference among blacks, however, as the powerful partisan pull of Democratic identification among black Americans trumps any influence of religion. Only 9 to 10% of blacks in each of the three groups of varying religiousness identify as Republicans, while more than three-quarters in each group identify themselves as Democrats.
More generally, half of black Americans can be classified as very religious, making them the most religious of the four race and ethnic groups used in this analysis. Asian Americans are the least religious of the four groups.
This analysis adds new insight to the well-established fact that religion is related to politics in America. It confirms the extent to which the most religious Americans disproportionately affiliate with the Republican Party and the least religious are disproportionately likely to affiliate with the Democratic Party. It further reveals that this relationship is substantially different across race and ethnic groups, and that it is most evident among white Americans. The reasons for this likely vary, but the fact is that highly religious white Americans remain one of the most reliably Republican population segments in American politics. This population segment has been and will continue to be a powerful force for Republican causes and candidates in both the Republican primary elections and in the general elections.
At the other end of the spectrum, black Americans are anomalous. They are one of the most reliable Democratic groups in American politics and, at the same time, one of the most religious, thus contradicting the basic pattern by which religiousness equates to a more Republican orientation.
Both Hispanics and Asians in America today skew Democratic in their political orientation, but religion still makes a difference. Very religious Hispanics and very religious Asians are at least somewhat less likely to identify as Democrats than are those in both ethnic groups who are nonreligious.
The influence of these two growing groups of Americans on politics in the future may, in part, depend on shifts in their religiousness over time. Both tilt toward the Democratic Party currently, but it would appear that Hispanic and Asian Americans who are very religious may be most vulnerable to Republican efforts to move political allegiance in future elections.