September 3, 2014

Religious divides persist heading into fall campaign

Issues at the intersection of religion and politics – including objections to parts of the Affordable Care Act, battles over same-sex marriage laws and a push for new state laws seeking to restrict access to abortions – have been a part of public debate since the 2010 midterm elections.

Political preferences of major religious groupsBut when it comes to major religious groups’ preferences at the voting booth, there appears to be more stability than change when compared with recent elections, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Among registered voters overall, 47% say that if the congressional elections were being held today, they would vote for (or lean toward) the Democratic Party’s candidate, while 42% would vote for the Republican candidate. (The survey was conducted Aug. 20-24.)

White evangelical Protestants express strong support for Republican candidates, just as they have in recent elections. Two-thirds of registered voters who are white evangelical Protestants in the new survey say they would vote Republican (67%), compared to 22% who would vote for a Democrat.

On the other side of the partisan divide, black Protestants and religiously unaffiliated voters lean heavily Democratic. Nearly nine-in-ten black Protestants say they would vote for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district. And among people who don’t identify with any religion, 62% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate while just 22% say they would vote for the Republican congressional candidate in their district.

Compared with white evangelicals on the one hand and black Protestants and religious “nones” on the other, white mainline Protestants and Catholics are more evenly divided. Among mainline Protestants, 52% say they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district if the election were held today, while 39% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate. About half of Catholics (49%) say they would vote for a Republican if the election were today, while four-in-ten (41%) prefer a Democrat.

These patterns mirror broad trends seen in several surveys leading up to the last midterm elections, in 2010. White evangelical Protestants also leaned heavily Republican, while religiously unaffiliated voters and black Protestants expressed strong support for Democrats. White mainline Protestants and Catholics, as they are now, were more evenly divided – although both groups ultimately supported Republican candidates over Democrats, helping the GOP make major gains in the 2010 midterms.

Topics: Religion and U.S. Politics, Political Party Affiliation

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Denny3 years ago

    I am a transplanted Yankee retired in east Tennessee and I am continually dumbfounded by the number of poor white people who vote Republican in this state!! I have had to assume their feelings for subjects like abortions and energy out weigh their fear of losing the governments help in areas of social security, proper health care, and help in areas of social welfare, which a lot of them depend on!! Then of course there is the fact that this is the south and the idea of supporting a black president I’m sure doesn’t still very well with a great many of them!! On paper and going by numbers of whites who need every penny they can round up and knowing that a republican vote generally supports just the 1% , I really can’t figure out their thinking!!!

    1. Joe3 years ago

      You sound like a typical progressive who could damage Tennessee the way that Colorado was damaged.

  2. Brian Mellor3 years ago

    It is a shame if religion divides a country and determines the out come of an election. Surely the ability of the candidate and the agenda of the political party have more meaning than religious divide. I shudder to think that we become ruled by religion rather than what is good for the all.

    Religious rule has proven fateful to peace, freedoms and democracies let us not follow that path.