February 23, 2016

U.S. religious groups and their political leanings

Mormons are the most heavily Republican-leaning religious group in the U.S., while a pair of major historically black Protestant denominations – the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and the National Baptist Convention – are two of the most reliably Democratic groups, according to data from Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

Explore the affiliations, demographics, religious practices and political beliefs of each group using our interactive database.

Seven-in-ten U.S. Mormons identify with the Republican Party or say they lean toward the GOP, compared with 19% who identify as or lean Democratic – a difference of 51 percentage points. That’s the biggest gap in favor of the GOP out of 30 religious groups we analyzed, which include Protestant denominations, other religious groups and three categories of people who are religiously unaffiliated.

At the other end of the spectrum, an overwhelming majority of members of the AME Church (92%) identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while just 4% say they favor the Republican Party (an 88-point gap). Similarly, 87% of members of the National Baptist Convention and 75% of members of the Church of God in Christ (another historically black denomination) identify as Democrats.

The political preferences of U.S. political groups

These patterns largely reflect data from exit polls during the 2012 general election. In that year, 95% of black Protestants said they voted for Democrat Barack Obama, while 78% of Mormons said they voted for Republican Mitt Romney, who also is a Mormon.

White evangelical Protestants also voted heavily Republican in 2012 (79% for Romney), which mirrors the leanings of many of the largest evangelical denominations. Members of the Church of the Nazarene are overwhelmingly likely to favor the GOP (63% Republican vs. 24% Democrat), as are the Southern Baptist Convention (64% vs. 26%) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (59% vs. 27%), among other evangelical churches. (In our survey, members of these groups can be of any race or ethnicity, while exit polls report totals for white evangelicals in particular.)

Catholics are divided politically in our survey, just as they were in the 2012 election. While 37% say they favor the GOP, 44% identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (and 19% say they do not lean either way). In the 2012 election, 50% of Catholics said they voted for Obama, while 48% voted for Romney.

Members of mainline Protestant churches look similar to Catholics in this regard. For example, 44% of members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) identify as or lean Republican in the survey, compared with 47% who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning. United Methodists and Anglicans are slightly more likely than other mainline groups to say they are Republicans, while members of the United Church of Christ are more likely to be Democrats.

About seven-in-ten religiously unaffiliated voters (70%) and Jews (69%) voted for Obama in 2012. A similar share of Jews in our survey (64%) say they are Democrats, while all three subsets of religious “nones” (atheists, agnostics and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular”) lean in that direction as well.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are taught to remain politically neutral and abstain from voting, stand out for their overwhelming identification as independents who do not lean toward either party. Three-quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses put themselves in that category.

Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Christians and Christianity, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Jews and Judaism, Mormons and Mormonism, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Religion and U.S. Politics

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

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

10 Comments

  1. David Rice4 months ago

    Or, in other words, Christians in the USA refuse to follow the teachings of Jesus.

  2. Anonymous4 months ago

    One day, the people of the Church of God in Christ are going to look back and say, “Why did we ever vote Democratic?” They are voting blindly out of racial affiliation without looking at what the Democrats stand for.

    1. Anonymous4 months ago

      As the amount of “nones” continue to increase, do you think our country will become more liberal? It seems we are highly polarized now because we are fairly evenly split and social conservatism comes largely from religion, even if not all religious people are socially conservative.

    2. Anonymous4 months ago

      It doesn’t matter, why affiliation with religion and Republican leanings are dwindling and more liberal/independent and non-religious affiliations are growing is because that is what young people (<40) favor and it's the OLD people that like it the other way. When the old people disappear and are replaced by younger people, all the complaining will stop because there won't be anybody around to complain.

    3. David Rice4 months ago

      “… Church of God in Christ are going to look back and say, ‘Why did we ever vote Democratic?'”

      The answer is obvious, of course: members of the Church of God in Christ follow the teachings of Jesus.

  3. Anonymous4 months ago

    While it may be “natural” for like-minded people to gravitate together, it’s dysfunctional and harmful to our society. Too many American denominations today have become polarized echo chambers. Thank goodness for the Churches that embrace significant numbers of Republicans and Democrats. One of the reasons I love the United Methodist Church is because people from different sides of the political aisle share the same pews, sing and break bread together. Very needed in this era of avoiding “the other.”

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like chirstianity”

  4. Ralph Perez4 months ago

    What are the actual NUMBERS of people in these churches, who could actually vote? Your graph makes it look like it’s split down the middle, but it only talks percentages. It’s meaningless unless you dig. I’d like to know membership and voting numbers from each church. And to tag on to a previous comment, there is a large non-denominational contingent not represented here. So if you throw out the percentages and lay down hard numbers, you’d likely find out the vast majority vote Republican. And many of these churches are active politically, which means they need to be taxed (Republican or Democrat).

  5. Richard Crane6 months ago

    Just an observation. I notice that non-denominational is not listed. Most evangelicals that I know of attend this type of church, as do I

  6. Sal Aguilar6 months ago

    Cool

  7. William David Wallace6 months ago

    I wonder how much difference it would make if either parties candidates looked desireable?