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The Religious Landscape in Upcoming GOP Primary States

The religious profile of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party suggests that Senator John McCain’s attack on certain Christian Right leaders may cloud his chances to succeed in Southern states, as well as certain Midwestern and Western states where white evangelicals(1) make up the largest religious bloc of voters. This group comprises 46% of Republicans in Southern Super Tuesday states and 30% in Midwestern and Western states that will hold primaries in the next two weeks. New York and California, where white evangelical Protestants are far less numerous, may be more hospitable to the Arizona senator. Catholics make up a majority of Republicans in the Empire state (52%) and, along with mainline Protestants, are the largest religious group in the Golden state.

Note: 1. This is a self identification that cuts across denominational lines, but Baptists make up the lion’s share of the group, while Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians predominate among mainline Protestants. White Evangelicals are not only much more conservative than mainline Protestants and Catholics on social issues, but also on a range of political values. Fully, 64% describe themselves as conservative. See “The Diminishing Divide: American Churches, American Politics.” Pew Research Center, June 25, 1996.

McCain’s strategy may also be called into question by the results of a Newsweek poll, which found just 20% of Catholic Republicans saying they were less likely to vote for George W. Bush because of his courting Christian conservatives, but an even larger number of white evangelical Protestants (41%) saying they were more likely to vote for him because of it.

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