The Twelve Tribes of American Politics

The religious groups that comprise the U.S. electorate--and how they voted in 2004.

BY: John Green and Steven Waldman

 

On the eve of the 2004 presidential election, Beliefnet introduced the "Twelve Tribes of American Politics" to demonstrate how the religious groups that factor in American political decision-making are a great deal more complicated than simply a division between the Religious Right and the Religious Left.

Using data from the Fourth National Survey on Religion and Politics (see full study), Beliefnet defined the religious groupings that make up our political landscape. The data was later updated to include results from surveys completed after the November 2004 election. It now shows both longterm trends and specific preferences during the 2004 election season.

What the data show is that the Religious Right and the Religious Left are almost exactly the same size. The former has had a much greater impact for the past 25 years largely because of superior organization and drive. (Political junkies click here for a full explanation of methodology.)

What effect will the tribes have on the 2008 race? In coming months, we'll find out.

Click here for a complete analysis of what the data means.




Percent of voting-age population:

12.6%



Percent of 2004 voters:

15%



Who are they:

Highly orthodox white evangelical Protestants: 88% believe the Bible is literally true; 87% report attending worship once a week or more; 44% live in the South.



Examples

  • Jerry Falwell
  • James Dobson
  • Tom Delay

  • Ideology:

    Conservative: 66%, Moderate: 25%, Liberal: 9%



    Party:

    Republican: 70%, Independent: 10%, Democratic: 20%



    Political trend:

    Strongly Republican and getting more so each year.



    How they voted:

    88% of the Religious Right voted for Bush, accounting for 26% of his total votes in the election. Just 12% voted for Kerry, making up 4% of his total votes received.



    What they care about:

    Compared to other groups, more likely to care about cultural issues (40% compared to 20% nationally); 84% are pro-life and 89% oppose marriage or civil unions for gays; very strong supporters of Israel (64% say the U.S. should back Israel over the Palestinians). Four-fifths claim that religion is important to their political thinking. This group strongly supports the political involvement of religious organizations.



    In the 2004 election, the Religious Right cited social issues as the most important factor in their vote. Those who voted for Bush placed far more emphasis on this than Religious Right Kerry voters, who cited the economy and foreign policy as most important to their decision. (

    See details

    .)






    Percent of voting-age population:

    11.4%



    Percent of 2004 voters:

    14%

    Who are they:

    Conservative Catholics and conservative mainline Protestants, Latter-day Saints, and other smaller groups. Slightly less orthodox than the Religious Right (54% of the Protestants are biblical literalists; 60% of the Catholics agree with papal infallibility) and more theologically diverse. But they are regular churchgoers (three-quarters report attending worship service weekly or more often).



    Examples

  • George W. Bush
  • William Bennett
  • Mitt Romney

  • Ideology:

    Conservative: 50%, Moderate: 41%, Liberal: 10%



    Party:

    Republican: 54%, Independent: 17%, Democratic: 29%



    Political trend:

    Stable in size, this group is becoming more Republican.



    How they voted:

    72% voted for Bush, making up 20% of his total vote, while 28% voted for Kerry, accounting for 8% of his total vote.



    What they care about:

    Like the Religious Right, conservative on social issues--73% support traditional marriage and half say their faith is important to their political thinking. They support churches being active in politics but also give attention to economic and foreign policy issues.



    In 2004, Heartland Culture Warriors placed a greater emphasis on social issues than other factors. Bush voters in this group cited social issues and foreign policy as the most important issues, while Kerry voters in this group overwhelmingly cited the economy. (

    See details

    .)






    Percent of voting-age population:

    10.8%



    Percent of 2004 voters:

    9.0%



    Who are they:

    No, it's not an oxymoron: these white evangelical Protestants hold less orthodox religious beliefs (54% are biblical literalists) and don’t show up in church quite as often as the "religious right" (35% go weekly or more often), but they belong to evangelical churches and regard themselves as born-again Christians.



    Examples

  • Max Lucado
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Bill Frist

  • Ideology:

    Conservative: 48%, Moderate: 26%, Liberal: 16%



    Party:

    Republican: 47%, Independent: 22%, Democratic: 31%



    Political Trend:

    Clinton did well with this group in the 1990s, but Bush bested Gore in 2000.



    How they voted:

    64% of Moderate Evangelicals voted for Bush, accounting for 11% of his total vote, while 36% voted for Kerry, making up 7% of his total vote.



    What they care about:

    Not as concerned about cultural rot as their conservative brethren. They're still pro-life, pro-war and anti-gay-rights, but place a greater emphasis on economic issues, where they tend to be moderate: 61% would fund more anti-poverty programs by taxing the rich. Only 40% said their faith was important to their political thinking, but they nonetheless support the political involvement of religious organizations.



    In 2004, Moderate Evangelicals placed most emphasis on foreign policy and economic issues in deciding their vote, but broken down by candidate, Bush voters cited social issues and foreign policy as most important, while Kerry voters cited the economy. (

    See details

    .)





    Percent of voting-age population:

    8.0%



    Percent of 2004 voters:

    7.0%



    Who are they:

    The core members of the Protestant "mainline" churches-- United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church in the USA, American Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and so forth--that once dominated the American religious landscape. About one-quarter report regular church attendance and just 19% are biblical literalists; 47% agree that "all the world's great religious are equally true and good."



    Ideology: Conservative:

    37%, Moderate: 43%, Liberal: 20%



    Party:

    Republican: 46%, Independent: 21%, Democratic: 33%



    Political trend:

    This group is shrinking in size and becoming more politically moderate and less Republican, though Bush still won them in 2000.



    Examples

  • George H.W. Bush
  • Dick Cheney
  • John Edwards

  • How they voted:

    58% of White Bread Protestants voted for Bush, making up 9% of his total vote, while 42% voted for Kerry, accounting for 7% of his total vote.



    What they care about:

    They don't much like the Republican Party's emphasis on conservative social issues: they're pro-choice and favor civil unions or same-sex marriage. But what they care most about is economics--half give priority to economic matters--and there they tend to be more conservative.



    In the 2004 election, White Bread Protestants in said that foreign policy and the economy were the issues they found most important, but Bush voters in this group placed the most emphasis on foreign policy and social issues, while Kerry voters cited the economy as most important. (

    See details

    .)





    Continued on page 2: »

    comments powered by Disqus

    Advertisement

    Advertisement

    Advertisement

    DiggDeliciousNewsvineRedditStumbleTechnoratiFacebook