The Twelve Tribes of American Politics

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

Continued from page 2

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.

THE "RELIGIOUS RIGHT"HEARTLAND CULTURE WARRIORS
MODERATE EVANGELICALSWHITE BREAD PROTESTANTSCONVERTIBLE CATHOLICSTHE "RELIGIOUS LEFT"SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUSSECULARSLATINOSJEWSMUSLIMS & OTHER FAITHSBLACK PROTESTANTS



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.)


    THE "RELIGIOUS RIGHT"HEARTLAND CULTURE WARRIORS
    MODERATE EVANGELICALSWHITE BREAD PROTESTANTSCONVERTIBLE CATHOLICSTHE "RELIGIOUS LEFT"SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUSSECULARSLATINOSJEWSMUSLIMS & OTHER FAITHSBLACK PROTESTANTS



    Percent of voting-age population: 8.1%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 7.0%

    Theology: The core of the white Catholic community, they outnumber conservative Catholics by nearly two to one. Moderate in practice (42% claim to attend worship weekly) and belief (less than one-half agree with papal infallibility). 52% agree that "all the world's great religions are equally true and good."

    Examples

  • Maria Shriver
  • Arnold Schwartzenegger
  • John Kerry
  • Cardinal Roger Mahony

  • Ideology: Conservative: 29%, Moderate: 49%, Liberal: 22%

    Party: Republican: 34%, Independent: 19%, Democrat: 47%

    Political Trend: The quintessential swing vote. Clinton edged out Bush senior, Bush junior edged out Gore in 2000.

    How they voted: 55% of Convertible Catholics voted for Bush, making up 7% of his total vote, while 45% voted for Kerry, accounting for 6% of his total vote.

    What they care about: Half gave priority to economic issues, with a special emphasis on liberal social welfare policy. To the dismay of the Catholic Church, small majorities are pro-choice and supportive of stem cell research. They are moderate on foreign policy. Only about one-fifth report that their faith is important to their political thinking.

    In the 2004 election, Convertible Catholics were divided between the economy and foreign policy as the most important issues, though Convertible Catholic Bush voters cited social issues as the determining factor in their vote, while Kerry voters were far more concerned with the economy. (See details.)




    Percent of voting-age population: 12.6%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 14%

    Theology: Theologically liberal Catholics, mainline and evangelical Protestants. Less church-bound (less than one-quarter report weekly worship attendance) and pluralistic in their beliefs (two-thirds agree that "all the world's great religious are equally true and good".)

    Examples

  • Rev. Jim Wallis
  • William Sloane Coffin
  • Rev. Bob Edgar
  • Mario Cuomo

  • Ideology: Conservative: 20%, Moderate: 50%, Liberal: 30%

    Party: Republican: 31%, Independent: 18%, Democratic: 51%

    Political trend: Probably growing in size and moving in a Democratic direction.

    How they voted: 70% of the Religious Left voted for Kerry, making up 21% of his total vote, while 30% voted for Bush, making up 9% of his total.

    What they care about: Liberal on most everything. On marriage, 42% favor same-sex unions and 29% civil unions; 77% are pro-choice on abortion. A majority opposes the war in Iraq. But only a few report that their faith is important to their political thinking, and overall, they oppose the political involvement of religious organizations.

    In the 2004 election, the Religious Left based its decision on foreign policy, though Religious Left Kerry voters were overwhelmingly concerned with social issues and the economy, and Bush voters in this group cited foreign policy as their most important issue. (See details.)




    Percent of voting-age population: 5.3%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 3.0%

    Who they are: Most report spiritual beliefs--85% believe in God and more than half are sure there is some kind of life after death--but they don't much like houses of worship or organized religion. They report no formal religious affiliation and a majority report seldom or never attending worship services. 47% are under age 35.

    Examples

  • Marianne Williamson
  • Tony Robbins
  • Deepak Chopra
  • Dennis Kucinich

  • Ideology: Conservative: 26%, Moderate: 49%, Liberal: 25%

    Party: Republican: 28%, Independent: 37%, Democratic: 35%

    Political Trend: Growing in numbers but politically divided.

    How they voted: 63% of the Spiritual But Not Religious group voted for Kerry, accounting for 4% of his total vote, while 37% voted for Bush, making up 2% of his total vote.

    What they care about: An eclectic mix. They're liberal on economics, abortion, and foreign policy - more than half believe the United States has no special role to play in international affairs -- but 58% favor traditional marriage. Only about one-fifth report that their faith is important to their political thinking.

    In the 2004 eleciton, members of this group cited the economy as the most important factor in determining their vote, but Kerry voters placed the most weight on social issues, while SBNR Bush voters were most concerned with foreign policy. (See details.)




    Percent of voting-age population: 10.7%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 11.0%

    Who they are: Non-religious, atheists, and agnostics.

    Examples

  • Bill Maher
  • Ron Reagan, Jr.
  • Howard Dean

  • Ideology: Conservative: 17%, Moderate: 48%, Liberal: 35%

    Party: Republican: 26%, Independent 27%, Democratic: 47%

    Political trend: A Democratic bloc that has been steadily growing in size.

    How they voted: 74% of Seculars voted for Kerry, accounting for 16% of his total vote, while 26% voted for Bush, making up 5% of his total vote.

    What they care about: The group that is most uncomfortable when candidates talk about their personal faith (54%). Very liberal on social issues: 83% are pro-choice and 59% favor same-sex marriage. Liberal on foreign policy, moderate on economics, and quite young (47% under age 35).

    In the 2004 election, Seculars were most concerned with foreign policy, but Secular Kerry voters placed by far the most weight on social issues, and Secular Bush voters cited the economy. (See details.)



    THE "RELIGIOUS RIGHT"HEARTLAND CULTURE WARRIORS
    MODERATE EVANGELICALSWHITE BREAD PROTESTANTSCONVERTIBLE CATHOLICSTHE "RELIGIOUS LEFT"SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUSSECULARSLATINOSJEWSMUSLIMS & OTHER FAITHSBLACK PROTESTANTS



    Percent of voting-age population: 7.3%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 5.0%

    Who they are: Majority Catholic, but with a large Protestant minority. Fairly orthodox in practice (53% report attending worship once a week or more) and belief (60% of the Catholics agreed with papal infallibility; 58% of the Protestants are biblical literalists).

    Examples


    Ideology: Conservative: 28%, Moderate: 45%, Liberal: 27%

    Party: Republican: 24%, Independent: 22%, Democratic: 54%

    Political trend: Rapidly growing; Republicans have made some gains among Latino Protestants, but not yet among the Catholics.

    How they voted: 55% of Latino Protestants voted for Kerry, making up 6% of his total vote, while 45% voted for Bush, accounting for 5% of his total.

    What they care about: Though identified as ripe for Republican wooing because of their more conservative cultural views (59% oppose abortion or gay marriage), they care twice as much about economics as social issues. More than two-fifths want government spending increased. But a majority says their faith is very important to their political thinking and they strongly support the political involvement of religious organizations.

    In the 2004 election, Latino Christians cared most about the economy, as did most Kerry voters in this group, but Latino Christian Bush voters were far more concerned with social issues. (See details.)




    Percent of voting-age population: 1.9%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 3.0%

    Who they are: Common cultural identity mixed with diverse religious beliefs.

    Examples

  • Al Franken
  • Allan Dershowitz
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Paul Wolfowitz

  • Ideology: Conservative: 19%, Moderate: 36%, Liberal: 46%

    Party: Republicans: 21%, Independents: 11%, Democrats: 68%

    Political Trend: A strong Democratic group, though Bush has tried to break the Democratic lock on Jewish voters.

    How they voted: 73% of Jews voted for Kerry, accounting for 4% of his total vote, while 27% voted for Bush, making up 1% of his total.

    What they care about: The only group that puts foreign policy first. 75% of Jews say the U.S. should support Israel over the Palestinians--a figure comparable to the Religious Right--and also have moderate to conservative positions on other foreign policy matters. Liberal on economics and especially social issues. Jews are especially troubled by the political involvement of religious organizations and are uncomfortable with politicians discussing their faith in public.

    In the 2004 election, Jewish Bush voters cared most about foreign policy, but Jewish Kerry voters were overwhelmingly concerned about the economy. (See details.)




    Percent of voting-age population: 2.7%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 3.0%

    Who they are: Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, and other smaller groups.

    Examples

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Richard Gere
  • Starhawk

  • Ideology: Conservative: 10%, Moderate: 46%, Liberal: 44%

    Party: Republicans: 12%, Independents 33%, Democrats: 55%

    Political Trend: In 2000, Muslims backed Bush, but the other groups went for Gore.

    How they voted: 77% of Muslims and others voted for Kerry, making up 4% of his vote, while 23% voted for Bush, accounting for 1% of his total.

    What they care about: They care more about economics (and are liberal on it) but some (Muslims especially) are conservative on social issues like gay marriage. They oppose the political involvement of religious organizations.

    In the 2004 election, this group cited foreign policy as the issue of most concern to them, but Kerry voters cited social issues and foreign policy as most important, while Bush voters in this category were most concerned about the economy. (See details.)




    Percent of voting-age population: 9.6%

    Percent of 2004 voters: 8.0%

    Who they are: Fairly orthodox in practice (59% report attending worship once a week or more) and belief (56% are biblical literalists). However, the experience of slavery and segregation has produced a distinctive theology.

    Examples

  • Al Sharpton
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson
  • Tavis Smiley
  • T.D. Jakes
  • Coretta Scott King

  • Ideology: Conservative: 27%, Moderate: 48%, Liberal: 25%

    Party: Republicans: 11%, Independents 18%, Democrats: 71%

    Political trendline: Strong Democrats and especially so in 2000.

    How they voted: 83% of Black Protestants voted for Kerry, making up 13% of his total vote, while 17% voted for Bush, making up 3% of his total vote.

    What they care about: The economy, stupid. Two-thirds put pocketbook and social welfare issues first. But this group is quite conservative on social issues: 72% support traditional marriage and 54% are pro-life on abortion. They also support Bush's faith-based initiative. Highly politicized, they are quite comfortable with the political involvement of religious organizations.

    In the 2004 election, Black Protestants cared most about the economy, with Black Protestant Kerry voters also citing this as their most important concern, but Bush voters in this group said the most important factors to them were foreign policy and social issues. (See details.)


    THE "RELIGIOUS RIGHT"HEARTLAND CULTURE WARRIORS
    MODERATE EVANGELICALSWHITE BREAD PROTESTANTSCONVERTIBLE CATHOLICSTHE "RELIGIOUS LEFT"SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUSSECULARSLATINOSJEWSMUSLIMS & OTHER FAITHSBLACK PROTESTANTS

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    John Green and Steven Waldman
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