The Twelve Tribes of American Politics: How They Voted

Post-election analysis of the 'Twelve Tribes of American Politics' reveals a number of surprising findings.

Since the 2004 presidential election, Democrats and Republicans have operated on the assumption that one of the reasons for the Bush victory is the massive size of the Religious Right. Religious conservatives have spent the year pressing for legislative victories, such as confirmation of Bush's judicidal nominees, to reward them for their clout. Democrats have been debating internally whether they should be less secular.

But a new look at Beliefnet's popular

"Twelve Tribes" analysis

shows something surprising: the religious left is just about the same size as the religious right.


This is one of the most intriguing findings surfacing from the new data that's part of Beliefnet's "

Twelve Tribes of American Politics

," a typology created last year by combining data about religious affiliation, practice, and political affiliation. These groups cut across old denominational boundaries, and often have unique relevance to U.S. politics, in terms of how they vote and the issues that are most important to them.

The rise of the Religious Left was a major factor in the 2004 election:

  • The Religious Left made up 14 percent of the electorate, an increase from 11 percent in 2000. By comparison 15% came from the "Religious Right."
  • 69% of this group voted, compared to 51% percent in 2000 (and 69% of the religious right.)
  • 21% of John Kerry's votes came from the Religious Left, not that much less percentage-wise than the 26% of Bush's votes that came from the Religious Right.



    What caused the religious left to turn out for Kerry in record numbers? Opposition to the Iraq war.

    The political awakening of the Religious Left carries several implications for the Democratic Party. For one thing, Democratic leaders cannot view the party as primarily secular. Add up the numbers of the Religious Left, Democratic-voting Latino Christians, Black Protestants, and the modest support from conservative Christians and you have 52% of Kerry's vote. Secular voters did vote in record numbers for Kerry but only accounted for 16% percent of his vote.

    More worrisome for Democrats is the fact that Kerry lost in spite of record mobilization of the Religious Left.

    Was that because the Left was out-hustled by the Religious Right? In part. Bush did do well among the most conservative religious voters, increasing turnout from 62% to 69%. But the share of the total Bush vote from the Religious Right actually declined slightly (from 16% in 2000 to 15%).

    leave comments
    Did you like this? Share with your family and friends.
    Steven Waldman and John Green
  • comments powered by Disqus