The Twelve Tribes of American Politics in the 2008 Election

Understanding the twelve religious voting blocs in America may be key to unlocking the 2008 election.

BY: John Green, Dan Gilgoff and Steven Waldman

 

Continued from page 1




Percent of voting-age population: 8.4%

Who are they: The core of the white Catholic community, they outnumber conservative Catholics. Moderate in practice (39% claim to attend worship weekly). 51% agree that "all the world's great religions are equally true and good." The vast majority live in the Northeast and Midwest.

Examples

  • Joe Biden
  • Maria Shriver
  • Arnold Schwartzenegger
  • Kathleen Sebelius


Ideology:
  • Summer 2004: Conservative: 29%, Moderate: 49%, Liberal: 22%.
  • Summer 2008: Conservative: 38%, Moderate: 45%, Liberal: 17%
Party:
  • Summer 2004: Republican: 34%, Independent: 20%, Democratic: 47%.
  • Summer 2008: Republican: 42%, Independent: 17%, Democrat: 41%


Candidate Preference:

  • November 2004: Bush: 55%, Kerry: 45%.
  • Summer 2008: McCain: 49%, Obama: 35%, undecided: 17%

Political Trend:

The quintessential swing vote. Clinton edged out Bush senior, Bush junior edged out Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. So far McCain is out-performing Obama with this group: about half support him,, a third back Obama, and the rest are undecided.



What they care about:

Nearly two thirds give top priority to economic issues, with a special emphasis on liberal social welfare policy, though they’re shifting rightward on the question of government services, with just 27% supporting more. To the dismay of the Catholic Church, more than half are pro-choice. A clear majority favor civil unions or gay marriage, a turnaround from 2004, when most supported traditional marriage. Many also part company with their church on the Iraq war, which the Vatican opposed from the start; most convertible Catholics still say it was justified.





Percent of voting-age population:

12.7%



Who are they:

Theologically liberal Catholics, mainline and evangelical Protestants. Less orthodox (only 5% say the Bible is literally true) church-bound (about 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

  • Jim Wallis
  • Helen Prejean
  • Gene Robinson
  • Martin Sheen

Ideology:
  • Summer 2004: Conservative: 21%, Moderate: 50%, Liberal: 30%
  • Summer 2008: Conservative: 20%, Moderate: 49%, Liberal: 32%
Party:
  • Summer 2004: Republican 31%, Independent: 18%, Democratic: 51%.
  • Summer 2008: Republican: 22%, Independent: 14%, Democratic: 63%


Candidate Preference:

  • November 2004: Bush: 30%, Kerry: 70%.
  • Summer 2008: McCain: 26%, Obama: 56%, undecided: 19%

Political trend

: More visible than in previous years, the Religious Left is becoming more reliably Democratic. In 2004, 51% said they were Democrats, now 63% do. On election day in 2004, 70% voted for Kerry, making up 21% of his total vote, while 30% voted for Bush. As of summer 2008, 56% supported Obama, while 26% backed McCain.



What they care about:

Liberal on most everything.78% are pro-choice on abortion and just 21% support traditional marriage. Two thirds say the war in Iraq was unjustified, up from just over half in 2004.. Two thirds want strict environmental regulations even if it means higher prices and fewer jobs. An overwhelming majority say the economy is their top political concern, but the Religious Left is also more focused on foreign policy than the rest of the electorate. Two thirds also want churches and other religious institutions to stay out of politics.





Percent of voting-age population:

5.6%



Who they are:

Most report spiritual beliefs, like belief in God and some kind of life after death--but they don't much like houses of worship or organized religion. They report no formal religious affiliation, tend to reject a literal interpretation of the Bible, and mostly report seldom or never attending worship services. 40% are under age 35.



Ideology:
  • Summer 2004: Conservative: 26%, Moderate: 50%, Liberal: 25%.
  • Summer 2008: Conservative: 37%, Moderate: 46%, Liberal: 17%
Party:
  • Summer 2004: Republican 28%, Independent: 49%, Democratic: 35%.
  • Summer 2008: Republican: 33%, Independent: 25%, Democratic: 43%


Candidate Preference:

  • November 2004: Bush 37%, Kerry 63%.
  • Summer 2008: McCain: 27%, Obama: 38%, undecided: 35%

Political Trend:

Growing in numbers but politically divided, the Spiritual But Not Religious group is currently the most undecided of any of the tribes—35% say they don’t know who they’ll support. The rest break heavily for Obama, in line with their performance in 2004, when 63% backed Kerry



What they care about:

An eclectic mix. They're split on abortion rights, gay unions, and on whether the Iraq war was justified. But no tribe is more concerned about the economy—nearly three quarters say that’s their top issue in this election. More than 60% say churches should stay out politics, a roughly 10-point increase over 2004.





Percent of voting-age population:

10.1%



Who they are:

Non-religious, atheists, and agnostics. They don’t believe the Bible is literally true, but 44% agree that "all the world's great religious are equally true and good". More than four in ten are under 35.



Examples

Ideology:
  • Summer 2004: Conservative: 17%, Moderate: 48%, Liberal: 35%.
  • Summer 2008: Conservative: 12%, Moderate: 43%, Liberal: 45%
Party:
  • Summer 2004: Republican: 26%, Independent: 27%, Democratic: 47%.
  • Summer 2008: Republican: 17%, Independent 27%, Democratic: 56%


Candidate Preference:

  • November 2004: Bush: 74%, Kerry: 26%.
  • Summer 2008: McCain: 18%, Obama: 56%, undecided: 26%

Political trend:

This bloc has been growing in size and becoming more Democratic. 74% of Seculars voted for Kerry, accounting for 16% of his total vote, while 26% voted for Bush. 56% support Obama, about three times as many as support McCain, but seculars also have high numbers of undecideds.



What they care about:

Thegroup that is most uncomfortable when candidates talk about their personal faith. Nearly three quarters want organized religion out of politics. Very liberal on social issues: 87%are pro-choice and 63% favor same-sex marriage, with another 20% supporting civil unions. Liberal on foreign policy (ardently against the Iraq war), and moderate on economics (though very pro-environmental regulation). They were much more concerned about foreign policy than most of the other tribes four years ago, but are now as concerned about the economy as all other groups.





Continued on page 3: Next Page »

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What Group Do You Belong To
Which group do you belong to?
Black Protestants
Convertible Catholics
Heartland Culture Warriors
Jews, Muslims, or Other
Latinos
Moderate Evangelicals
Spiritual but not Religious/
Secular

The "Religious Left"
The "Religious Right"
White Bread Protestants
shadowed divider
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