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.


Who are they:

Highly orthodox white evangelical Protestants: 80% believe the Bible is literally true; 84% report attending worship once a week or more; 53% live in the South.


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  • Summer 2004: Conservative: 66%, Moderate: 25%, Liberal: 9%.
  • Summer 2008: Conservative: 71%, Moderate: 23%, Liberal: 5%
  • Summer 2004: Republican: 71%, Independent: 10%, Democratic: 20%.
  • Summer 2008: Republican: 71%, Independent: 11%, Democratic: 18%

Candidate Preference:
  • November 2004: Bush: 88%, Kerry: 12%.
  • Summer 2008: McCain: 71%, Obama: 19%, undecided: 11%
Political trend:



Strongly Republican and getting more so each year, the Religious Right is solidly behind McCain, but not to the degree it was behind George W. Bush in ‘04. Last time 88% of the Religious Right voted for Bush, accounting for 26% of his total votes in the election.

What they care about:

Compared to other groups, more likely to care about cultural issues (36% compared to 13% nationally) but even they have placed economics as a much higher priority. Now 42% list the economy as the top issue; in 2004, 18% did. The Christian right also sees a big role for religion politics, with three quarters opposing the idea that religion should stay out of politics. At the same time, their conservative positions on the social issues are virtually unchanged since 2004: 83% are pro-life and 86% support only traditional marriage. They also support small government. Half oppose the idea of more government services, with just 19% saying there should be more. And just 41% favor more environmental regulations if it means adverse economic news, a drop from 2004, when more than half favored such regulations. About three quarters still feel the war in Iraq was justified, more than any other group.

Percent of voting-age population:
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John Green, Dan Gilgoff and Steven Waldman
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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
Moderate Evangelicals
Spiritual but not Religious/

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