Pollsters have found that religion continues to influence political affiliation, with those who identify as most religious aligned with the Republican Party, a trend and "well-documented social pattern" that has been stable for the past half-dozen years.
A recent Gallup tracking poll
from 2008 to 2014, found that about half of those who identified as "very religious" also identified themselves as Republicans, while 52 percent of those who identified as Democrats saw themselves as "nonreligious." The pollsters categorized people as very religious, moderately religious, and nonreligious, and looked at preferences each year from 2008 to 2014.
There was one strong exception to the data. Gallup found that among black Americans, fealty to the Democratic Party was not impacted by religious identification. Among those blacks who identified as very religious, 77 percent count themselves as Democrats, while those blacks who identify as "moderately religious" and "nonreligious" also closely align with Democrats, 76 and 73 percent respectively.
"The relationship between Americans' religiousness and their party preference is a persistent and well-documented social pattern that has remained extraordinarily stable over the last six and a half years," Gallup noted in releasing its findings. "The basic nature of the relationship — in which those who are the most religious are the most likely to identify as Republicans — has changed little. With few exceptions, Americans' religiousness remains a major predictor of their political orientation."
An earlier release of Gallup's data found that while Americans overall are becoming less religious, they still look to faith for help, with a majority agreeing that "religion can answer all or most of today's problems," The Wall Street Journal
Americans also have discernible feelings toward different faith traditions, viewing Jews, Catholics, and evangelical Christians more favorably in a Pew Research Center study
released earlier this month that allowed them to rank religious groups via a "feeling thermometer." Atheists and Muslims were viewed more coldly, Pew noted.
Such data on faith could provide a helpful road map for political parties seeking to expand their ranks beyond their traditional bases, Gallup said of its latest study.
"From a practical politics standpoint, Republicans face the challenge of expanding their party's appeal beyond the minority of Americans who are very religious, and appealing to Hispanics and Asians given that even the most religious of these growing groups tilt Democratic, albeit not as much as others in these groups who are less religious," the pollsters wrote. "Democrats face the challenge of attempting to broaden their party's appeal beyond the base of those who are moderately or nonreligious, a tactic that most likely will require effort to frame the party's positions on social justice and equality issues in a way that is compatible with a high degree of religiousness."
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