About 9 out of 10 Republicans are non-Hispanic whites, and more than half of these are highly religious. That compares with 62% of the Democratic rank-and-file that is white and largely less religious, with blacks and Hispanics making up a much more substantial part of that party’s base.
These results are based on aggregated data from more than 220,000 Americans surveyed from early January through Aug. 15 of this year as part of Gallup Daily tracking. Whites classified as highly religious are those who say religion is important in their daily lives and who report attending religious services weekly or almost every week. Hispanics include everyone who identifies as Hispanic, regardless of race.
The mixture of religion and politics in the United States came to the fore again this past weekend at Glenn Beck’s high-visibility “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C. Beck mentioned God and religion frequently in his remarks. The rally was billed as nonpolitical, but the presence of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Beck’s involvement with the politically oriented Tea Party movement, and Beck’s own avowedly conservative persona and positions on the issues brought a political perspective to the event.
Gallup Daily tracking data reviewed in this analysis confirm that religion, along with race, is a significant factor in defining Republicans, independents, and Democrats. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans are white, compared with 71% of independents and 62% of Democrats. The majority of white Republicans are highly religious, while the substantial majority of white Democrats are less religious.
All in all, 47% of Republicans in the U.S. today can be classified as highly religious whites, compared with 24% of independents and 19% of Democrats.
Religious distinctions in the American political landscape today are underscored when one examines the political spectrum by both party and ideology. The percentage of highly religious white Americans within each of the resulting political groups ranges from a high of 50% among conservative Republicans to 13% among liberal Democrats.
Of note is the substantial difference in the religious composition of conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans. White conservative Republicans are more likely to be highly religious than less religious, while white moderate/liberal Republicans are more frequently in the latter category. In similar but less dramatic fashion, both conservative and moderate/liberal white Democrats are more likely to be highly religious than are liberal white Democrats, although in all Democratic groups, less religious whites predominate over highly religious whites.