Religion Is Powerful Predictor of Vote in Midterm Elections

by Frank Newport and Joseph Carroll

White, frequent churchgoers much more likely to cast Republican vote

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- According to recent Gallup research, religion remains a powerful predictor of registered voters' likely voting intentions for the upcoming midterm elections. A Gallup aggregate of interviews with more than 5,000 registered voters conducted in June, July, and August of this year demonstrates that frequency of church attendance splits white voters into two groups -- one highly likely to be voting Republican this fall, and the other highly likely to be voting Democratic. Meanwhile, non-whites, regardless of religiosity, remain highly Democratic in voting orientation.

Religious Segmentation

It is well-established that religion has been a strong correlate of Americans' political orientation for more than two decades, but precise analysis of its impact depends on exactly how one defines the public's degree of "religiousness". Additionally, the interaction among race, religion, and politics can make analysis of the relationship between religion and voting especially confusing in some instances.

One important consideration relates to the situation of blacks in America today; they are among the most religious of any identifiable subgroup in the country but are at the same time among the most Democratic of any demographic group included in most analyses. Although there is some interesting evidence that blacks who are the most religious are also slightly more likely to be Republican than blacks who are relatively less religious, the fact remains the blacks as a whole are highly likely to vote for the Democratic candidate in almost every state or federal election.

Therefore, for the purposes of this analysis, Gallup focuses primarily on the role of religion among whites, creating three groups: white, frequent churchgoers (those who attend church services weekly or almost every week); white, infrequent churchgoers (those who attend services monthly or less frequently); and all others.

The relationship between these demographics and the results of Gallup's midterm congressional generic ballot is as follows:

Congress Generic Ballot Among Registered Voters
June-August 2006 Aggregate

% of Registered Voters

Democratic candidate

Republican candidate

Democratic lead

%

%

%

%

White, frequent churchgoers

34

34

58

-24

White, infrequent churchgoers

49

54

37

+17

All others

16

75

16

+59

June-August 2006: Based on sample of more than 5,200 registered voters.

The results are clear. The one-third of registered voters who are white and attend church frequently are more likely to vote Republican in the midterm election, by a 24-point margin (58% to 34%). The half of the registered voter population who are white but who don't attend church frequently have significantly different vote intentions; they're more likely to vote Democratic by a 17-point margin (54% to 37%). The 16% of registered voters who are non-white (regardless of church attendance) overwhelmingly intend to vote Democratic, by a 59-point margin.

Americans' overall congressional voting intentions, as measured by Gallup's generic ballot, shifted somewhat more Republican in August compared to June and July; from a 52% to 39% Democratic advantage in the first two months of the summer to a more narrow 49% to 44% Democratic advantage in August.

But it does not appear that this shift was a result of disproportionate changes among the three religious groups under consideration in this analysis. White, frequent churchgoers shifted eight points more Republican (based on the gap between Democratic and Republican voting intentions), white, infrequent churchgoers shifted seven points more Republican, and the "all other" category shifted five points more Republican.

Congress Generic Ballot Among Registered Voters
June-July 2006

% of Registered Voters

Democratic candidate

Republican candidate

Democratic lead

%

%

%

White, frequent churchgoers

35

35

56

-21

White, infrequent churchgoers

50

55

36

+19

All others

16

77

16

+61

Based on sample of more than 3,500 registered voters.


Congress Generic Ballot Among Registered Voters
August 2006

% of Registered Voters

Democratic candidate

Republican candidate

Democratic lead

%

%

%

White, frequent churchgoers

34

33

62

-29

White, infrequent churchgoers

49

52

40

+12

All others

16

72

16

+56

Based on sample of more than 1,700 registered voters.

Implications

Republican strategy in past elections has in part focused on promoting turnout among religious white voters who have -- as evidenced by these data -- a strong, preexisting tendency toward voting for a Republican. This group is highly sensitive to social policy issues relating to morals and values, thus providing the opportunity for the GOP party and individual Republican candidates to campaign on the theme that Democratic opponents would be more likely to enact laws or make changes that would encourage what those who are highly religious would consider to be immoral or anti-religious behavior.

The recent Republican efforts to pass laws in the House and Senate on such issues as embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage can be seen as part of the continuing campaign strategy to highlight these differences between the parties. It remains to be seen whether or not this group of religious whites will in fact turn out in strong enough numbers this fall to help the GOP maintain control of Congress.

Survey Methods

The latest results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of more than 5,000 adults who are registered to vote, aged 18 and older, conducted between June and August 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points for each individual survey. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/24319/Religion-Powerful-Predictor-Vote-Midterm-Elections.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030