Religion

Democrats View Religious Groups Less Positively Than Republicans

Republicans more positive about 7 of 10 groups measured

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Democrats, who are personally less religious on average than Republicans, have less positive views toward a number of religious groups in America, according to a recent Gallup Poll Panel survey. The gap between the percent of Democrats and Republicans who have a positive image of the religious groups extends across Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Evangelical Christians, and Fundamentalist Christians. Democrats and Republicans have similar images of Muslims and Scientologists. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have a positive image of atheists.

The Aug. 28-31, 2006 poll asked Americans to rate a series of ten religious groups on a positive to negative scale, using this question wording: "We'd like to know how you feel about people of different religious or spiritual groups in the United States. Please say whether your overall view of each group is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative."

The ten groups included were selected as representative of a broad range of religious entities in the U.S. today, but were not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive list (there are literally hundreds of religious groups active in America today). The list included such traditional religious groups as Jews, Catholics, Methodists, and Baptists, as well as two differing ways of representing highly religious Christians (Evangelical and Fundamentalist), Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and Scientologists. The list also included atheists.

The basic results are as follows (detailed responses are displayed at the bottom of this article):

7. Next, we'd like to know how you feel about people of different religious or spiritual groups in the United States. Please say whether your overall view of each group is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative. How about -- [random order]?

2006 Aug 28-31
(sorted by "net positive")

Total
Positive


Neutral

Total
Negative

Net
Positive

%

%

%

Jews

58

37

4

+54

Methodists

55

37

5

+50

Baptists

55

32

10

+45

Catholics

56

31

12

+44

Evangelical Christians^

43

28

25

+18

Fundamentalist Christians^

34

29

33

+1

Latter Day Saints, or Mormons

28

39

29

-1

Muslims

26

41

30

-4

Atheists

15

40

44

-29

Scientologists

11

32

53

-42

^ Asked of a half sample

These results -- projectable to the national American adult population -- are of interest in and of themselves:

  • Four groups receive strongly net positive ratings: Jews, Methodists, Baptists, and Catholics.
  • The use of the word "Evangelical" in front of "Christian" produces significantly more positive responses than the use of the word "Fundamentalist".
  • Two groups (in addition to Fundamentalist Christians) break roughly even in terms of those who have positive or negative opinions: Latter Day Saints, or Mormons and Muslims.
  • Two groups have significantly net negative results: Atheists and Scientologists.

Partisan Differences

The table below displays the percent of Republicans (including independents who lean to the Republican party) and Democrats (including leaners) who have a positive opinion of each of the ten groups:

Positive Evaluations of Religions/Spiritual Groups by Party Affiliation
Aug. 28-31, 2006

Republicans
Including
Leaners

Democrats
Including
Leaners

Republican Minus
Democratic
Gap

%

%

Jews

70

51

+19

Catholics

68

51

+17

Methodists

67

51

+16

Baptists

70

47

+23

LDS/Mormons

34

26

+8

Muslims

27

27

0

Evangelical Christians

63

31

+32

Fundamentalist Christians

50

24

+26

Atheists

9

20

-11

Scientologists

9

11

-2

It is clear that for the most part, Republicans report more positive images of these religious groups than do Democrats. The differences are particularly large for Evangelical Christians, Fundamentalist Christians, and Baptists, but are also evident for such groups as Catholics and Jews.

Democrats and Republicans are essentially equally likely to have positive opinions of Muslims and Scientologists. Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to have a positive opinion of atheists, although neither group rates atheists that positively.

Implications

The strong basic relationship between religion and politics has been well-established in American social science. Americans who are more religious -- based on a variety of measures -- are significantly more likely to identify themselves as Republicans than are those who are less religious. For example, in the survey being used in this analysis, the percent of those identifying as Republicans drops from 53% among those who attend church weekly down to only 21% among those who seldom or never attend church. The percent who are Democratic rises from 29% among weekly church goers to 42% among those who attend seldom or never.

This relationship is particularly strong among white Christians, but there are some indications in Gallup analyses of large, aggregated datasets that even among traditionally Democratic groups such as blacks and Jews, those who are more religious are at least slightly more likely to be Republican than those who are less religious.

Thus, it may not come as a total surprise to find that Democrats -- in addition to being less religious themselves -- would also have less positive opinions about a variety of religious groups than Republicans do. It may be a bit more surprising that Republicans are in general more sympathetic to religious groups such as Jews and Catholics -- among whom they do not have a disproportionately strong representation.

A recent Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey found that Americans are significantly more likely to perceive that the Republican Party is friendly to religion than perceive that the Democratic Party is friendly to religion. These data suggest that the public is correct in its perception, at least in terms of the "friendliness" of rank and file Democrats and Republicans. The latter clearly are less positive about various religious groups than the former.

Democrats are aware of the potentially negative implications of the current religious divide in American politics. Voters who are religious form a very potent voting block. They have the twin virtues of being easily reached by targeted media and communication, and also being easily reached on the basis of core issues relating to values and morality. GOP campaign specialists have made use of this relationship over the last two decades and every indication is that they are attempting to rally the core religious segment of the electorate for the forthcoming midterm elections as well.

One group of Democrats is attempting to take action in relationship to this state of affairs. It was announced this week that a group of Democrats headed by former Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm have launched a new Web site, FaithfulDemocrats.com, aimed at raising the profile (and political success) of religious Democrats.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted August 28-30, 2006. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the 506 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 495 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

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.

7. Next, we'd like to know how you feel about people of different religious or spiritual groups in the United States. Please say whether your overall view of each group is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative, or very negative. How about -- [random order]?

2006 Aug 28-31
(sorted by "net positive")

Total
Positive


Neutral

Total
Negative

Net
Positive

%

%

%

Jews

58

37

4

+54

Methodists

55

37

5

+50

Baptists

55

32

10

+45

Catholics

56

31

12

+44

Evangelical Christians^

43

28

25

+18

Fundamentalist Christians^

34

29

33

+1

Latter Day Saints, or Mormons

28

39

29

-1

Muslims

26

41

30

-4

Atheists

15

40

44

-29

Scientologists

11

32

53

-42

^ Asked of a half sample

Full Results:

A. Atheists

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

6

9

40

14

30

1

B. Baptists

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

26

29

32

8

2

2

C. Catholics

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

25

31

31

8

4

1

D. Jews

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

25

33

37

3

1

2

E. Latter Day Saints, or Mormons

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

9

19

39

20

9

3

F. Methodists

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

25

30

37

4

1

2

G. Muslims

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

6

20

41

19

11

3

H. Scientologists

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31

2

9

32

27

26

5

I. (Asked of Form A respondents) Evangelical Christians

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31^

21

22

28

16

9

4

^ BASED ON 506 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

J. (Asked of Form B respondents) Fundamentalist Christians

Very
positive

Somewhat
positive


Neutral

Somewhat
negative

Very
negative

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Aug 28-31^

11

23

29

22

11

4

^ BASED ON 495 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/24385/democrats-view-religious-groups-less-positively-than-republicans.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030