Gallup Analysis: Priorities and Concerns of Religious White Americans

by Frank Newport

More likely to be worried about values issues if the Democrats win

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- White Americans who are personally religious have formed a core constituency of the Republican Party in recent years. This group is much more likely than nonreligious whites to identify with the Republican Party and vote for Republican candidates. Republican strategists have taken advantage of this fact and have focused a good deal of their now-famous "get out the vote" efforts on direct communication with religious whites, using a wide variety of communication channels.

One might assume that the subgroup of religious white Americans so heavily courted by the GOP would be focused on moral and values issues -- including concerns about liberalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, and stem-cell research policies -- were the Democrats to take control of Congress.

A review of recent open-ended data indicates that religious whites are not much different from all other Americans in terms of what their priorities are for government and the White House.

Religious whites who favor the Republicans to keep control of Congress, however, are significantly more likely than nonreligious whites to say they worry about moral and values policies that would be enacted if the Democrats take over Congress.

Priorities for Government

Americans were asked in Gallup's Oct. 23-26 poll to name their top priorities for Congress and the president to deal with. Assistant Editor Joseph Carroll has recently analyzed the general results (see Related Items).

But for the purposes of this analysis, the question is: Do religious whites differ significantly from other whites and nonwhites in their priorities for government?

The data do not reflect major differences among these groups. The priorities religious whites have for their government are basically little different from the priorities among all Americans. Iraq is the top priority among all three groups. The priorities that are next in line behind Iraq vary slightly across the three groups, and include the economy, immigration, healthcare, and education.

In your view, what one or two issues should be the top priorities for the president and Congress to deal with at this time?

 

Total

White
frequent
church-
goers

White
infrequent
church-
goers

All
others

%

%

%

%

Situation in Iraq/ War

64

60

68

59

Economy in general

18

13

20

22

Immigration/ Illegal aliens

15

21

14

10

Poor healthcare/hospitals; high cost of healthcare

11

10

12

9

National security

6

7

6

6

Terrorism

6

7

6

5

Fuel/ Oil prices/ Lack of energy sources/ The energy crisis

6

6

7

5

Education/ Poor education/ Access to education

5

4

4

10

Federal budget deficit/ Federal debt

4

6

3

3

The situation in North Korea

3

5

2

1

Social Security

3

3

2

4

Taxes

2

3

2

1

Unemployment/ Jobs

2

2

3

3

Environment/ Pollution

2

1

4

1

Foreign aid/ Focus overseas

2

2

2

1

Homosexual issues/ Gay marriage

2

2

2

--

Poor leadership/ Corruption/ Dissatisfaction with government/ Congress/ politicians/candidates

1

1

2

*

Medicare

1

1

2

2

War/conflict in the Middle East

1

1

1

2

Poverty/ Hunger/ Homelessness

1

--

2

1

International issues/problems

1

--

1

1

High cost of living/ Inflation

1

*

1

1

Care for the elderly

1

1

1

--

Cancer/ Diseases

1

2

--

--

Judicial system/ Courts/ Laws

1

*

1

--

Lack of respect for each other

1

*

*

2

Ethics/ Moral/ Religious/ Family decline; dishonesty; lack of integrity

*

1

*

1

Unifying the country

*

1

*

--

Wages

*

*

*

1

Abortion

*

1

--

--

Lack of military defense

*

*

*

1

Natural disaster relief/funding

*

1

--

--

Lack of money

*

*

*

*

Gap between rich and poor

*

--

1

--

Drugs

*

--

*

--

Crime/ Violence

*

--

*

--

Election year/ Election reform

*

--

*

--

Welfare

*

--

--

*

Corporate corruption

*

--

*

--

 

 

 

 

Other

3

3

3

3

None/ Don't know/ Refused

2

2

3

1

 

* Less than 0.5%

Note: Percentages add to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

Perhaps most importantly, this group of religious whites -- who in this sample are more than twice as likely to be Republican as Democrat in terms of party identification -- do not tend to list moral or values issues as their top priorities at all.

Here are the important points of analysis:

  • Religious whites are slightly less focused on economic issues than others are.

  • Religious whites are slightly less likely to mention Iraq, although it remains by far the top priority for this group.

  • Religious whites are slightly more likely to mention illegal immigration as the top priority than are others.

  • Only 2% of this group thinks that gay rights should be the government's top priority.

  • Only 1% mention abortion.

  • Only 1% mention ethical and moral decline.

Worry

The recent Gallup Panel survey also included a set of questions designed to measure the concerns of Americans if the party they do not favor wins control of Congress in Tuesday's elections. Gallup Senior Editor Lydia Saad recently analyzed these data (see Related Items).

This set of questions is particularly interesting in light of current Republican strategy focusing on activating conservatives' concerns about what would happen if the Democrats take control of Congress. It might be reasonable to assume that religious whites who want the Republicans to maintain control of Congress would be most concerned about what would happen in relationship to moral and values policies.

The table shown here reflects the open-ended responses to a question in which those favoring continued Republican control of Congress were asked what they worry about most if the Democrats take control of Congress.

What, in particular, are you worried will happen if the Democrats win control of Congress?^ [OPEN-ENDED]

 

Total

White
frequent
churchgoers

White
infrequent
churchgoers

%

%

%

The U.S. will cut and run from Iraq/The war issues

22

24

22

Will raise taxes

18

15

20

Nothing will be accomplished/Things will get worse

12

13

10

Will pay less attention to national security/terrorism

10

9

11

Will spend too much/Will increase national debt

7

7

7

Will be too liberal in their views/actions

6

9

4

Will attempt to socialize healthcare/welfare programs

5

6

4

Abortion will become acceptable

5

7

2

Immigration will get out of control

4

5

2

Will show a total lack of support for the president

4

4

5

The economy will get worse

4

4

3

Morals/Ethics will continue to decline

4

6

1

Gay rights legislation will be passed

2

4

--

Supreme Court/Judicial issues will change for the worse

2

2

2

^ Asked of adults who think the country would be better off if the Republicans controlled Congress, and who say they are worried about what would happen if the Democrats win control of Congress after this fall's elections

Note: Percentages add to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

These concerns and worries can be grouped as follows:

What, in particular, are you worried will happen if the Democrats win control of Congress?^ [OPEN-ENDED]

BROAD CATEGORIES

 

Total

White
frequent
churchgoers

White
infrequent
churchgoers

%

%

%

Economic issues

29

26

30

The U.S. will cut and run from Iraq/The war issues

22

24

22

Moral Issues/Too Liberal/Abortion/Gay rights

17

26

7

Nothing will be accomplished/Things will get worse

12

13

10

Will pay less attention to national security/terrorism

10

9

11

Will attempt to socialize healthcare/welfare programs

5

6

4

Immigration will get out of control

4

5

2

Will show a total lack of support for the president

4

4

5

Supreme Court/Judicial issues will change for the worse

2

2

2

 

 

 

^ Asked of adults who think the country would be better off if the Republicans controlled Congress, and who say they are worried about what would happen if the Democrats win control of Congress after this fall's elections

Note: Percentages add to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

From this more general perspective, it can be seen that economic issues are the biggest broad worry those favoring Republicans have if their side does not win, followed by Iraq, moral issues, a concern that nothing will get done, and national security and terrorism.

There are, however, some significant differences among the two groups of whites as defined by church attendance.

Moral issues are tied with economic concerns as the top worries of frequent churchgoing whites, followed closely by Iraq. On the other hand, whites who are infrequent churchgoers but who want the GOP to control Congress are much less likely to cite moral issues as their worry if the Democrats take over. Instead, these Americans are worried about economic issues and then Iraq.

Nine percent of the religious whites who favor the Republicans worry about a Democratic-controlled Congress becoming too liberal, 7% are worried about abortion becoming more acceptable, 6% worry about a general moral decline if the Democrats win, and 4% are worried about gay rights legislation. All of these are at least slightly higher than the parallel percentages of mentions by whites who favor the Republicans but who do not attend church frequently.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 23-26, 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 maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 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.

2. In your view, what one or two issues should be the top priorities for the president and Congress to deal with at this time?

 

Total

White
frequent
church-
goers

White
infrequent
church-
goers

All
others

%

%

%

%

Situation in Iraq/ War

64

60

68

59

Economy in general

18

13

20

22

Immigration/ Illegal aliens

15

21

14

10

Poor healthcare/hospitals; high cost of healthcare

11

10

12

9

National security

6

7

6

6

Terrorism

6

7

6

5

Fuel/ Oil prices/ Lack of energy sources/ The energy crisis

6

6

7

5

Education/ Poor education/ Access to education

5

4

4

10

Federal budget deficit/ Federal debt

4

6

3

3

The situation in North Korea

3

5

2

1

Social Security

3

3

2

4

Taxes

2

3

2

1

Unemployment/ Jobs

2

2

3

3

Environment/ Pollution

2

1

4

1

Foreign aid/ Focus overseas

2

2

2

1

Homosexual issues/ Gay marriage

2

2

2

--

Poor leadership/ Corruption/ Dissatisfaction with government/ Congress/ politicians/candidates

1

1

2

*

Medicare

1

1

2

2

War/ Conflict in the Middle East

1

1

1

2

Poverty/ Hunger/ Homelessness

1

--

2

1

International issues/problems

1

--

1

1

High cost of living/ Inflation

1

*

1

1

Care for the elderly

1

1

1

--

Cancer/ Diseases

1

2

--

--

Judicial system/ Courts/ Laws

1

*

1

--

Lack of respect for each other

1

*

*

2

Ethics/ Moral/ Religious/ Family decline; dishonesty; lack of integrity

*

1

*

1

Unifying the country

*

1

*

--

Wages

*

*

*

1

Abortion

*

1

--

--

Lack of military defense

*

*

*

1

Natural disaster relief/funding

*

1

--

--

Lack of money

*

*

*

*

Gap between rich and poor

*

--

1

--

Drugs

*

--

*

--

Crime/ Violence

*

--

*

--

Election year/ Election reform

*

--

*

--

Welfare

*

--

--

*

Corporate corruption

*

--

*

--

Other

3

3

3

3

None/ Don't know/ Refused

2

2

3

1

 

* Less than 0.5%
Note: Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

(Asked of adults who say country would be better off if Republicans controlled Congress) How worried are you about what would happen if the Democratic Party wins control of Congress after this fall's elections -- very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried, or not worried at all?

BASED ON 435 ADULTS WHO SAY THE COUNTRY WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF THE REPUBLICANS CONTROLLED CONGRESS

 

Very
worried

Somewhat
worried

Not too
worried

Not
worried
at all

No
opinion

Total

33

40

20

7

*

White frequent churchgoers

36

43

16

4

*

White infrequent churchgoers

29

35

26

10

--

All others

30

47

8

15

--

* Less than 0.5%

(Asked of adults who say they are worried about what would happen if the Democrats win control of Congress after this fall's elections) What, in particular, are you worried will happen if the Democrats win control of Congress? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

2006 Oct 23-26

%

The U.S. will cut and run from Iraq/The war issues

22

Will raise taxes

18

Nothing will be accomplished/Things will get worse

12

Will pay less attention to national security/terrorism

10

Will spend too much/Will increase national debt

7

Will be too liberal in their views/actions

6

Will attempt to socialize healthcare/welfare programs

5

Abortion will become acceptable

5

Immigration will get out of control

4

Will show a total lack of support for the president

4

The economy will get worse

4

Morals/Ethics will continue to decline

4

Gay rights legislation will be passed

2

Supreme Court/Judicial issues will change for the worse

2

 

Other

15

Nothing

7

No opinion

2

Note: Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

(Asked of adults who say country would be better off if Democrats controlled Congress)How worried are you about what would happen if the Republican Party keeps control of Congress after this fall's elections -- very worried, somewhat worried, not too worried, or not worried at all?

BASED ON 501 ADULTS WHO SAY THE COUNTRY WOULD BE BETTER OFF IF THE DEMOCRATS CONTROLLED CONGRESS

 

Very
worried

Somewhat
worried

Not too
worried

Not
worried
at all

Total

53%

33

9

4

White frequent churchgoers

57%

32

6

5

White infrequent churchgoers

52%

39

9

*

All others

55%

21

12

12

* Less than 0.5%

10. (Asked of adults who they are worried about what would happen if the Republicans keep control of Congress after this fall's elections)What, in particular, are you worried will happen if the Republicans keep control of Congress? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON 485 ADULTS WHO ARE WORRIED ABOUT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE REPUBLICANS KEEP CONTROL OF CONGRESS AFTER THIS FALL'S ELECTIONS

 

2006 Oct 23-26

%

The situation in Iraq will continue to get worse

32

Will continue to run the government poorly

13

The economy will get worse

12

More of the same/Nothing will change (nonspecific)

12

Middle class will continue to disappear/Rich get richer/Poor get poorer

8

The country will get worse/already going in the direction

7

Diminish civil liberties/constitutional rights/freedoms

5

Will increase national debt/Spending will be out of control

4

Taxes will go up

3

Rise in oil/gas prices

3

Social Security will not cover all the needs

2

Will be a lack of healthcare/care for the elderly

2

Will be a lack of jobs

2

 

Other

13

Nothing

4

Everything

*

No opinion

1

* Less than 0.5%

Note: Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

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