Religious Minorities and Presidential Polling

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 15, 2014 — 4 Comments

When Barack Obama won his presidential reelection bid in 2012, the biggest story about the immediate aftermath was how America’s shifting demographics had delivered the victory (and that Nate Silver was right all along, but that’s a different story).  A big sub-headline was the rise of religiously unaffiliated voters (“nones”), who now rival the evangelical Christians in size, but also important was the difference between the religious coalitions that supported the presidential nominees. Sarah Posner called it the “great religious realignment.”

“A recent Pew survey found that there are now equal numbers of white evangelicals and unaffiliated voters, and a Public Religion Research Institute poll found similar results. I noted at the time of the PRRI survey that the bulk of Romney’s base was coming from white conservative evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics, while Obama’s “support comes from a more diverse group: 23% from the unaffiliated, 18% from black Protestants, 15% from white mainline Protestants, 14% from white Catholics, 8% from Latino Catholics, and 7% from non-Christians. Romney draws just 3% of his base from Latino Catholics, 2% from non-Christians, and an unmeasurable portion from black Protestants.”

In short, Republicans rely primarily on conservative Catholics and evangelicals, while Democrats make up that demographic shortfall by relying on a diverse array of religious voters, including religious minorities and “nones.” Now that we are in the second year of Obama’s second term, with partisan politics seemingly as divisive as they ever have been, Gallup polling revisits religious groups and finds that the faiths who still approve of Obama’s performance has remained relatively stable.

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“Seventy-two percent of U.S. Muslims approved of the job President Barack Obama was doing as president during the first six months of 2014, higher than any other U.S. religious group Gallup tracks. Mormons were least approving, at 18%. In general, majorities of those in non-Christian religions — including those who do not affiliate with any religion — approved of Obama, while less than a majority of those in the three major Christian religious groups did.”

Gallup points out that overall approval in each group has cumulatively dropped between 5-7% over the last 5 years but that Muslims, Nones, and Jews have largely remained supportive.

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“Similarly, Muslims have been the most approving among the religious groups in each time period. Jewish Americans and Americans with no religious preference have also exceeded the national average job approval in each time period, tracking each other closely.”

Gallup ends its analysis by stating that: “Clearly, members of various religions view the president quite differently.” However, I would state that, aside from Mormons, who closely ally themselves with evangelical Christians socially and politically, religious minorities in the United States generally see Obama as someone who isn’t beholding to a particular socially conservative strain of Christianity. So even though Muslims, “nones,” “others,” and Jews aren’t as happy with Obama’s performance as they were, it seems that they are mindful that a Republican replacement might be less well-disposed regarding their concerns.

Considering the power and influence conservative Christians maintain in the Republican party it seems unlikely that comprehensive efforts to woo religious minorities will be forthcoming, despite that fact that a fiscally conservative but socially liberal candidate could theoretically perform very well on a national level, not only with some religious minorities, but with Millennial generation voters as well. That said, barring major shifts in tone and policy, it looks like religious minorities are sticking with Obama, and the Democrats, at least for now.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Considering the power and influence conservative Christians maintain in the Republican party it seems unlikely that comprehensive efforts to woo religious minorities will be forthcomingSeeing how inept the GOP has been in wooing Hispanics and other voters of color, through ignoring whom they lost in 2012, I’m not holding my breath for them to even ponder the utility of appealing to us. (Though we are, in one sense, the most conservative religious cohort in the country!)

  • Franklin_Evans

    My observation of the GOP leadership over (at least) the last 20 years may be summed up as follows: Opens mouth, inserts foot, shoots foot.

    I am Pyrrhically (ahem) consoled by the fact that the Democratic leadership stabs foot instead of shoots, because it doesn’t want anything to do with the NRA. :D

  • xJane

    I absolutely agree with you that religious minorities see in this President a not-quite-ally. Someone who is not as bad as most of the others. Unfortunately, I am concerned that the take-away from this poll in the mainstream media will be that either Obama has somehow betrayed Christians or that he really is secretly Muslim (as though that’s a bad thing). I hope, however, that it will pave the way for a greater understanding that this country is shared by people of many—and of no—faith(s). Following the recent ruling in Town of Greece, however, I feel it is a vain hope.

  • Charles Cosimano

    A lot of fuss over someone who can’t run again.