September 30, 2012

Religious Groups and Political Party Identification

Trends in Party Identification among Registered Voters

So far in 2012, 35% of registered voters identify with the Democratic Party, 28% identify with the Republican Party, and 33% say they are independent.

Trends in Party Identification, Including Leaners, among Registered Voters

When the leanings of independents are taken into account, 48% of registered voters are Democrats or independents who lean toward the Democrats, and 43% are Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. The share of registered voters who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has shrunk from a 12-point advantage in 2008 to a five-point advantage in 2012.

White Evangelical Protestant Voters

The shift in party identification toward the GOP has occurred almost entirely among white voters, including those from all major religious groups. For example, support for the GOP among white (non-Hispanic) evangelical Protestant voters has grown from 65% in 2008 to 71% in 2012.

White Mainline Protestant Voters

White (non-Hispanic) mainline Protestant voters were evenly divided in 2008; today, the GOP holds a 12-point advantage among them.

White Catholic Voters

The Democrats held an advantage among white (non-Hispanic) Catholic voters in 2008. But the GOP has had an advantage over the Democratic Party among this group since 2010. Currently, half of white Catholic voters identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and 41% identify with or lean toward the Democrats.

Religious Groups that Traditionally Lean toward the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party continues to hold a strong advantage over the GOP among black and Hispanic voters. In 2012, 89% of black (non-Hispanic) Protestants describe themselves as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, as do a solid majority of Hispanic Catholics. There is a similar Democratic Party advantage over the GOP among religiously unaffiliated voters, a majority of whom are non-Hispanic whites.

Jewish Voters

Jewish voters, who comprise about 2% of registered voters, also have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. However, the size of the Democratic Party advantage has diminished from 52 points in 2008 to 38 points today.

Mormon Voters

Mormons, who comprise about 2% of registered voters, are among the most reliably Republican or Republican-leaning religious groups. Identification with the GOP has grown among Mormon voters from 68% in 2008 to 79% in 2012.

Party Identification among Weekly Attenders

Registered voters who attend worship services at least once a week are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. The GOP advantage over the Democratic Party among this group has grown modestly, from five points in 2008 to 14 points in 2012.

2012 Religious Composition of Republicans/Republican Leaners

Of all registered voters who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, 87% are non-Hispanic whites, 5% are Hispanic, 2% are black, and 4% are of some other race or of mixed race. White (non-Hispanic) evangelical Protestants comprise about a third (34%) of all Republican or Republican-leaning voters. One-in-five are white (non-Hispanic) mainline Protestants, 18% are white (non-Hispanic) Catholics, and 11% are religiously unaffiliated. Thirteen percent belong to other groups, including 3% who are Mormons and 1% who are Jewish.

2012 Religious Composition of Democrats/Democrat Leaners

Of all registered voters who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, 61% are non-Hispanic whites, 21% are black, 10% are Hispanic, and 7% are of some other race or of mixed race. They are religiously diverse: 16% are black (non-Hispanic) Protestants, 14% are white (non-Hispanic) mainline Protestants, 9% are white (non-Hispanic) evangelical Protestants, 13% are white (non-Hispanic) Catholics, 5% are Hispanic Catholics, and a quarter (24%) are religiously unaffiliated. Eighteen percent belong to other groups, including 3% who are Jewish and 1% who are Mormon.

For a detailed analysis of longer-term trends in party identification and of changes in the partisan preferences of a variety of demographic groups, see "A Closer Look at the Parties in 2012."

For details on trends in party identification by religion from 2008-2011, see Trends in Party Identification of Religious Groups: Jewish Support for GOP Rises