Archive for the ‘Religious affiliation’ Category

The Role Of Religion In Our Divided America

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

Everyone who follows the political winds in the US is laser-focused on the upcoming midterms, which are six days from now. Most prognosticators expect Republicans to end up controlling the House of Representatives, and maybe the Senate, too. While that is certainly possible, perhaps even likely, if we look out farther into the future, the picture is decidedly less rosy for the Grand Old Party.

Stay with me as I try to explain why.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Survey, which provides insight into the beliefs of most of the nation’s faith groups, nearly three in four Americans (74%) say things in this country are going in the wrong direction, and 49% say things were better in the 1950s. That’s right, the 1950s when a third of the country, 51 million people, still had to use outhouses, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence, rotary dial phones were how we communicated, and Jim Crow was alive and well and on the march. Sixty-six percent of Republicans believe our culture and American way of life have deteriorated since then. Thirty percent of Democrats feel the same way. PRRI sums up its September 2022 Values Survey this way:

Approximately three-quarters of Americans agree that the country is heading in the wrong direction, but there is considerable division over whether the country needs to move backward — toward an idealized, homogeneous past — or forward, toward a more diverse future. Though most Americans favor moving forward, a sizable minority yearn for a country reminiscent of the 1950s, embrace the idea that God created America to be a new promised land for European Christians, view newcomers as a threat to American culture, and believe that society has become too soft and feminine. This minority is composed primarily of self-identified Republicans, white evangelical Protestants, and white Americans without a college degree. The majority of Americans, however, especially younger Americans, the religiously unaffiliated, and Democrats, are more likely to embrace a competing vision for the future of America that is more inclusive.

When examined in concert with PRRI’s 2020 Census of American Religion, a pattern emerges that does not bode well for Republicans.

In 1996, 65% of Americans identified as white and Christian; that number is now 43%, down nearly a third. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans identify that way. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans are white evangelicals. The problem for Republicans is white evangelicals now make up just 14% of the total population. That is down significantly from 23% in 2006. The following chart depicts religious affiliation by age. It also shows vividly that white evangelicals, the rock solid foundation of the Republican party’s base, and to a lesser degree mainline protestants, are aging out of the population. They are being replaced by people unaffiliated with any religion.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, the unaffiliated are predominantly Democrats.

The PRRI data also shows younger generations, especially 18 to 29 year-olds, more often identify as Democrats than Republicans, which should be good news for the Democrats. The problem lies in getting them to vote. Seventy percent of Republicans say they are very or somewhat excited about voting next week. For the Democrats that number is only 64%.

One more startling point from the PRRI Values Survey. Among a host of other issues, the PRRI researchers asked about QAnon, and this is how they framed the subject:

To measure the scope of the QAnon movement, PRRI tracks agreement with three statements that form the core tenets of the conspiracy theory:

  1. The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.

  2. There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.

  3. Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.

PRRI labels people who believe all three statements to be true as QAnon Believers. It may shock you to learn QAnon Believers now comprise 19% of the population. It may shock you even more to learn the number jumped five points in the last year. You might want to think about that.

What I take away from all of this is Democrats have a solid opportunity to take command looking out into a somewhat distant future, but they may first have to walk through the valley of death to get there. Republicans, on the other hand, will continue to yearn for “the good old days” of white isolated and insulated America. They may win next week, but that just might be the beginning of their collective swan song, a swan song the Chad Mitchell Trio suggested nicely way back in 1964 with Barry’s Boys, their white-hot roasting of Arizona Senator and that year’s Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater:

I wanna go back to the days when men were men
And start the First World War all over again
Back to Barry
Back to Cash and Carry
Back to Barry’s Boys.