Long the dominant group in American religious life, White Christians have fallen below a majority of the U.S. population—and they are moving to the right politically as they recede.
The result is that, like race and age, religious affiliation marks a sharpening point of distinction between Republicans and Democrats, previously unpublished results from the Pew Research Center’s massive Religious Landscape survey show.
As the nation relentlessly diversifies, both in its racial composition and religious preferences, White Christians now represent just 46 percent of American adults, according to Pew data provided in response to a request from Next America. That’s down from a 55 percent majority as recently as 2007, and much higher figures through most of U.S. history.
Yet even as White Christians shrink in their overall numbers, they still account for nearly seven-in-10 Americans who identify with, or lean toward, the Republican Party, the Pew study found. White Christians, in fact, represent as large a share of the Republican coalition today as they did of American society overall in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won reelection. A clear majority of all White Christians across the United States now identify as Republican, Pew found.
The data demonstrated that the result of the changing demographics is that the Republican party is becoming more entrenched in conservative religious values while the Democratic party is split among the white less religious liberals, and the more traditional, and more religious, blacks and Hispanic voters.
This means that the GOP can get the voters animated with simple talking points claiming there is an attack on their religion, or that the brown people are coming to take their freedoms away, while the gays are indoctrinating heir children.
On the other hand the Democrats have to walk a finer line, preaching more tolerant attitudes, while also being careful not to insult those raised in more traditional Christian homes.
Even though the trend is working in favor of the Democrats, there are still numerous elections ahead where the cohesion of the Republican party presents a real challenge to Democratic candidates.
And in smaller local elections, where getting out the conservative vote means simply paying a visit to the local churches, the challenge for liberals is to find a candidate that the various fractions within the Democratic party can rally behind.
Sadly this is the problem with leading those who make decisions based on critical thinking, as opposed to those who makes theirs based on faith.