Saturday, October 02, 2004

12 Tribes of American Politics

A fascinating article on BeliefNet by John Green and Steven Waldman

Judging from the amount of press coverage they get, you'd think the only religious groups in American politics were the religious right - and everyone else. In fact, a shrewd candidate needs to understand the idiocyncrasies and hot buttons of all Twelve Tribes of American Politics.

Unlike the more famous Twelve Tribes of Israel, these groups can all be located. Using data from the Pew Religion Forum (see full study) and the Ray K Bliss Institute at University of Akron, Beliefnet has defined the religious groupings that make up our political landscape. The surveys were conducted in May 2004 and so show longterm trends rather than present day horse race preferences.

The biggest finding: The Religious Right and the Religious Left are almost exactly the same size. The former has had a much greater impact for the past 25 years largely because of superior organization and drive.

I'm not quite convinced that the religious left is almost the same size as the religious right. Here's why.

The religious left is said to be 12.6 percent of electorate. But only 30 percent define themselves as liberals, while conservative came in at 20 percent and moderates at 50 percent.

The religious right is put at the same 12.6 percent. But two-thirds (66%) call themselves conservative, with only 25 percent saying moderate and 9 percent liberal.

Thus, the "left" of the religious left is 3.8 percent of the electorate, while the "right" of the religious right is 8.4 percent of the electorate.

On the other hand, if anyone wanting to organize the religious left should figure out how to reach Beliefnet's users--at least those who take their on-line polls.

Twenty-five percent of those taking part in the on-line poll, pieked "Religious Left" to describe their views-- twice the general population. In contrast, only 7% Belief-net poll said they were "Religious Right"--half the rate of the general population , Other under-represented groups were Black Protestants
and Latinos at 1 percent each. over-represented were the combined "Spiritual but not Religious" and "Secular" who were 22% of responders to BeliefNet's ID poll, versys 16 percent of the electorate. Way over-represented were "Jews, Muslims, or Other" who were 16 percent--more than three times their rate in the general population.

The original report,The American Religious Landscape and Political Attitudes:
A Baseline for 2004, can be found here. It looks like something which progressives should examine in more detail.

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