WASHINGTON – Religious white Americans are still among the Republican Party and President George W. Bush's strongest backers despite the group's overall drop in support, according to a Gallup Poll Monday.
All Americans, including religious whites, have become less likely over the last three years to identify themselves with the Republican Party and approve of the job President Bush is doing. However, religious whites are still more likely than others to identify themselves as Republicans and give thumbs up to Bush's job performance.
Church attendance is used as a measure of religiosity by Gallup, which noted the high correlation between the two.
The percentage of white Americans identifying themselves as Republicans who attended church weekly is 44 percent compared to the 22 percent of Republicans who seldom or never attend church in 2007. Highly religious Republicans are significantly more likely to identify with the Republican Party than non-religious Americans.
Similarly, 50 percent of white Americans who attend church weekly approved of Bush's job performance in 2007 compared to only 27 percent of white Americans who seldom or never attend church. Again, religious whites are more likely to approve of Bush's job as president than their non-religious counterpart.
The 22 percent gap between highly religious and non-religious Republicans is the same as the 22 percent gap between the two groups in 2004 (51 percent vs. 29 percent).
Also, the 23 percent point gap between religious and non-religious whites on Bush's job approval remains nearly the same as in 2004 when the difference was 22 percent point (68 vs. 46 points)
"The data show that there has been no diminution in the relative advantage that Bush and the GOP enjoy among highly religious whites over less religious whites in 2007, compared to what it was in 2004," Gallup noted.
The polling group said it "appears likely" that highly religious white Americans have been affected by the same issues and events that have "weakened" their support for the GOP and President Bush as the rest of American society.
"It is true that the Republican leanings of highly religious whites did drop. They were not uniquely immune to the pressures that have negatively affected the Republican Party since 2004," Gallup commented.
"But religious whites did not succumb at a disproportionately greater rate than other white Americans. Thus, to this day they continue to be one of the subgroups in the American population most likely to identify with the Republican Party and most likely to approve of the job Bush is doing as president."
Bush's job approval overall among white Americans between 2004 and 2007 dropped 19 points from 56 percent in 2004 to 37 percent in 2007. While the Republican Party suffered a drop less than Bush's, it still saw a seven point fall from the 39 percent of white Americans identifying themselves as Republicans in 2004.
The Gallup analysis is based on more than 90,000 interviews from about 90 national surveys conducted since 2004.