Highly religious whites are much more likely to identify with the Republican Party, but there is no link between religiosity and party identification among blacks, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Among very religious white Americans, 62 percent identify with the Republican Party, while only 28 percent identify with the Democratic Party. Nonreligious whites, on the other hand, are likely to identify with the Democrats 51 percent of the time, but identify with Republicans only 33 percent of the time.
Among black Americans, however, there is no link between religiosity and party identification. Very religious blacks are equally likely to identify with the Republican Party (9 percent) as moderately religious blacks (9 percent) and nonreligious blacks (10 percent). Likewise, very religious blacks are just as likely to identify with the Democratic Party (80 percent) as moderately religious blacks (79 percent) and nonreligious blacks (77 percent).
Heightened religiosity also pulls Latino and Asian Americans in a Republican direction, but the influence is not as strong as among whites. Twenty-five percent of very religious Latinos and 34 percent of very religious Asians identify with the Republican Party, while 19 percent of nonreligious Latinos and 20 percent of nonreligious Asians identify with the Republican party.
The poll also found that blacks are the most religious Americans of the four race and ethnic groups surveyed. Fifty-three percent of blacks are very religious, while 45 percent of Latinos, 39 percent of whites, and 29 percent of Asians fall into that category.
The findings come as no surprise as religiosity has been one of the better predictors of voting behavior in recent elections. Conservative Christian groups became an important force in the Republican Party beginning with the 1980 election. These groups have been successful at mobilizing Christians into the Republican Party, particularly over the issues of abortion and homosexuality.
Gallup's poll shows, however, that the Republican Party has not been successful at mobilizing blacks, who have high levels of religiosity and conservative views on abortion and homosexuality.
Blacks were strong supporters of the Republican Party during and after the Civil War when the Republican party was opposed to slavery. The movement of blacks into the Democratic Party was especially strong, though, during the 1964 election. That was the year that President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), voted against it. Martin Luther King, Jr. endorsed Johnson in that election.
For the purposes of the study, whites only include non-Latino and non-Asian whites. Religiosity was measured by how religious respondents said they were and how often they said they attend religious services. Republican Party identifiers included those who said they identify with the Republican party and independents who said they mostly vote Republican. Democratic Party identifiers included those who said they identify with the Democratic Party and independents who said they mostly vote Democratic.
The survey used telephone interviews of 145,618 adults from January-May 2011. The sampling error for whites, blacks, and Latinos is +/- 1 percent. The sampling error for Asians is +/- 2 percent.