NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 8, 2004

The "religion gap" in electoral politics is getting bigger, say political analysts, and while the GOP is capitalizing on the large proportion of Americans who say they attend church weekly, the Democrats are still deciding how to reach out to religious voters.

The religion gap didn't exist before 1972, when President Nixon appealed to a traditionalist voting bloc he called the "silent majority." Today, church attendance is the single most reliable demographic factor in voting, say observers:

  • In 2000, one in four voters said they attended church every week.
  • Frequent churchgoers chose Bush over Gore by 20 points.
  • Bush was supported by 87 percent of those who said they attended church weekly, but only 56 percent of those in the religious right who went to church infrequently.

There are exceptions --African-Americans tend to vote Democratic whether they attend church frequently or not at all. And some devout Catholics and Orthodox Jews support the Democrats despite holding socially conservative values.

While the Republican Party has found it easy to organize white evangelical church-goers into a reliable voting bloc by appealing to their socially conservative values, the Democratic Party is trying to reach out to religious voters in different ways. John Kerry, for example, recently hired a "director of religious outreach" for his campaign, and the Center for American Progress -- a liberal think tank based in Washington -- will start a project next week that will bring religious voices into the party.

Source: Susan Page, "Churchgoing closely tied to voting patterns," USA Today, June 3, 2004.


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