Increasing Number of Christian Denominations Becoming More Republican
Did you think all the liberal Christian denominations making the news meant Christians have become more liberal? They’re not. Even mainline denominations like the Presbyterian and the Methodist churches have become more Republican. And less Democrat.
That’s from a study by political scientist Ryan Burge of East Illinois University. He analyzed the Cooperative Congressional Election Study from 2008 and 2018. It surveyed members of 34 religions — mostly Christian — on their political preferences. Of those surveyed, 27 became more Republican over the 10-year span. Only seven became more Democratic. And four of those seven still score as clearly Republican.
Assemblies of God became the most Republican, although they already leaned Republican. Nondenominational fundamentalists became less Republican, but are still the second most Republican tradition. The Mormons moved the farthest towards the Democrats of any tradition, but still lean clearly Republican. The traditions that moved farthest right were the other Lutheran churches (those outside the mainline church), other Pentecostal churches (outside the Assemblies of God), the independent Baptists, and the Eastern Orthodox.
A few churches even shifted their allegiance. Roman Catholics, Orthodox, other Lutherans, and the General Association of Regular Baptists switched from leaning Democrat to leaning Republican. Several denominations that leaned Democrat became less Democratic. They include the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.
The survey also included Jews, agnostics, and Buddhists. All became less Democratic. Those whom “identify as nothing in particular” (Burge’s term) drifted to the right, though remained on the Democratic side. The National Baptist Convention, an historically black church and the most solidly Democrat denomination, became less Democratic. On the other hand, atheists moved strongly left.
Overall, to the Right
Overall, the 27 traditions moving right moved farther than the Democrats going to the left moved left. Burge believes some of this may be attributed to support for President Trump. He refers to the results as “asymmetric polarization.” He concludes:
American religion is becoming more and more synonymous with the Republican Party while those who have no religious affiliation tend to be the (weak) base for the Democrats. If one wants to be an active Christian but disagrees with Republican politics, where do they go? Despite the fact that most Democrats do currently claim a religious affiliation, it seems that the places of refuge are dwindling every year.
The divide carried out during the midterm elections. According to Pew Research, 79% of Jews voted Democrat. This is a decrease from 2006 levels. About 70% of the unaffiliated religious voted for Democrats. Protestants and other Christians support for the GOP increased from 54% to 56%. Catholic support increased from 44% to 49%. Those who identify as nothing decreased their support of Democrats from 74% to 70%.
What kind of effect will this shift have on political campaigns? The Democrats’ political base includes atheists, agnostics and those who identify with nothing in particular. The Democrats will need to craft a message that caters to them.
Similarly, the GOP cannot ignore its religious base. Now is not the time to take them for granted. The U.S. enjoys one of the highest rates of religious adherence in developed countries. This is probably due in part to its Judeo-Christian heritage, and partially due to broad protections for religion in the First Amendment.
Why the Shift?
Why the shift in recent years? It could be the Democrats mad rush to radical abortion positions and a growth in pro-life support. It could be because Democrats are heavily pushing an LGBTQ agenda that Christians believe goes counter to the Bible. It is a threat to religious liberty. They’ve seen the high-profile battles taking place over freedom of conscience for businesses to refuse services for same-sex marriage. Christians are under attack.
The shift may also be due in part to Trump. While he may not be an exemplary Christian in his own life, he avidly promotes Christian values. On the National Day of Prayer, he said, “We are proud of our religious heritage.” He also observed, “Our country was founded on prayer.” He is fond of saying “God Bless America.” He appears to have no fear when it comes to defending the Christian faith.
So the next time someone tries to claim Jesus would be a Democrat, ask them why Christian denominations are moving toward the GOP.