Religion and Republicans

 

shutterstock_295810463About 15 years ago, on Christmas Eve, our family departed from the traditional American Jewish observance of the holiday (ordering Chinese take-out) and elected to find an open restaurant. We drove to the local city center (or what passes for it in suburbia) and were stunned to find that not only were all of the restaurants open, they were packed.

I had pictured my Christian friends and neighbors at home, gathered around the table Norman Rockwell-style, eating goose or ham or whatever Gentiles eat, bathed in the twinkling lights of decorated trees. In fact, I liked to think of them that way, and finding crowds treating Christmas Eve as just another night was almost a sacrilege.

Americans have long resisted the secularizing trend of Western Europe. In many Western European countries, churches stand virtually empty on Sundays and few profess belief in God (37 percent in the United Kingdom; 27 percent in France; 28 percent in The Netherlands). In the United States, according to Gallup, 92 percent said they believed in God as recently as 2011, which was down only 4 points from the 1944 response.

If belief in God has hardly budged in the post-World War II era, religious life has steadily declined. Pew reports that just since 2007, the number of Americans who identify as Christian has dropped by 8 points, from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent. A bit more than one point of that change is attributable to the growth of other faiths, but most is accounted for by the increase in those who are unaffiliated. Among the unaffiliated, the big story is the young.

Great-grandma and great-grandpa’s generation, born between 1928 and 1945, is 85 percent Christian (57 percent Protestant, 24 percent Catholic). Their baby boom children are 78 percent Christian. The Generation Xers are 70 percent Christian, and Millennials are between 57 and 56 percent Christian depending on when they were born. Americans are dropping out of church, marrying outside the faith they were raised in, and switching confessions at record rates. In 2014, 22.8 percent of American adults described themselves as unaffiliated with any church.

The loss of congregants has been most marked among mainline Protestants and Catholics, but evangelical churches have declined too (at a slower pace).

What does this mean for politics? It’s good news for the Democrats. Religious observance, like marriage, is a good predictor of political preference. Adults with no religion lean Democrat by 36 points. Young, white evangelical Protestants lean strongly Republican. The more religious identification sags, the fewer young Republicans there are.

Similarly, married adults tend to vote Republican, while singles, especially single women, lean heavily Democrat. Fifty-three percent of married women voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 (there is also overlap between religious identification and the tendency to wed). But marriage is declining. Whereas 65 percent of American adults were married in 1980, just 51 percent of adults were married in 2012. Among the 20 to 34 year old cohort, 57 percent are never marrieds.

Republicans who imagine that these changes don’t affect voting might want to look at party ID. Between 1992 and 2014, the number of adults who said they were Democrats fell from 33 to 32 percent. The number who called themselves independent rose from 36 to 39 percent. And the number who identified as Republicans dropped from 28 to 23.

The 2016 election is an opportunity for many voters who would naturally be inclined to vote Democrat due to their age, ethnicity, region, lack of religious commitment, and marital status to consider a Republican. It’s always difficult for the same party to hold the White House for three consecutive terms, and Hillary Clinton is widely mistrusted.

But the Republican Party, judging by the polls so far, seems more determined to “send a message” than to choose a candidate who can win. Marco Rubio is practically conjured from central casting to win this election. He carries a big swing state, he has a great immigrant story, he is deeply knowledgeable on the issues, he’s a superb debater, a Tea Party favorite, and (with the exception of immigration – if you accept the premise that building a wall and deporting illegals is the conservative position), he is a firm conservative. Unlike Trump or Cruz, he articulates conservative ideas without needlessly antagonizing or frightening independents.

Portions of the Republican base are ferociously determined to punish Rubio for his immigration stance (though it differed only slightly from Senator Cruz’s – as for Trump’s views, name the day). But the new Republican establishments: talk radio, Twitter, Heritage Action, are single-issue constituencies – and they seem to be in the driver’s seat.

Members have made 22 comments.

  1. Profile photo of SoDakBoy Member

    What does this mean for politics? It’s good news for the Democrats. Religious observance, like marriage, is a good predictor of political preference. Adults with no religion lean Democrat by 36 points. Young, white evangelical Protestants lean strongly Republican. The more religious identification sags, the fewer young Republicans there are.

    ……

    The 2016 election is an opportunity for many voters who would naturally be inclined to vote Democrat due to their age, ethnicity, region, lack of religious commitment, and marital status to consider a Republican.

    So, do we Republicans try to appeal to the unchurched, the single, and the young or should religious bodies try to restate the importance of living certain aspects of faith (ie being willing to commit to others via marriage, faith and membership in a religious body, etc)?

    The willingness to do these things used to be known as adulthood, so appealing to their opposing vices does not seem like a recipe for reinvigorating the country even if it increases the membership roles of a political party.

    • #1
    • December 23, 2015 at 11:42 am
  2. Profile photo of TeamAmerica Member

    Like

    • #2
    • December 23, 2015 at 11:43 am
  3. Profile photo of Pilli Member

    But the Republican Party, judging by the polls so far, seems more determined to “send a message” than to choose a candidate who can win.

    I take issue with this.

    The Republican base is determined to send a message to the Republican establishment. The message is, “listen to us or die at the polls.”

    Unless the current Republican leadership turns away from the Democrat Lite program they have been pushing for the last decade or so and becomes a smaller government, larger freedom party, neither they nor the Party will be around for 2020.

    • #3
    • December 23, 2015 at 11:44 am
  4. Profile photo of tabula rasa Member

    Excellent post, with a minor quibble.

    Some Christian churches treat Christmas as equivalent to, or even more sacred than, the Sabbath.

    Mormons, of which I am one, love Christmas, but–theologically–we don’t treat it as another Sabbath Day. Thus, we have no doctrinal problem with the idea of going to a restaurant or a movie on Christmas Day. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant on Christmas, but it’s out of love for real home-cooked food as opposed to a concern that I will violate a holy day.

    • #4
    • December 23, 2015 at 1:42 pm
  5. Profile photo of Arizona Patriot Inactive

    Mona Charen:

    Republicans who imagine that these changes don’t affect voting might want to look at party ID. Between 1992 and 2014, the number of adults who said they were Democrats fell from 33 to 32 percent. The number who called themselves independent rose from 36 to 39 percent. And the number who identified as Republicans dropped from 28 to 23.

    I’m skeptical of these numbers. Self-reported party affiliation varies significantly.

    I checked Gallup (here), which reports party affiliation from 2004 to the present. I averaged the most recent 6 months (July-December 2015) and the earliest reported 6 months (January-June 2004), with the following results:

    Republicans: 26%, down from 32% in 2004

    Democrats: 29%, down from 33% in 2004

    Republicans plus “leaners”: 42.5%, down from 44% in 2004

    Democrats plus “leaners”: 45%, down from 48.5% in 2004

    Including “leaners,” this indicates that the Republican position is a bit stronger today than it was in early 2004. When you consider that Bush beat Kerry 51%-48% in 2004, things don’t look bad right now.

    • #5
    • December 23, 2015 at 1:52 pm
  6. Profile photo of Arizona Patriot Inactive

    Mona Charen:I had pictured my Christian friends and neighbors at home, gathered around the table Norman Rockwell-style, eating goose or ham or whatever Gentiles eat . . .

    Gentiles eat ham. And pork. And bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.

    We’re very thankful for Acts 10.

    We do not object to the different practice of Jews and Muslims in this regard. To the contrary. It leaves more bacon for us.

    • #6
    • December 23, 2015 at 2:08 pm
  7. Profile photo of MarciN Member

    The restaurants being open may be a regional thing. On Cape Cod, everything closes at 6 o’clock Christmas Eve, and nothing reopens until the day after Christmas. A few hotels serve breakfast or dinner on Christmas Day. That’s about it.

    • #7
    • December 23, 2015 at 2:15 pm
  8. Profile photo of Joseph Stanko Member

    tabula rasa: Some Christian churches treat Christmas as equivalent to, or even more sacred than, the Sabbath. Mormons, of which I am one, love Christmas, but–theologically–we don’t treat it as another Sabbath Day. Thus, we have no doctrinal problem with the idea of going to a restaurant or a movie on Christmas Day.

    Doubly so since Mona said “on Christmas Eve.” For Catholics Christmas Day is holy day, a solemnity, like Sundays, but Christmas Eve is not. It’s perfectly appropriate in my view to do your last minute shopping and such on Christmas Eve.

    • #8
    • December 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm
  9. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor

    No worries – Islam is coming to save us.

    • #9
    • December 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm
  10. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    God bless you Mona – I loved this and sent to my sister – my husband picked up the (overly pricey) honey baked ham today – we have our tree lights on – and I have Turner Classic Movies featuring a special with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby singing Christmas Carols – you are right – all of it that you spoke of – “civil”ization is hanging by a thread – and all that is good and decent being called into question – I suspect 2016 will be a challenging year – especially for Jews and Christians – again God bless you.

    • #10
    • December 23, 2015 at 5:23 pm
  11. Profile photo of Front Seat Cat Member

    PS Merry Christmas from Front Seat Cat!

    Merry Christmas!

    • #11
    • December 23, 2015 at 5:28 pm
  12. Profile photo of Tenacious D Inactive

    I can’t help but wonder if taking a hard line on immigration and refugees would lead to a significant fraction of the religious right staying home on election day in 2016. I’ve read articles in First Things and statements from evangelical pastors encouraging their hearers to welcome refugees, even if it carries some risk.

    • #12
    • December 23, 2015 at 6:11 pm
  13. Profile photo of iWe Reagan
    iWe

    We do not necessarily lose the young because they are less religious.

    The young are often attracted to libertarianism – but that is a pro-freedom agenda with which the Republican Party is not on speaking terms.

    • #13
    • December 23, 2015 at 6:44 pm
  14. Profile photo of The Reticulator Member

    Mona Charen: Portions of the Republican base are ferociously determined to punish Rubio for his immigration stance (though it differed only slightly from Senator Cruz’s

    This is not correct. There are no Republicans who are determined to punish Rubio. There are obviously some who are determined to defeat him, though, which is not the same thing. Once he is rendered harmless, nobody will find any need to find him and punish him.

    And his “stance” is not the problem. He can stand anywhere he wants, however he wants. The problem is what he will do. I would have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and maybe I still will, but his failure to vote on the Ex-Im bill and the Omnibus budget is a very bad sign. Ted Cruz, for all his faults, had no difficulty in voting against those bills.

    • #14
    • December 23, 2015 at 7:55 pm
  15. Profile photo of Lily Bart Member

    I had pictured my Christian friends and neighbors at home, gathered around the table Norman Rockwell-style, eating goose or ham or whatever Gentiles eat, bathed in the twinkling lights of decorated trees. In fact, I liked to think of them that way, and finding crowds treating Christmas Eve as just another night was almost a sacrilege.

    This is a rather anger laced post, Mona.

    As for sacrilege, the restaurants are packed on Christmas Eve in my town because families go out and eat together just after they’ve attended Christmas Eve Church Service. Personally, I’d rather eat at home (and let the restaurant workers go home to their families), but I’m always out-voted by my sister and brother-in-law (but my BIL insists on paying, so that’s nice).

    We eat Christmas dinner together at home, under the tinsel as you say, on Christmas Day, which is really the ‘holy’ day in the Christian calendar. Christmas Eve tends to be more casual. Perhaps because you’re Jewish you assume the ‘holy’ day would start at sundown the night before (?).

    • #15
    • December 23, 2015 at 8:37 pm
  16. Profile photo of Lily Bart Member

    I think as much as Mona misunderstands Christian’s view of Christmas Eve, she misunderstands and miss-assess republican voters frustration with the so-called establishment.

    The average voter is not a single issue voter. And their current objective is not to ‘punish’ anyone. The average republican voter’s frustration with the republican leadership is deep, and has been coming on for a long time. Sure, there are one or two issues at the forefront of the discussions. And people are deeply, deeply frustrated with Rubio’s “Gang of 8” episode, and what that might mean about what he do if he were president, but the voters’ real frustration is much deeper and broader than that. But, like with the Christmas Eve story, if you don’t take the time to understand people and their point of view, you’ll never really see the truth.

    • #16
    • December 23, 2015 at 9:35 pm
  17. Profile photo of The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Mona Charen:About 15 years ago, on Christmas Eve, our family departed from the traditional American Jewish observance of the holiday (ordering Chinese take-out) and elected to find an open restaurant. We drove to the local city center (or what passes for it in suburbia) and were stunned to find that not only were all of the restaurants open, they were packed.

    I had pictured my Christian friends and neighbors at home, gathered around the table Norman Rockwell-style, eating goose or ham or whatever Gentiles eat, bathed in the twinkling lights of decorated trees. In fact, I liked to think of them that way, and finding crowds treating Christmas Eve as just another night was almost a sacrilege.

    In 1995, my mother and I were visiting my grandmother in the hospital that Christmas. The only things open were the movie theater, a Chinese restaurant, and the drug store Walgreens, but this is a college town in Middle America that voted over 60% for Mitt Romney 17 years later.

    • #17
    • December 23, 2015 at 11:11 pm
  18. Profile photo of Jim Kearney Contributor

    Thanks for an interesting post, Mona. The overall trends you cite in the statistics raise an important political conversation for Republicans, the faithful as well as the reluctant.

    Writing this on December 24, however, I must first address an even more pressing issue. That would be the decline of good Chinese family restaurants. Or haven’t they been replaced by Thai joints in your neighborhood? Nothing doing in our part of West LA! Genghis Cohen way over on Fairfax is still open, but that’s it. (I will not dine at Mao’s Kitchen in Venice, for obvious political reasons.) Fact is, most Chinese go straight from LAX to laying code at local tech firms, with nary a thought to the finer points of slicing Peking Duck. Like “no tickee, no shirtee” it’s gone the way of, well, Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve!

    Now back to Mona’s central point. The decline in America’s traditional religious practice is indeed damaging to Republican prospects. The Party is branded as … now I don’t want to hijack the holiday to discuss Planned Parenthood, but let’s face it … we’ve been the Party branded nationally as under the influence of Iowa caucus goers, politicians who talk about their faith a lot, and zealous social issue rhetoric.

    Is there a way for Republicans to shed this image in the eyes of single young voters, while holding on to them that vote with us now? 

    I mean, look at the Democrats. Obviously most of them believe in God, according to your data. They’ve just left the definitions of all things religious to the individual. So God is “cosmic muffin” and not “hairy thunderer.” Catholicism is the Pelosi-Kerry social agenda, now enhanced by certain papal pronouncements. Laugh at their cafeteria-style theology, but they’ve got nice places to go for weddings and funerals, and note that their real belief system is their politics. They’re the fundamentalists, what with Bernie Sanders and MoveOn and #BlackLivesMatter but they still somehow attract enough of “the masses” to give our side fits.

    They, with their grip on media decision-makers and classrooms, have sold half the country on a bloated, useless, and incompetent political machine. We, in the general perception, are what they want young people to think we are: sexually repressed, superstitious, and too mired in dogma to think outside our box. We’ve gone to great trouble to add “divided” to our definition recently, but our youth branding is still somewhere between Liberty University and Hillsdale, while they’ve got State U. in every state.

    I dare suggest that some of us who are encouraged by Donald Trump’s candidacy are attracted by his singular lack of religious ideology (Norman Vincent Peale being self-help ahead of its time), and his abandonment of our quadrennial Romney-esque politesse. We want our party to let it’s hair down, or in Trump’s particular case, let that freak flag fly.

    So I find Trump encouraging to “reluctant Republicans” while I find Marco Rubio’s tone of voice on social issues even more off-putting than his disqualifying position on immigration.

    • #18
    • December 24, 2015 at 8:15 am
  19. Profile photo of Freesmith Member

    If Christianity is an indicator for conservative political leanings, why is the strongest Christian demographic, American blacks, solidly and unwaveringly Democratic?

    If religion is an indicator, why do American Muslims, who are mostly recent immigrants, overwhelmingly vote Democratic?

    If strong families trend Republican, why do both East Asian and South Asian Americans vote Democratic?

    Hmmmm. What hyphenated word describes American blacks, foreign-born Muslims and Asian-Americans?

    Non-white. But let’s not talk about that.

    Wouldn’t be nice. And immigration is all about building some stupid wall, don’t you know?

    • #19
    • December 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm
  20. Profile photo of Jim Kearney Contributor

    Freesmith: If strong families trend Republican, why do both East Asian and South Asian Americans vote Democratic?

    Actually, Vietnamese-Americans constitute one of the strongest Republican groups in California, and some are moving into party leadership posts here.

    The pattern for (legal!) immigrant groups is that political refugees from communism, and the first generation or so of their descendants, are often Republican. (cf. Cruz, Ted and Rubio, Marco.)

    Immigrants from lower social classes (some of whom draw government benefits including education despite not yet being citizens) often throw in with the Democrats. Just as a century ago when these low income groups were Irish, Italian, and Jewish, the newly arrived poor are aggressively recruited by the Democrats. Today there are far left-wing activists doing much of the organizing, and pushing ideas like taking control of U.S. territory which was formerly part of Mexico. The term “la Raza” means “the Race.”

    As with black Americans, it is not the Republicans who are using race to organize politically — it is the Left.

    Donald Trump has emphasized that his ideal pool of legal immigrants should include “the best of the best.” I take that as meaning both accomplished job creators and professionals as well as kind, compassionate service providers in health professions and other fields were there are increasing demands and a shrinking labor pool. Race is irrelevant.

    Trump is not stranger to global upward mobility. He probably has more wealthy families from Third World countries living on the high floors of his buildings than most other builders in New York.

    • #20
    • December 25, 2015 at 8:24 am
  21. Profile photo of Freesmith Member

    Jim Kearney

    Everywhere in the West most immigrants from the Third World gravitate to the political party that is most anti-white and least laissez-faire in its economic platform.

    Look at our neighbor to the north. Conservatives like Mulroney and Harper continued the immigration policies of the first Trudeau era, believing like their soul-mates in the US that outreach with a doctrine of economic opportunity was their key to future success. But just like that dream hasn’t worked out in Black America or California, the Conservative Party of Canada was crushed in the recent election in those ridings (precincts) with the highest percentage of immigrants. And now Trudeau #2 is going to continue feeding the same transformational hemlock to Canada that the Conservatives suicidally imbibed. Welcome to rump status, Conservatives.

    Does anyone who considers himself politically astute on this website believe that if immigrants voted 4-1 for Republicans that the Democratic Party would acquiesce to that policy for 50 years? And if the Democrats wouldn’t, why do astute Ricochetti go along with the actual disastrous situation or tolerate leaders who are squishy about it?

    Stop telling yourself pleasant stories about Cubans and some Vietnamese in California. You might as well tell me to look to Allen West as the future of Black American politics. Immigration is the virus of cultural transformation and America is not immune to its effects. They are apparent in myriad ways every day.

    Stop immigration now.

    • #21
    • December 25, 2015 at 3:32 pm
  22. Profile photo of hcat Member

    Hotel restaurants are generally open on Christmas Day. I just came from one!

    • #22
    • December 25, 2015 at 11:30 pm