After the 2004 election Beliefnet used data compiled from the Fourth National Survey on Religion and Politics to introduce a typology of religious groupings that influence American politics. You can see the twelve groupings and their percentage among the total voting population in the pie-chart below:
The most surprising finding, given common stereotypes of religious people and their politics, was that the Religious Left is almost exactly the same size as the Religious Right, both at about 12.6% of the total voting-age population. It’s good to know that the Religious Right is not as massive it is commonly made out to be. (Even if you combine them with the Heartland Culture Warriors, they still comprise only 24% of the voting-age population.)
According to the description, the Religious Left are:
Liberal on most everything. On marriage, 42% favor same-sex unions and 29% civil unions; 77% are pro-choice on abortion. A majority opposes the war in Iraq. But only a few report that their faith is important to their political thinking, and overall, they oppose the political involvement of religious organizations.
This data also contradicts another assumption that I commonly find asserted here at this blog: that progressive Christians have not been active enough in opposing Bush and the Religious Right. In actuality, according to the numbers, over half of Kerry’s support in 2004 came from these Christians. As the analysis put it:
The rise of the Religious Left was a major factor in the 2004 election… The political awakening of the Religious Left carries several implications for the Democratic Party. For one thing, Democratic leaders cannot view the party as primarily secular. Add up the numbers of the Religious Left, Democratic-voting Latino Christians, Black Protestants, and the modest support from conservative Christians and you have 52% of Kerry’s vote. Secular voters did vote in record numbers for Kerry but only accounted for 16% percent of his vote.
The report did list “Seculars” as a group, comprised of the non-religious, atheists and agnostics, and accounting for 10.6% of the voting-age population. According to the description:
74% of Seculars voted for Kerry, accounting for 16% of his total vote, while 26% voted for Bush, making up 5% of his total vote.
The group that is most uncomfortable when candidates talk about their personal faith (54%). Very liberal on social issues: 83% are pro-choice and 59% favor same-sex marriage. Liberal on foreign policy, moderate on economics, and quite young (47% under age 35).
In all, I find it very fascinating, and a very helpful breakdown of the various types of religious (and non-religious) voters. It’s always good to bust some stereotypes, IMO, and especially to get past this misconception that to be a Christian means one automatically supports the agenda of the Religious Right. According to this data, it’s pretty much just as likely that one doesn’t.