The Religious Realignment

There’s been a lot of talk about America’s shifting demographics following the election. There’s a consensus among the media that part of the Obama victory can be traced to the rising percentage of latinos in America, a demographic group that has tended to vote Democrat.

Good ol’ Bill O’Reilly moaned, “The white establishment is now the minority […] The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.” He’s probably right, although why he assumes that the “white establishment” is something sacred is beyond me.

Something that is getting less attention is the shift in religious demographics, which is why I’m glad thatThe Wild Hunt is asking if this was “A Post-Christian Election? Jason Pitzl-Waters picks up on an article by Sarah Posner on The Great Religious Realignment. Both Poner and Pitzl-Waters are suggesting that the clout of the Religious Right is declining. No one is suggesting that the Moral Majority is dead and gone, but certainly that it can no longer tip an election the way it once could.

Here’s Posner:

… [G]iven what we’ve learned recently about religious realignments—declining numbers of Catholics, declining numbers of mainline Protestants, declining numbers of evangelicals in the 18- to 29-year-old age group, and increasing numbers of unaffiliated voters, and in particular, atheists and agnostics in the 18- to 29-year-old age group—it seems like a significant shift is underway. A recent Pew survey found that there are now equal numbers of white evangelicals and unaffiliated voters, and a Public Religion Research Institute poll found similar results. I noted at the time of the PRRI survey that the bulk of Romney’s base was coming from white conservative evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics, while Obama’s “support comes from a more diverse group: 23% from the unaffiliated, 18% from black Protestants, 15% from white mainline Protestants, 14% from white Catholics, 8% from Latino Catholics, and 7% from non-Christians. Romney draws just 3% of his base from Latino Catholics, 2% from non-Christians, and an unmeasurable portion from black Protestants.”

Pitzl-Waters explains what he thinks that means:

I think we’re going to see a lot more elections that look like this one. That doesn’t mean that Democrats automatically win all the time, or that Republicans are always doomed to lose, just that the playing field will never again be like it was in the 1980s or 1990s. The slowly shifting demographics have started to turn a corner, and savvy politicians, no matter what their political orientation, will adapt to these emerging realities. Yes, that means reaching out to racial minorities, and women, and younger voters, but it also means reaching out to the “nones” and the religious “others” instead of banking everything on the evangelical Christian vote (or the Catholic vote for that matter).
Welcome to the beginning of the post-Christian American future.

Interesting. I suppose that it’s possible the Republicans could forge a new base composed of conservative Catholics, Protestants and Mormons that spans the racial divide, in which case we’re basically back to where we started. But with Republican spokesmen like O’Reilly mourning the decline of the white establishment, such an outcome is unlikely.

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