Buddhism, Politics, and the 2016 US Presidential Race

Buddhism, Politics, and the 2016 US Presidential Race March 26, 2016

As I mentioned last month, a Pew Survey found that Buddhists in the US are around 16% Republican (or leaning), 69% Democrat, and 16%  Independent or other. That is from a 2014 Religious Landscape Study. So we sought to update that here at American Buddhist Perspectives, creating a simple poll that drew in over 350 responses.

The data gathered (also here and here) and discussions following went even further, leading to the plan of regular (monthly) polls. This gives us opportunities to measure -however imprecisely- shifts in voter attitudes as well as to offer new questions. One new question this month seeks to differentiate between “cradle”, “convert”, and “sympathizer” Buddhists. As Wakoh Shannon Hickey wrote in 2010 (.pdf):

If we want to consider questions of religious identity, categories suggested by Thomas Tweed are useful. Cradle Buddhists are people born into Buddhist families, regardless of their race or national origin, so this group includes both immigrants and the children of converts. Converts include both immigrants and people born in the United States who were not raised Buddhist, but who later identify themselves with Buddhism and formally affiliate with it in some way. Some converts may also have multiple affiliations. Sympathizers are people who identify primarily with other religions, or with no religion, but are influenced by Buddhist thought and may engage in Buddhist practices (Tweed, 2002).

We’ll keep the open-ended ethnic/racial identification question in there, but this additional question acknowledges the fact that some white Buddhists today are “cradle” Buddhists while some Asian Buddhists are “converts.” I do not know of any focused study of Black, Latin@, or other ethnic/racial group Buddhists in the U.S. In last month’s poll, 2 out of 269 respondents identified as Black, 5 as Latin@ or Hispanic, 2 as Native American, and 7 as Mixed or Other ethnicity/race.

Interestingly, many respondents entered a nationality in the “ethnicity/race” spot, leaving it to me to assign a more general category. For instance, if a respondent put “Polish” I put them in the “white” category. As race and ethnicity are somewhat fluid categories, both socially and personally, I am not sure of a better way to gather and report on this question. Comments or discussions on how to better clarify that are welcome.

On to the poll itself (please complete as fully as possible and spread the word):

Still not seeing the survey? Try here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1JMvQBtXMO4_vgE_XOKUmp6ee4SBrSG5NUeswh5EbzAQ/

On Latin@ / Hispanic:

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