Public Religion Research and Third Way have jointly released a new report, Beyond the God Gap, which presents new research on “the beliefs and values underlying attitudes toward politics and cultural and domestic policy issues among white evangelical Protestants, white Mainline Protestants, African American Protestants, and Roman Catholics (Latino and non-Latino), which together account for about three-quarters of the U.S. population.” Highlights from the report include:
On White Evangelicals:
· White evangelicals are not a monolithic group marching in lockstep with the Christian Right.
· Younger white evangelicals are less likely to identify as conservative and are more supportive of relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, with a majority (52%) supporting either civil unions or marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
· White evangelicals’ dual beliefs that they are both part of mainstream society and a persecuted minority group are reflected in two competing postures: a defensive desire to protect threatened values and a more open posture seeking broader social reform.
On White Mainline Protestants:
· Mainline Protestants have moved from a bedrock of the right to a swing constituency.
· Mainline Protestants are the religious group most supportive of abortion rights and legal protections for gay and lesbian people; they are also strong supporters of comprehensive immigration reform.
· Mainline Protestants, for now, vote more conservatively than their views might suggest, supporting McCain over Obama 55% to 44%.
On African American Protestants
· African Americans break the stereotype that high levels of religiosity are always correlated with conservatism and identification with the Republican Party.
· Two competing theological currents are flowing within Black denominations, congregations, and individualsthat affect positions on culture issues: the historic accent on a “social gospel” that emphasizes communal religiosity, political engagement, and a public role of the church in addressing social and economic injustice; and a “prosperity gospel,” which emphasizes individual financial security, family, and personal fulfillment.
· African Americans have been politically aligned with the Democratic Party since the New Deal, but there is a 20-point gap between African Americans over 65 and those under 30 who identify with the Democratic Party (77% to 57%).
On Roman Catholics
· Two major social dynamics affect Catholicism in America. One is attrition of U.S.-born Catholics (approximately 1-in-10 Americans are former Catholics) and the other is immigration among Latino Catholics. While 29% of American Catholics overall are now Latino, among Catholics under 30, nearly equal numbers are Latino (45%) as non-Latino whites (47%).
· The conservative stance of the hierarchy should not be mistaken for the stand of rank-and-file Catholics, whose views generally reflect, or are sometimes more progressive than, the public.
· There are two competing theological currents in American Catholic life, one based on an “ethic of life” that emphasizes individual morality, family and the sanctity of life, and one based on “Catholic Social Teaching,” which upholds the idea of the common good. The former has built bridges between conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants on abortion and gay rights issues, while the social teaching current has provided strong support for the labor movement and the rights and dignity of immigrants.
Read the full report here.