America’s Religious-Political Divide Could Threaten its Future, Gallup Scientist Warns

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A sociologist at Gallup is warning that the strong demographic ties between religion and politics in the United States may have a detrimental impact on the country’s future.

Frank Newport, a senior scientist at Gallup and the polling company’s former editor-in-chief, notes in a new analysis headlined The Politics of Religion that Republicans are much more likely to be Protestant and Democrats are significantly more likely to be labeled as “nones” when asked about religion in surveys.

Specifically, Newport wrote that 56 percent of Republicans in America identify as Protestant, compared to 38 percent of Democrats who do. On the flip side, 26 percent of Democrats identify as “nones,” while 11 percent of Republicans wear that label. (The percentages within each party identifying as Catholic are roughly equal, he wrote.)

The “religiosity gap is more evident than ever,” he wrote.

A strong connection between religion and politics, he warned, is likely bad for America. Newport is the author of the 2012 book God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America.

“[T]his connection between religion and politics carries within it a singular paradox,” Newport wrote. “Most religions, including Christianity, the dominant religion in the U.S., argue for social cohesion and love for one’s neighbor, while politics carries within it the fundamental structure of disagreement, conflict, argument, and castigation of one’s opponents. How this plays out in the future is a matter of fascinating theological and practical concern.”

Historically, in America, he wrote, religion has been good for the country.

“The evidence is clear that more religious people have higher levels of well-being and happiness,” Newport wrote. “And religion has a number of other positive functions in society, including its influence on morality and pro-social behavior, its influence on charity and giving back to the community, and its contribution to social cohesion and solidarity. A continuing decrease in overall religiosity in American society, like the continuing decrease in faith in other American institutions, can have significant consequences for the health and viability of the country going forward.”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pict Rider

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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