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U.S. religious conservatives and progressives profiled

U.S. religious conservatives and progressives profiled

The first ever comparative surveys of U.S. conservative and progressive (or liberal) religious activists has just been published by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron and Public Religion Research. Click here for a link to the survey.

Many findings of the study – based on a detailed survey answered by 1,866 progressive religious activists and 1,123 conservative ones – will come as no surprise to followers of the U.S. political scene. But they will no doubt be closely scrutinized by both Republican and Democratic strategists.


Republicans are sure to take note of the fact that religious conservatives are still preoccupied with the issues of abortion rights and gay marriage, which they staunchly oppose. The Democratic Party will note that progressive religious activists care deeply about poverty, health care and the environment.

The report’s findings come as activists from the Religious Right and the Religious Left are ginning up their supporters to oppose or support President Barack Obama’s drive to overhaul America’s healthcare system, which is his top domestic priority.

Among the report’s key findings:

Religious affiliation: conservative activists are almost exclusively Christian, whereas progressive activists are more diverse. Among conservative activists, 54 percent identify as evangelical Protestant, 35 percent as Roman Catholic, and 9 percent with Mainline Protestantism. Among progressive activists, 44 percent identify as Mainline Protestants; 17 percent as Roman Catholics; 10 percent as evangelical Protestants; 12 percent as interfaith, mixed faith, or Unitarian; 6 percent Jewish; and 8 percent who have no formal religious affiliation or identify as formerly affiliated.

Issue priorities: Conservative and progressive religious activists have strikingly different issue priorities. A majority of conservative religious activists gave priority to abortion and same?sex marriage, while progressive religious activists gave priority to a number if issues, including economic justice, the environment, and peace. Conservative religious activists overwhelmingly identify abortion (83 percent ) and same?sex marriage (65 percent) as most important priorities among a set of eight issue areas. Fewer than 10 percent of progressive religious activists call those “most important” issues. Highest priorities for progressive activists are poverty (74 percent), health care (67 percent), environment (56 percent), jobs/economy (48 percent), and the Iraq war (45 percent).

Politics and the 2008 election. In 2008, Barack Obama was the solid favorite among progressive religious activists. Conservative religious activists initially were divided but eventually rallied to John McCain. Among progressive activists, 58 percent say Obama was their first choice in the Democratic primary, and 93 percent supported him in the general election. Conservative activists were initially more split among GOP contenders, with 28 percent calling Mike Huckabee their top choice, with Mitt Romney getting 22 percent and McCain 17 percent. In the general election, however, 90 percent report voting for McCain.


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