Religion has had a strong impact on USA society and culture. The American colonies were the new promised land and its citizens the new chosen people.
The first US president, George Washington, was seen as a Moses-like leader. Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine were considered prophets. Many saw John Adams and Benjamin Franklin as American apostles. And of course we have holy days, like the Fourth of July; and our holy scriptures are The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Right from the beginning, the American character was a unique blend of nationalism and Christianity; and still is – for a while yet — even for people belonging to a religious tradition other than Christianity.
Looking toward Super Tuesday with great interest and fascination, and curious about how religious preferences might impact the elections, I decided to review some US religious data from the Pew Research Center.
In general Republicans tend to place more importance on religion than do Democrats. This also appears to be true across the twelve Super Tuesday states. Roughly 66% of Republicans, and those who lean toward the Republican Party, in these states say religion is very important to them. Only 53% of Democrats feel that way; but there are some big variations. In Vermont, 21% of Democrats say religion is very important to them. In Alabama 84% of Democrats say the same.
Evangelical Protestants make up huge shares of Republicans in most Super Tuesday states, including majorities in Tennessee (67%), Alabama (63%), Arkansas (61%) and Georgia (57%). Evangelicals also make up 56% of Republicans in Oklahoma and nearly half (46%) in Texas — the biggest prize of Super Tuesday, with 155 Republican Party delegates at stake.
Massachusetts, one of the five states outside the South to vote on Super Tuesday, is the biggest exception to this trend. Just 10% of Massachusetts Republicans are evangelicals, while fully half (50%) are Catholics. But even though 79% of Massachusetts Republicans identify with a religious group, only a third (33%) say religion is very important in their lives.
In several other Super Tuesday states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia – two-thirds or more of Republicans say religion is very important to them.
Going to church, reiterating that one is indeed a Christian – regardless what Pope Francis says or thinks – and convincing voters that one is a Christian is essential for Super Tuesday Republican success.
Looking beyond Super Tuesday, the religious affiliation of US voters is sure to impact the campaign strategy of the “official” Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.
In the United States today, for instance, Mormons are the most heavily Republican-leaning religious group, with 70% support for the GOP. The two major historically black Protestant denominations, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church (with 92% Democratic support) and the National Baptist Convention (with 87% support), are two of the most reliably Democratic-leaning groups. And in a third group, the Church of God in Christ (another historically black denomination), 75% identify as Democrats.