Say born-again Christian and the image that pops into the head of many pundits is the image of a poor or working-class white person who is deeply religious who at the same time appears to vote against his/her economic interest (i.e. votes Republican).
Now comes a new book Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches that goes a long way toward debunking that theory. While the book is most about how the growth in income inequality is a major reason for the growing polarization between the two major parties the authors also tackle other issues-though it usually tracks back to income. The chart discussed here can be found on pages 100-101 in the book.
Analyzing PEW Research Surveys of born-again and non evangelical whites from 1997 to 2004 a couple of conclusions become clear.
1. Yes Born-Again Christians tend to be more Republican than whites at similar income levels, however…
2. Among born-agains and evangelicals, the percentage supporting Republicans increases steeply with incomes.
For example: While 20% of whites from non- “religious” households with household incomes of less than $20,000 support Republicans only about 29% of their born again counterparts support Republicans. Among voters with incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 a majority of non- “religious” whites do not identify with the Republican party. More importantly, a majority (albeit a smaller one) of white born agains do not identify with Republicans either. On the other hand, white born-agains with incomes of $100,000 or more will tend to give 60% (or more) of their support to the GOP.
Sure there are some religious Christians who feel “a cross pressure between their Bible and their pocketbook” (pg. 101) (the neocons many deviations from the teachings of the Bible notwithstanding). But as it turns out, to quote the authors, support for Republicans is much higher among “conservative Christians with higher incomes whose Bible and pocketbook point in the same direction.” So contrary to pundit views that votes today are determined by “how often (and where) that voter goes to pray” perhaps the more appropriate question to ask would be: “I see you have a Bible in your hand. Do you have money in your bank account?”