Meet the Democrats’ New Friends: White Born-Again Christians

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?”

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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3 Responses to Meet the Democrats’ New Friends: White Born-Again Christians

  1. janet says:

    You know this is so timely. We got together with some old good friends who used to live in Seattle. We had not seen them in 9 years but have always known they are staunch republican and Bush supporters. They have become quite well off and they live in Nashville. They have become friends with the Christian singer, Michael W. Smith because they are neighbors. Evidently, Michael W. Smith is personal friends with Bush and he performed at the 2004 repub. Natl. conv.

    When we were on our way to meet them for dinner, my husband says, “Well, I guess we better not talk about Religion or Politics.” I replied that for these folks, it is one and the same. We actually had a wonderful time with them and avoided hot topics.

    But this is absolutely correct that these people’s religion, pocketbooks, and politics are all tied together.

  2. Ginny in CO says:

    Darnit Nick,

    I was hoping if I changed my registration, my bank account would get better. 🙄

    The people at work that seemed the most conservative were the young grads and some of the 30 somethings who were married to engineers or other professionals. Aside from the religious connection, they seemed to be ok with the lousy nursing salaries because their hubbies make enough to keep them from really feeling the insult.

    Well, I may not be a redneck but my 401 – K plan is a lotto ticket, which I have to go buy and give fate a chance…

  3. Garrison Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion) is out with a new book called Homegrown Democrat. As one might expect, it’s humorous, but also edgy. It’s got some bite to it.

    He refers to the Republicans as a coalition of “Bourbons” and “Biblists.” The Bourbons live in gated communities with guard houses and are fully in charge of things. In exchange for their millions of votes, the Biblists get their way (or at least lip service) on abortion, gay marriage, and school prayer. The game is rigged, however, to create a low-wage working class and a rich, elite, powerclass.

    In the last (or next to last) chapter “Republicans I’ve Known,” Keillor reveals something about his own serious view of faith and sharply criticizes the way the Republicans abuse religion.

    If anybody out there still thinks the Republicans are the party of “moral values”, I’d particularly recommend this book.