Independents: Religious Conservatives Have Too Much Control Over GOP

There are plenty of interesting pieces of data in the new Pew Research survey conducted for the Pew Forum on Religion and Life, but here’s one that may have implications for the 2012 elections:

About half of the public (51%) agrees that religious conservatives have too much control over the GOP. Fewer (41%) agree that liberals who are not religious have too much control over the Democratic Party. These opinions are little changed from August 2008, during the last presidential campaign.

Partisans break along predictable lines in views of the influences over their own party and the opposing party. Independents, by a wide margin (57% to 42%), are more likely than to say that religious conservatives have too much influence over the GOP than that secular liberals have too much sway over the Democratic Party.

Here’s a breakdown on both questions:

Interesting, both white mainline Protestants and Catholics are more likely to believe that religious conservatives have too much sway over the GOP than that non-religious liberals have too much control over the Democratic Party. The implications of this, especially when it comes to independents would seem to be rather clear in that it suggests that the brand of conservatism pushed by Rick Santorum, regardless of how popular it may be inside the GOP, will not play well with the public as a whole. Perhaps the GOP needs to stop identifying itself so closely with such things.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, Religion, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    Chuck Todd made an interesting observation this morning. Among those who self-identify as “Very Conservative,” Romney is only losing among those who also consider themselves evangelical/born-again. Romney is actually winning among the others who consider themselves “Very Conservative.”

    If you take away the strident Evangelicals and Paulites, the bulk of the party appears willing to adjust and harmonize their preferences to get behind a single candidate. I think the Evangelicals will stay behind Santorum as long as he runs; traditionally this type of candidate will step aside at some point soon, but I don’t think Santorum cares as much about how he’s perceived as Huckabee did.

  2. Gromitt Gunn says:

    One thing I find interesting is how much disconnect there is between US Catholic laity (when regarded as a whole) and the US Catholic hierarchy (ditto). I haven’t observed that same level of disconnect in among other groups. The answer that seems likely is that most religious adherents are able to self-select a tradition that matches there personal social/political views in a way that Catholics are not.

  3. Al says:

    37% of white evangelicals misidentify themselves as independents. (Or something like that. I don’t want to bother doing the math right now.)

  4. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Cue Barry Goldwater:

    I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.

  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    Outside of a tiny not particularly well motivated minority there is no such thing as real independants. You do know that.

  6. Murray says:

    “…the brand of conservatism pushed by Rick Santorum, …, will not play well with the public as a whole. Perhaps the GOP needs to stop identifying itself so closely with such things.”

    Yup but unless they nominate Santorum so he takes a shellacking, “the base” won’t understand. (And even then they will invent “massive voter fraud” to explain the defeat,)

  7. PJ says:

    Fewer (41%) agree that liberals who are not religious have too much control over the Democratic Party.

    Just wondering. Which are these liberals who are not religious and have too much control over the Democratic Party? Who did they vote into power? And what have they achieved?
    Last time I checked, there was one (1) atheist in the House and none in the Senate.

  8. G.A. says:

    Last time I checked, there was one (1) atheist in the House and none in the Senate.

    Ask Obama and the rest of his collage kids what their creation story is. If it quacks like a scoffer and crawls like a hieratic, it’s probably one of those goofy Darwin lizards that I see on the back of so many clunkers.

  9. Gustopher says:

    Perhaps the GOP needs to stop identifying itself so closely with such things.

    Perhaps people who don’t want to be so closely identified with those things should stop identifying with the GOP.

  10. Herb says:

    @PJ: At a glance, it doesn’t look like the question was referring just to liberals in Congress.

  11. george says:

    Outside of a tiny not particularly well motivated minority there is no such thing as real independants. You do know that.

    How about the 40% of the population who can’t be bothered to vote for either party?

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    I think there are many more agnostics/atheists in the US than you will ever see in a public opinion poll. It’s not unlike are you a racist – most who are won’t answer yes. Many people who attend church do so for social not spiritual reasons, I have done that myself at a rough period of my life. I think this is really applies to Catholics who seem to disagree with the hierarchy on nearly everything. As for that one atheist in congress – I’m sure there are plenty of closet atheists who know they could never be elected if they were honest.

  13. PJ says:

    @Herb:

    At a glance, it doesn’t look like the question was referring just to liberals in Congress.

    But then where? Berkeley? 😉

    @Ron Beasley:

    As for that one atheist in congress – I’m sure there are plenty of closet atheists who know they could never be elected if they were honest.

    But unless there are some secret handshake how would atheist voters know that they picking atheists? Compare their visibility to religious conservatives who aren’t exactly hiding.

  14. Tsar Nicholas says:

    As I see it:

    1. Religious conservatives have far too much influence over GOP primary contests, especially with respect to the pandering that often becomes necessary, but given the power of incumbency and reversion to the mean tendencies I don’t think it’s necessarily correct nor fair to say they have too much influence as a whole over the GOP. Nobody would confuse any members of the GOP leadership or its other leading lights — Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Kyl, Thune, Walker, Kasich, Rubio, Toomey, etc. — with Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Hell, in a few months Mitt Romney of all people will accept the GOP nomination for president. That doesn’t quite jibe with the notion of religious conservatives acting as puppet masters for the GOP.

    2. To say that secular leftists either have or don’t have too much control over the Democrat Party is a bizarre tautology which consists of multiple layers of irony. In this day and age secular leftists along with blacks are the base of the Democrat Party. If Jimmy Carter were 40 years younger and ran for president in 2016 as a Democrat not only would he not receive the nomination he wouldn’t crack 5 percent of the vote. Truman and LBJ today either would be Republicans or they’d be lumped in with the likes of Ben Nelson and Joe Manchin and considered by most to be party pariahs.

    Then there are the twin issues of race and identity politics. Were it not for the lock-step black vote the Democrat Party wouldn’t even exist as a national political force. Ironically enough, however, blacks as a demographic tend to be quite religious, especially in the Deep South and in the Mid-West, and believe it or not they tend to be quite conservative on various hot button issues, ranging from school vouchers, to abortion, to gay marriage, to welfare reform. Their loyalty to the Democrat Party is one of pure tribal affiliation to the party’s label, not ideology.

    With the obvious and quite notable exception of Obama the Democrat Party’s leadership at all points throughout its modern history (post-Chicago, 1968) has been lily-white: Byrd, O’Neill, Mitchell, Wright, Daschle, Gephardt, Pelosi, Reid, Durbin, Schumer. Donnie & Marie are less white.

    Ergo you have a white secular leftist power class who only have power in the first instance as a result of the lock-step loyalty of largely a sectarian black demographic whose issue-based politics often is to the right of a material segment of the Republican body politic. As alluded to above: bizarre and ironic.

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    @PJ:

    But unless there are some secret handshake how would atheist voters know that they picking atheists? Compare their visibility to religious conservatives who aren’t exactly hiding.

    As an atheist I know it will be rare for me to actually be able to vote for one. But I will vote for the candidate that doesn’t talk about it over the one who does.

  16. PJ says:

    @G.A.:

    Ask Obama and the rest of his collage kids what their creation story is. If it
    quacks like a scoffer and crawls like a hieratic, it’s probably one of those goofy Darwin lizards that I see on the back of so many clunkers.

    So, believing in evolution makes you non-religious?
    But I guess you arguing that the President is non-religious is one step towards admitting that he’s a Christian.

    @Ron Beasley:

    As an atheist I know it will be rare for me to actually be able to vote for one. But I will vote for the candidate that doesn’t talk about it over the one who does.

    Not talking about it doesn’t make the candidate non-religious.

  17. Franklin says:

    @PJ: Heh, let’s face it: if you believe in evolution, you go to hell and you die!

  18. john personna says:

    This rings true to this independent. That I am a real independent is evidenced … by my relationships with Drew and Joe, LOL.

  19. G.A. says:

    But I guess you arguing that the President is non-religious is one step towards admitting that he’s a Christian.

    Christians don’t mock the Bible and support, fund and vote for abortion or help to spread it around the world and wish it for their children.

    And they surely don’t hold to murdering ones kids as a right or health care.

    Heh, let’s face it: if you believe in evolution, you go to hell and you die!

    if you believe in evolution you have an atheists creation story even if you won’t admit it.

    This is my educated opinion and I was just trying to clear up some of your confusion.

    “babies are punishment” lol, and you simpletons vote down my statements…what you should do is vote this brain washed megalomaniac out of office.

    and yes I turned his statement into a clarification of his belief….

    And no you did not get what my statement was about and I don’t think you can.

  20. @G.A.:

    if you believe in evolution you have an atheists creation story even if you won’t admit it.

    Actually, no. It means that one rejects a fundamentalist, literalist interpretation of Genesis. It means that one is not an adherent to a particular strand of Christianity.

  21. al-Ameda says:

    One of the most enduring myths in American politics is that there are a lot of “independents”.
    Well, there aren’t – and how do we know this? Because if we did have many “independents” we wouldn’t end up with the polarized dysfunctional politics we have today.

    People love to tell pollsters that they are “independent” – it sounds so noble, so objective, so above-it-all. It’s a lie. The number of true independents is probably less than 10% – people have made up their minds to go with the political party that generally reflects their ideology and policy preferences.

    The game breaker is always new voters and high turnout among regular registered voters.

  22. WR says:

    @Franklin: “Heh, let’s face it: if you believe in evolution, you go to hell and you die! ”

    Don’t you have that backwards?

  23. @G.A.:

    if you believe in evolution you have an atheists creation story even if you won’t admit it.

    So in your mind the Catholic Church is secretly atheist?

  24. @G.A.:

    And no you did not get what my statement was about and I don’t think you can.

    “Clearly you have a dizzying intellect.”

  25. sam says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    So in your mind the Catholic Church is secretly atheist?

    Don’t get him started on Catholics. He’s from the Whore of Babylon school

  26. Moosebreath says:

    al-Ameda,

    “People love to tell pollsters that they are “independent” – it sounds so noble, so objective, so above-it-all. It’s a lie. The number of true independents is probably less than 10% – people have made up their minds to go with the political party that generally reflects their ideology and policy preferences.”

    True dat. Doug is an excellent example of this. For all of his protestations that he is not a member of any party, his writings make it very clear that he falls into line with the non-religious portion of the Republican party, and views the Democratic party’s views as abhorrent for reasons which largely lie inside his own head and not the real world. A religous Repbulican candidate like Santorum may be enough for him to stay home or to vote for a third party, but never a Democrat.

  27. G.A. says:

    Actually, no. It means that one rejects a fundamentalist, literalist interpretation of Genesis. It means that one is not an adherent to a particular strand of Christianity.

    You can call whatever you what Christianity, it don’t make it so.I have The Word, science and history to back up my fundamentalist, literalist interpretation, atheists don’t.

    So in your mind the Catholic Church is secretly atheist?

    The Catholic Church is all dogma, pagan ritual and blasphemy.this is my opinion from comparing the Word to their teaching. Show me where it is not? And I think what I told you.

    “Clearly you have a dizzying intellect.”

    lolI would have just went with dizzy:) I am a true believer, creationist and student of the Word who was a evolutionist,, atheist, scoffer and some other vile things.Oh well maybe I’m right maybe i’m wrong but he clearly did not get it and I say I don’t think he can because he don’t want to. Do you know what is says in the Bible about that?

    Don’t get him started on Catholics. He’s from the Whore of Babylon school

    Now why would I think that? Its not like the Catholic church has any Saints blood on the hands or anything.

    And no I don’t hate Catholics or atheists. I am just saying my peace, if you don’t like it you know you could always vote me away:)

    Nothing to nothing and nothing to nothing……….lol….Quick call your friends and get to hitting the reset button before someone reads my crap or looks it up and thinks for themselves……

  28. @G.A.:

    .I have The Word, science and history to back up my fundamentalist, literalist interpretation, atheists don’t.

    The problems with your position are manifold, including the fact that you are engaging in a tautology: you are saying that Bible is right because it says it is right.

    Science? I think not.

    History: that recorded human history only reached back to a certain point does not prove Genesis

    And again: it is possible to be a Christian and not adhere to literal interpretation of Genesis. \

  29. @G.A.:

    Now why would I think that? Its not like the Catholic church has any Saints blood on the hands or anything.

    Well, good thing no protestants have blood on their hands…

    I guess only devout Quakers and other pacifists are real Christians then…

  30. merl says:

    @Brummagem Joe: I think you’re right, I used to be registered as an Independent but I stopped voting for Republican’ts a long time ago.

  31. jukeboxgrad says:

    ron:

    As for that one atheist in congress – I’m sure there are plenty of closet atheists who know they could never be elected if they were honest.

    Yup. Gallup found that the number of people who would never vote for an atheist greatly exceeds the number who feel that way about Catholics, Jews, blacks, women, Hispanics or Mormons. Gays do worse than all those groups, but atheists do even worse than gays.

    Try to imagine a gay atheist president.

  32. Maybe some of you don’t understand what an independent is. Contrast it with a partisan, a “my party right or wrong” follower.

    I grew up in a household of independents, one a registered Democrat and one a registered Republican. They changed their voting patterns over the years as one party or another seemed in sync with their values. The key is that it was always a choice, on values.

    When you try to pull people under one umbrella, with “leans” and other BS, you distort your view. Someone you might detect as having voted your way in past elections may not the next.

    So I’d say “independents” are bigger than the registration. It includes a lot of registered Democrats or Republicans who keep their heads.

  33. (Contrast with a woman who told me “our family always votes Republican.”)

  34. @john personna: I agree, in general, with your position (speaking as one who know considers himself independent).

    The problem though is that empirically we find that most people who identify as “independent” in polls are actually either consistent voters for one party or the other or heavily leans one direction or the other. The true independent (i.e., a swing voter) is a far smaller slice of the electoral than most polls indicate.

  35. G.A. says:

    The problems with your position are manifold, including the fact that you are engaging in a tautology: you are saying that Bible is right because it says it is right.

    The bible proves itself right from History and science so I believe the Word because I started to believe the word and looked into it?

    Science? I think not.

    Dr. Taylor, Believe it or not I like to read your stuff and respect you.I also like to give folks around here a hard time to try to make them and myself think and go figure I use absurdity to show absurdity, lol wonder where I got that from. How much time have you invested into comparing creation science with the, with the tautology of evolution:) and thanks for teaching me a new word….i hope you are not just close minded on the subject or listing to sam’s dinosaur saddle stories..

    Well, good thing no protestants have blood on their hands…

    I guess only devout Quakers and other pacifists are real Christians then…

    lol are you trying to be like me and get me back or did you just not get the question or the answer?it had to do with being drunk on the blood of the Saints:See the Catholic Church.

    History: that recorded human history only reached back to a certain point does not prove Genesis

    The Bible is the best History book we have and this is the point that unravels all most all evolutionary assumptions.

    And again: it is possible to be a Christian and not adhere to literal interpretation of Genesis.

    You can tell me all you want and as many time as you want that Jesus did not create everything the way he tells you that he did and in the time he tells you he did and say that the Word is up for this kind of interpretation but I don’t see how it helps you case.

  36. @G.A.:

    I guess the best place to stop is here: I understand where you are coming from, but we disagree–and I think that this is true from within the paradigm of evangelicalism (which, trust me, I am well acquainted with): you cannot draw the line between Christian and Not Christian over the issue of evolution–especially if you are relying on the account in the gospel of John. And it is possible to take a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 and still be a Christian.

    I would note, however, the evolutionary theory is not tautological, as it is based on evidence. The inerrant claims of the Bible are perfectly tautological because it is based on its own claims to being inerrant (at least, to specific interpretations of the text).

    In other words, your position is based on the idea that the Bible’s perfection is self-evident–which is a tautological claim. And, indeed, is not your position that if empirical evidence contradicts the Bible that somehow the empirical evidence must be wrong, yes? That’s the definition of anti-science. Of course, part of the problem is trying to treat the Bible as something it is not (it not a science text and it isn’t a history text, either–it is a religious text).

  37. BTW–I also know that I am not persuading, and that’s fine. I just wanted to lay out my basic position and to deal with what I thought was you mis-apprehension of the term “tautological.”

    Bottom line: you are certainly free to use belief in evolution as a test of Christianity, but I do not think that you have any textual basis for that assertion (and I make that claim within the paradigm you are working within).

  38. @Steven L. Taylor:

    The belief animals change over time was actually quite common in the Christian world before the end of the Roman Empire. The idea of the natural world being devided up into a hierarchy of immutable types that became common in Medieval Europe came not from the Bible, but from Plato by way of Persian scholars of the Avicennian school of philosophy.

    So ironically, GA’s definition of Christianity asserts that one cannot be truly Christian unless one accepts both pagan and Islamic theological doctrines.