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Income, religious attendance, and voting: recent patterns and trends since 1992

I can’t say I have much of an explanation for this, but it’s interesting:

  • Andrew says:


    I'm confused. We don't see a "dampening effect of religion on income-based voting patterns". It's the opposite: we see stronger income-based voting patterns among religious attenders than among non-attenders.

  • David Weakliem says:

    I can think of two possible explanations:

    1. An overwhelming majority of people in the US have at least some commitment to religion. Someone who never attends religious services (and says so in a survey) is making a definite statement about their values, and in most cases the values associated with never attending are ones that would lead you to vote against Bush.

    2. Lower income people tend to vote based on material interests–higher income people can "afford" to give more weight to views on other issues (e. g., abortion, gay marriage). So the higher your income, the more religiosity matters (in terms of the graph, the gap between the three lines is larger among people with higher incomes).

    I'd incline towards (1), since the relationship between income and who you vote for seems equally strong for frequent and moderate attenders. That is, it's the "nevers" who stand out as exceptional.

  • Andrew says:

    David W.,

    Actually, the proportion of "nevers" is pretty high, and it's been increasing in recent decades. (I can't remember the exact numbers but David Park has them.)

  • cool graph says:

    It looks like determining your vote based on the "cultural issues" is a luxury good. Makes perfect sense.

  • Piero says:

    Me and John found that both middle class and poor voters are more polarized by religion in richer countries than in poorer countries.

    In other words, how people vote tends to be affected by religiosity more in rich countries than in poor countries. In poorer countries (all else equal) religion matters less, and voting behavior is predicted by which income group a voter belongs to, not by the religious/secular identity.

    This fact is indeed compatible with the idea that voting based on lifestyle / cultural / so-called social issues is a luxury good. In rich countries, people can afford to choose a party based on their religious affiliation. In a poorer country, people have to choose the party that caters to their income group.

  • ohwilleke says:

    I wonder how that dovetails with the data that show that whites are much more committed to the Republican party in the South, than in the North.

    In Mississippi, the GOP captures something like 95% of the not black vote. In New York State, the GOP gets more like 50%-55% of the not black vote.