Republicans are the party of white evangelical Christians. Meanwhile, Democrats are comprised of a menagerie of religious minorities and the religiously unaffiliated.
Those certainly sound like stereotypes. But, according to a new study from the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life, which analyzed all of the organization's polling data from 2012, they are actually true.
About 35 percent of the nation's registered voters are Democrats, while 28 percent are Republicans and 33 percent identify as independent. But a growing number of independents have started leaning toward the GOP since 2008, Pew reports, noting the share of registered voters who either identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has declined from a 12-point advantage in 2008, to a 5-point advantage in 2012.
The evolution in voter identification charted by Pew makes it clear the extreme partisanship that took hold of politics following President Barack Obama's election in 2008 - peaking with GOP leaders declaring their main mission was to make sure Obama is a one-term president -- has obviously affected voters' perception of the parties. The number of politically created "controversies" that pitted religious Republicans against Democrats this year -- over contraception, women's reproductive rights and so-called violations of religious liberty -- seem to have driven many white voters into the arms of the Republican Party.
The shift in party identification has almost entirely occurred among white voters of all religious affiliations. In fact, support for the GOP among white evangelical protestants has grown from 65 percent in 2008 to 71 percent in 2012. And it's not only a trend occurring among evangelical Christians -- while mainline protestants were almost evenly divided in 2008, Republicans now have a 12-point advantage with that demographic as well.
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Democrats continue to hold a significant advantage among black and Hispanic voters of all religious affiliations. In 2012, 89 percent of black Protestants have described themselves as Democrats or has having Democratic leanings, while more than 60 percent of Hispanic Catholics have said the same. Secular Americans are also considerably more likely to identify as Democrats -- In 2012, more than 60 percent of religiously unaffiliated Pew respondents have been Catholics (a majority of whom are non-Hispanic whites), compared to about 25 percent who said they were Republicans.