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PEW-LANDSCAPE Sep-14-2004 (710 words) xxxn

Party affiliation less likely to correlate to religion, poll shows

By Patricia Zapor

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It has been awhile since Catholic voters were reliably Democrats, but now a new poll that looks at political attitudes in relation to religion finds the reverse shift across party lines among Protestants.

The fourth National Survey of Religion and Politics found that in the last dozen years Catholics have come close to being evenly divided between the Republican and Democratic parties, at 41 and 44 percent, respectively, up from 38 percent who were Republicans and 43 percent who were Democrats in 1992. The remainder of those surveyed said they were independents.

Mainline Protestants, on the other hand, now are more likely to be Democrats than were Protestants 12 years ago, the poll found. Thirty-nine percent said they were Democrats and 44 percent identified themselves as Republicans, up from 32 percent and 50 percent, respectively, 12 years ago.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics of the University of Akron, Ohio. Results were released Sept. 9 at a Washington press conference.

The Republican Party has grown significantly among evangelical Protestants, while Democrats have found new growth among Latino Catholics and Jews, the study found. Fifty-six percent of evangelical Protestants said they are Republicans and 27 percent are Democrats. The number of Latino Catholics who said they are Democrats rose by 12 percent to 61 percent, with 15 percent saying they are Republicans. Sixty-eight percent of Jews said they are Democrats, up by 23 percent from 1992.

The survey also for the first time asked questions to define whether people are more "traditionalist," "centrist" or "modernist" within their denomination. To create the scale, it asked, for instance, about beliefs including the existence of the devil, participation in religious activities and views on church traditions.

Based on those breakdowns, 57 percent of traditionalist Catholics said they were Republicans and 30 percent said they were Democrats. That compared to 51 percent of modernist Catholics who said they were Democrats and 38 percent who said they were Republicans. Among the centrist Catholics, 47 percent said they were Democrats, and 34 percent identified themselves as Republicans.

The surveyors interviewed 4,000 randomly selected adults nationwide in March, April and May. Of those, 17.5 percent were non-Latino Catholics, about half of whom were categorized as centrist, with about a quarter each in the modernist and traditionalist categories. Another 4.5 percent of those polled were Latino Catholics, whose beliefs were not broken down into smaller divisions because of the small size of the group.

Among the other findings of the survey:

-- Just 15 percent of all people surveyed and 13 percent of non-Latino Catholics agreed with the statement: "Abortion should always be illegal." Among non-Latino Catholics, 35 percent said abortion should be legal in a few circumstances and 35 percent said it should be "legal and up to the woman to decide."

Thirty-nine percent of Latino Catholics said abortion should be legal in a few circumstances and 26 percent said abortion should be "legal and up to the woman to decide." Eighteen percent said it should always be illegal.

-- Among nearly all groups polled, participants have become more likely to support "pro-life positions," said the report by University of Akron researcher John C. Green. In 1992, 40 percent of the whole group surveyed had pro-life responses to questions, compared to 48 percent this year. Among white Catholics, the shift was the same, 48 percent this year, compared to 40 percent 12 years ago. Fifty-seven percent of Latino Catholics this year voiced pro-life beliefs, compared to 47 percent in 1992.

The only religious segment found to be less likely to express pro-life views was Jews, down to 16 percent this year from 20 percent in 1992.

-- Forty-two percent of white Catholics and 39 percent of the entire survey sample said they support tax-funded vouchers for children to attend private or religious schools. Fifty-eight percent of Latino Catholics said they support vouchers.

The margin of error for the whole survey was given as plus or minus 2 percent. Green said the margin of error for the breakout segments of the survey could run as high as 12 percent for the smallest segments.


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