America’s Shifting Religious Makeup Could Spell Trouble For Both Parties

Both Republicans and Democrats are facing dramatic long-term realignments in the religious composition of their base, and it will be a challenge for the parties to weather this shift gracefully.

Glance at the data from a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and you’ll see why doubling down on white identity politics could be a winning strategy for President Trump and the Republicans in the short term, but it might not be successful for long. The PRRI report, which is based on a poll of more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states, makes clear that white Christians, traditionally a large portion of the Republican base, are, as a group, both declining and aging. Younger white Christians are abandoning their churches in droves, leaving behind increasingly middle-aged and elderly congregations.

Democrats, meanwhile, have something of the opposite problem. Their base is increasingly religiously varied, and while this is certainly reflective of where the country is going as a whole, Democrats must craft a message that speaks to pretty much every faith tradition — as well as people who have no religion at all. And young black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics, two groups that have historically been loyal Democratic constituencies, are less likely to affiliate with the party than their parents and grandparents.

So far, having a base that’s composed overwhelmingly of one demographic group hasn’t doomed Republican candidates — white, conservative Christian voters have been the bedrock of the GOP base since the 1980s and helped deliver President Trump to the White House last year. In 2016, a whopping 35 percent of Republicans were white evangelical Protestants, 18 percent were white mainline Protestants, and 16 percent were white Catholics; together, those groups account for nearly 70 percent of the Republican base.

Read more at The FiveThirtyEight.