• Churchgoing African Americans’ longtime allegiance to the Democratic party is showing some cracks, according to an analysis by Ryan Burge in his newsletter Graphs about Religion (April 15). “Religiously active Black Protestants have never really been that comfortable with where the Democratic party is headed on certain cultural issues (like abortion), and this may actually result in some shifts in voting patterns in the future,” Burge writes. Based on data from the Cooperative Election Survey, he focused his analysis on black Protestants who attend religious services once a week, confirming that they are not ideologically liberal. When asked to place “themselves in ideological space, the mean score is almost always a 3 on a scale from 1 (very liberal) [to] 5 (very conservative). The average high attending Black Protestant[] is the definition of ideologically moderate.” But they are also “unmistakably Democrats.” On a similar scale measuring partisanship and running from strong Democrat (1) to strong Republican (7), churchgoing blacks have historically scored in the range of 2 on average. However, between 2012 and 2022, their mean score has shifted toward the middle by nearly 10 percent as a proportion of that scale.

    The partisan defection has been taking place among strong Democrats. “In 2008, 2012, and 2016 about 60 [percent] of Black Protestants who attended church weekly identified as Strong Democrats. In 2020, that dipped to 56 [percent] and it’s even lower in the most recent data I have—49 [percent] in 2022,” Burge writes. The movement has largely been toward the Independents, whose share more than doubled from 8 percent of the group in 2016 to 17 percent in 2022. Burge cautions that this shift will not yet put a sizeable dent in the Democratic vote among churchgoing blacks (although it did dip from 94 percent for Obama in 2012 to 87 percent for Biden in 2020). “But it does seem like this voting bloc is clearly more moderate than the party as a whole,” giving more moderate responses to survey questions about late term abortion, funding for the police, and especially immigration reform. “That’s likely always been the case,” Burge concludes, “but in the current environment with the possibility of a real racial realignment happening, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if Biden does demonstrably worse among this voting bloc than in prior elections.”

  • While over the last two decades of rapid religious disaffiliation, men have been more likely than women to abandon their faith commitments, a new survey from the American Enterprise Institute suggests that pattern has now reversed. “Older Americans who left their childhood religion included a greater share of men than women,” pollsters Daniel A. Cox and Kelsey Eyre Hammond write. “In the Baby Boom generation, 57 percent of people who disaffiliated were men, while only 43 percent were women. Gen Z adults have seen this pattern flip. Fifty-four percent of Gen Z adults who left their formative religion are women; 46 percent are men.” Even the more resilient conservative churches are “facing more of an uphill battle keeping this current generation of young women in the pews. Sixty-one percent of Gen Z women identify as feminist, far greater than women from previous generations.”

    Cox and Hammond add that “younger women are more concerned about the unequal treatment of women in American society and are more suspicious of institutions that uphold traditional social arrangements.” In the 2023 survey that the team conducted, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of young women said they do not believe that churches treat men and women equally. The researchers add that young women are more educated than men their age and report greater professional ambition and concern with personal success and growth, making religion and family life lower priorities. “The result is that young women today, at least on some measures, are less religious than young men,” as reflected in the survey’s finding that nearly four in ten (39 percent) Gen Z women identify as religiously unaffiliated compared to 34 percent of Gen Z men. Cox and Hammond conclude by pointing out the much larger generational differences among women compared to men. While Gen Z men are more religiously unaffiliated than Baby Boomer men by 11 percentage points, there is a 25-point difference among women, with 39 percent of Gen Z women being unaffiliated compared to only 14 percent of Baby Boomer women.

    (The study can be downloaded from:


  • While Pope Francis retains his appeal among most American Catholics, his favorability rating has declined over the last several years, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The survey finds that 75 percent of U.S. Catholics view Pope Francis favorably, down 8 percentage points since that question was last asked in 2021, and 15 points below his peak favorability rating of 90 percent in early 2015. The Pew report finds that the partisan gap in views of Pope Francis is “now as large as it’s ever been in our surveys. Roughly nine-in-ten Catholics who are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party hold a positive view of him, compared with 63 [percent] of Catholics who are Republicans or lean Republican.” Francis has generally scored higher favorability ratings than his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, but lower than Pope John Paul II. Regardless of political leaning, the respondents considered him to be more liberal than other recent popes, and seven-in-ten also agreed that Francis is an agent of change with regard to a wide range of church and social issues (such as contraception, the marriage of priests, and allowing same-sex relationships). Whether these changes are considered advisable is associated with the respondents’ political leanings. The Catholics who mostly favor a variety of changes are largely Democrats or lean Democratic (57 percent), and many say they seldom or never attend Mass (56 percent). In contrast, the Catholics who mostly say the church should not take these steps are predominantly Republicans or lean Republican (72 percent), and many say they attend Mass at least once a week (59 percent).

    (The survey can be downloaded from: