June 26, 2014

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Section 5: Views on Religion, the Bible, Evolution and Social Issues

There are deep divisions in the political typology over religious beliefs, views of the Bible and social issues such as homosexuality and abortion. And while the right and left differ over these issues, in many cases they also divide both parties’ coalitions.

Both Left and Right Are Divided over Link between Belief in God and MoralityOn fundamental views related to belief in God, 53% of the public says it is not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values, while 45% believes it is necessary. While overall opinion is fairly evenly split, opinion among the typology groups is not: Large majorities of all groups are on one side or the other of this question.

About nine-in-ten of the Next Generation Left (91%) and Solid Liberals (89%) say that belief in God is not necessary to be moral and have good values. But among the Faith and Family Left – a group that shares much in common politically with the other Democratic-oriented groups – 91% take the opposite view and say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values. Most Hard-Pressed Skeptics (66%) also say belief in God is needed to be a moral person.

There is a similar dynamic on the right. While nearly seven-in-ten Steadfast Conservatives (69%) say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person, about equally large percentages of Young Outsiders (70%) and Business Conservatives (66%) say this is not necessary.

Majorities of Steadfast Conservatives and Faith and Family Left Say Bible Should Be Taken LiterallyAbout two-thirds (65%) of Americans say that the Bible and other works of Scripture are the word of God. Those who say this are about equally likely to say these religious texts should be “taken literally, word for word” (33%) as to say that not everything in these holy texts should be taken literally (30%).

The view that the religious texts are the word of God is held by broad majorities of Steadfast Conservatives (88%), the Faith and Family Left (87%), Hard-Pressed Skeptics (78%) and Business Conservatives (74%).

Although many Business Conservatives view the Scripture as the word of God, just 23% say the text is meant to be taken literally, word for word. By contrast, 57% of Steadfast Conservatives and 54% of the Faith and Family Left, along with 47% of Hard-Pressed Skeptics, say the texts should be taken literally.

About half of the Next Generation Left (49%) and 55% of Young Outsiders say Scriptures are the word of God. And within these groups few say the Scripture is meant to be taken literally—just 21% of Young Outsiders and 13% of the Next Generation Left say this.

Just 30% of Solid Liberals say the Bible or other holy texts are the word of God; fully 63% of Solid Liberals say that the Bible or other holy book is “a book written by men and is not the word of God.”

Views on Evolution

About six-in-ten Americans (61%) say humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 34% say humans and others have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. These views have changed little in recent years. (For a detailed analysis of opinion about evolution among religious groups, see Public’s Views on Evolution, Dec. 30, 2013.)

Majorities of Solid Liberals, Next Generation Left Say Humans Have Evolved Through Natural SelectionSolid Liberals (86%) and the Next Generation Left (83%) are the most likely to say humans have evolved over time. Majorities of Young Outsiders (68%) and Business Conservatives (57%) also say this.

Hard-Pressed Skeptics (50% evolved vs. 46% have existed in present form) and the Faith and Family Left (44%-49%) are both divided on the question.

Among Steadfast Conservatives, more say humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time (53%) than say they have evolved (39%).

Among those who say evolution has occurred, slightly more say that this is the result of “natural processes such as natural selection” (34% of the public) than say a supreme being guided the process (23%). Majorities of Solid Liberals (62%) and the Next Generation Left (55%), along with 41% of Young Outsiders, say humans evolved as a result of natural processes. Among all other typology groups, far fewer say humans evolved as a result of natural processes.

Homosexuality and Abortion

By a two-to-one margin, the public says homosexuality should be accepted by society (62%) rather than discouraged (31%), but there are deep divisions on this question across typology groups.

Fissures emerge on both sides of the partisan spectrum. For instance, about three-quarters of Steadfast Conservatives (74%) believe homosexuality should be discouraged, but a 58% majority of Business Conservatives think homosexuality should be accepted. And Young Outsiders, by a 78%-15% margin, also say homosexuality should be accepted rather than discouraged by society.

On the left, overwhelming majorities of both Solid Liberals (93%) and the Next Generation Left (88%) say homosexuality should be accepted. However, just 43% of the Faith and Family Left and 49% of the Democratic-leaning Hard-Pressed Skeptics agree.

Views about homosexuality generally are closely connected to attitudes on same-sex marriage. Overall, a 54% majority favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally; about four-in-ten (39%) oppose same-sex marriage.

Business Conservatives Favor Societal Acceptance of Homosexuality

Roughly nine-in-ten Solid Liberals (89%) favor same-sex marriage, as do 78% of the Next Generation Left. The Faith and Family Left and Hard-Pressed Skeptics take a more conservative stance: 55% of the Faith and Family Left and 49% of the Hard-Pressed Skeptics oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.

As in views on homosexuality, Young Outsiders hold more liberal views on same-sex marriage than the two conservative groups. Nearly seven-in-ten (68%) Young Outsiders favor gay marriage; just 24% are opposed. While most Business Conservatives think homosexuality should be accepted (58%), only 41% favor same-sex marriage. Among Steadfast Conservatives, there is overwhelming opposition to same-sex marriage: 84% are opposed, while only 12% are in favor.

A similar pattern of opinions is seen on the issue of abortion. Overall, about half of the public (51%) says abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 43% think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Views on AbortionOn the left, majorities of Solid Liberals (87%) and the Next Generation Left (71%) support legal abortion. The Democratic-leaning Hard-Pressed Skeptics are roughly divided (48% illegal vs. 44% legal). Among the Faith and Family Left, more say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases (54%) than say it should be legal all or most cases (40%).

On the other end of the ideological spectrum, 70% of Steadfast Conservatives think abortion should be illegal in all or most cases – making them the group most likely to hold this view by a wide margin. A majority of Business Conservatives also are against legal abortion (59%).

Abortion is another question on which the Republican-leaning Young Outsiders hold more socially liberal views than their more solidly-Republican counterparts: 58% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% believe it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Importance of Marriage and Having Children

Faith and Family Left Differ from Other Dem Groups in Prioritizing MarriageWhen it comes to whether people should prioritize marriage and having children, the public is about evenly divided: 46% say society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority, while 50% believe society is just as well off if people have priorities other than family and marriage.

Steadfast Conservatives are the most likely to think marriage and having children should be prioritized (80% say this), while two-thirds of Business Conservatives (66%) agree.

They are joined in this view by 64% of the Democratic-leaning – and highly religious – Faith and Family Left.

By contrast, large majorities of the three youngest typology groups–Solid Liberals (77%), the Next Generation Left (72%) and the Republican-leaning Young Outsiders (65%)—say society is just as well off without people prioritizing marriage and having children.

Islam and Violence

Roughly four-in-ten Americans (38%) say the Islamic religion is more likely than others to encourage violence among its believers, while half (50%) say it does not encourage violence more than other religions.

Views of Islam and ViolenceMore than three-quarters of Solid Liberals (78%), along with 65% of the Next Generation Left, reject the idea that Islam is more violent than other religions. By contrast, about seven-in-ten (72%) Steadfast Conservatives say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers.

Opinion is less one-sided among other typology groups. Although a majority of Business Conservatives (56%) say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, 35% say it is not. Hard-Pressed Skeptics are divided (44% say Islam does encourage violence more, 41% say it does not). And while more among both the Young Outsiders and the Faith and Family Left say Islam is no more likely to encourage violence than other religions, 36% in both of these groups say it is.