October 24, 2017

Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and Left

9. Views on religion and social issues

In many ways, the partisan imprints of the typology groups are clearly visible on questions about religion and social issues. However, in some cases, the unique religious and attitudinal profiles of the groups result in patterns of opinion not typically seen on other political measures.

On questions about religion and morality, and the government’s role promoting religious values, the Democratic-leaning Devout and Diverse and deeply Republican Country First Conservatives have similar views. Solid Liberals, by contrast, stake out a distinctly secular point of view: Large majorities reject belief in God as a prerequisite for being a moral person and say government should play no role promoting religious values and beliefs.

On the contentious issue of abortion, similar majorities of the two most-Republican groups (Core Conservatives and Country First Conservatives) say it should be illegal. But there is considerable distance between these deep-red groups in their views of same-sex marriage.

And while support for same-sex marriage and legal abortion are nearly unanimously held positions among Solid Liberals, there are significant differences in the shares of other Democratic-oriented groups who express these views.

Religiosity and religious affiliation

Views of morality and belief in God highlight commonalities between two typology groups with very different partisan profiles.

Overall, 68% of Country First Conservatives (a strongly Republican group) say that it’s necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values, while just 28% say this is not necessary. Views among the Democratic-leaning Devout and Diverse are very similar: 64% say it’s necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values, compared with 33% who say it’s not necessary.

Solid Liberals are by far the most likely to reject the connection between belief in God and morality: Fully 91% say it is not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values. Two-thirds of Opportunity Democrats (67%) and 56% of Disaffected Democrats share this view.

Outside of Country First Conservatives, Republican-oriented typology groups are more divided in their views of whether it’s necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.

When it comes to the intersection of religious belief and government policy, most Americans (65%) think religion should be kept separate from government policies, while 32% think government policies should support religious values and beliefs.

Most Democratic-oriented typology groups think religion should be kept separate from government policies. An overwhelming 92% of Solid Liberals say this, along with 77% of Opportunity Democrats and 69% of Disaffected Democrats. Devout and Diverse – who connect religious belief to being a moral person – are more divided in their views: 54% think religion should be kept separate from government policies, compared with 45% who think government policies should support religious values.

Among Republican-oriented groups, most Market Skeptic Republicans (62%) and New Era Enterprisers (58%) think religion should be kept separate from government policy. By contrast, Core Conservatives and Country First Conservatives are divided over whether the government should have a role supporting religious values and beliefs.

In part, the typology groups’ attitudes about religion and society reflect differences in religious affiliation.

Country First Conservatives (43%) and Core Conservatives (34%) are more likely than other groups to be white evangelical Protestants. Relatively few among both groups say they are religiously unaffiliated. White evangelicals make up smaller shares of the two other Republican-leaning groups, Market Skeptic Republicans (25%) and New Era Enterprisers (17%).

While about a quarter of the public is religiously unaffiliated, that rises to almost half (48%) for Solid Liberals, a significantly larger share than among any other typology group.

Among other Democratic groups, 28% of Disaffected Democrats and 26% of Opportunity Democrats do not have a religious affiliation. Devout and Diverse are somewhat less likely than these groups to be religiously unaffiliated.

Within both partisan coalitions, some differences on abortion

More Americans say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases (57%) than say it should be illegal in all or most cases (40%), and the issue broadly splits along partisan lines. But there also are divides within each party coalition.

Large majorities of Core Conservatives (69%) and Country First Conservatives (68%) say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Other Republican-leaning groups are more divided in their views of abortion.

Among Democratic-oriented groups, nine-in-ten Solid Liberals (90%) say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, along with narrower majorities of Opportunity Democrats (75%) and Disaffected Democrats (68%).

By comparison, Devout and the Diverse are split in their views: 49% think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while about as many (46%) think it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Views of same-sex marriage

Overall, 62% favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, compared with fewer (32%) who are opposed to same-sex marriage. Pew Research Center surveys have documented rising acceptance of same-sex marriage and homosexuality over the course of the past decade.

Country First Conservatives are the only typology group in which a majority (73%) says it opposes same-sex marriage (including 37% who are strongly opposed). Core Conservatives are about equally likely to favor (43%) as to oppose (49%) same-sex marriage. Majorities of Market Skeptic Republicans (57%) and New Era Enterprisers (54%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.

Support for same-sex marriage is a near-unanimous position among Solid Liberals: 96% say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, including 70% who say they strongly favor this. About eight-in-ten Opportunity Democrats (82%) and 68% of Disaffected Democrats also favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. Devout and Diverse stand out from other Democratic-leaning groups: About as many say they are in favor (46%) as opposed (47%) to same-sex marriage.

Differences over whether women continue to face obstacles men do not

Overall, a majority of the public thinks that women continue to face challenges that men do not: 55% say “there are still significant obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead than men,” while 42% say the obstacles that once made it harder for women to get ahead are now largely gone.

Solid Liberals and Core Conservatives are on opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue. Nearly all Solid Liberals (97%) say women continue to face obstacles that make it harder for them to get ahead than men. By contrast, 90% of Core Conservatives say that the obstacles that once made it harder for women to get ahead are now largely gone.

Country First Conservatives – a group that is just as Republican as Core Conservatives – have mixed views: 49% say obstacles women faced in the past are now largely gone, compared with 43% who say significant obstacles still remain. About seven-in-ten New Era Enterprisers (69%) say the obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone; 57% of Market Skeptic Republicans also hold this view.

Majorities of all Democratic-leaning groups say women still face obstacles that make it harder to get ahead than men, though Solid Liberals and Disaffected Democrats are more likely to say this than Opportunity Democrats or Devout and Diverse. The 40-percentage-point gap between the views of Solid Liberals (97%) and Opportunity Democrats (57%) on this question is one of the largest differences between these two groups in this survey.

Wrongful convictions seen as worse than letting guilty go free 

Thinking about different types of mistakes in the justice system, most Americans say it is worse to convict an innocent person (70%) than to let a guilty person go free (23%).

Across all typology groups, more say it is worse to convict an innocent person than to let a guilty person go free. Nearly nine-in-ten Solid Liberals (87%) say this, along with somewhat narrower majorities in most other groups. Country First Conservatives are the least likely to say this: 50% say it’s worse to convict an innocent person, compared with 33% who say it’s worse to let a guilty person go free (15% of those in this group volunteer both – a significantly greater share than in other groups).