American Values Survey Print

Survey | Old Alignments, Emerging Fault Lines: Religion in the 2010 Election and Beyond

[11.17.2010]

Findings from the 2010 Post-Election American Values Survey

Read the full report here.
Read the news release here.
Read the Questionnaire, Topline Results and Survey Methodology here.

Results of the Post-Election American Values Survey were based on 1,494 callback interviews with respondents from the Pre-election American Values Survey, which was fielded in early September 2010 among a national random sample of 3,013 adults (age 18 and older). Telephone interviews for the Post-Election American Values Survey were conducted in both English and Spanish from November 3-7, 2010.

Among the top findings:

The 2010 midterm election saw no major religious realignments. Republican candidates held a significant advantage among white Christian voters, while Democratic candidates held a significant advantage among minority Christian voters and religiously unaffiliated voters. Few Americans reported feeling excited (9%) about the election outcome. A plurality (41%) reported feeling satisfied, but nearly as many reported feeling disappointed (21%) or worried (18%) about the election outcome. Even among Republican voters, only about 1-in-5 reported feeling excited about the results of the election.

Looking toward 2012, the survey found three significant emerging religious issues to watch: President Obama’s religion dilemma, attitudes toward Islam, and attitudes toward American exceptionalism. These issues represent important new ways in which religion may shape the 2012 elections:
President Obama’s religion dilemma. A majority of Americans say that President Obama has religious beliefs that are somewhat different (16%) or very different (35%) than their own. Only 4-in-10 believe that Obama has similar religious beliefs to their own.

There is a strong relationship between how Americans perceive Obama’s faith and their views toward him. Among Americans who say Obama has religious beliefs very similar to their own, 94% have a favorable view of him, including a majority (51%) who have a very favorable view. At the other end of spectrum, among Americans who say Obama’s beliefs are very different from their own, nearly 8-in-10 say they have a very (51%) or mostly (27%) unfavorable view of him.

Overall, Americans are nearly evenly divided over whether the values of Islam are compatible with American values. Approximately two-thirds of Republicans (67%) and those identifying with the Tea Party movement (66%) say the values of Islam are at odds with American values. Less than one-third of Democrats (30%) agree, and only about 4-in-10 (43%) Independents agree.

A majority (58%) of Americans believe God has granted America a special role in human history. Members of the Tea Party (76%) and Republicans (75%) are much more likely to believe that God has a granted the U.S. a special role in human history than independents (54%) or Democrats (49%).

Americans who believe God has granted America a special role in history are significantly more likely to say military strength rather than diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, and to say torture can be justified.

The survey also found significant divides over attitudes toward discrimination, particularly over the question of whether whites currently face significant discrimination. Forty-four percent of Americans believe that today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.

A majority of those identifying with the Tea Party (61%) and Republicans (56%) say that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities, a view shared by only 28% of Democrats and 49% of independents.
White evangelicals are the only religious group in which a majority (57%) agree that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.

In terms of the direct role of religion, three-quarters (73%) of voters said that compared to previous elections, their faith or religious values played the same role this year in how they voted. Moreover, only about 1-in-10 voters said that their religious beliefs had the biggest influence on their vote. Nearly three-quarters reported that common sense and personal experience had the greatest influence.

Most midterm voters thought the Tea Party helped, more than it hurt, the Republican Party because it energized their base. However, a majority of Democratic voters said that the Tea party hurt the Republican Party by helping nominate candidates with extreme views.

In the months leading up to the election, Americans who attend religious services regularly were much more likely to hear about abortion from their clergy than about health care, the role of government, or particular candidates. Catholics were much more likely to hear about abortion than any other religious group, with 56% reporting hearing their clergy speak out on the issue.

Read the full report here.
Read the news release here.
Read the Questionnaire, Topline Results and Survey Methodology here.