The latest election-related polling data from the non-partisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that a majority of voters who can be classified as “white Mainline Protestants” will support Republican Party congressional candidates in today’s elections.
Although the margin of GOP-over-Democrat preference has tightened slightly in recent days, the latest Pew survey of likely voters (PDF) shows white mainliners choosing Republican congressional candidates over Democrats by a nearly 20 percent margin (55%-36%).
The Pew data also show that Republican candidates are getting their strongest support among voters who attend religious services weekly. More than half of these voters (55 percent) either stated their intention to vote Republican or said they were “leaning” toward voting Republican.
In contrast, Democrat voter strength is highest among those who “seldom or never” attend religious services, with 54 percent of such voters expressing an intent to vote for Democratic candidates or at least “leaning” toward Democrats.
The Pew poll also found that black Protestants, a reliable Democratic constituency since the 1960s, are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.
Because of the rather limited sample size of white Mainline Protestants (approximately 400 respondents), Pew researchers say the findings related to the voting patterns of white mainliners have a margin of error of ±6 percent.
Given the racial make-up of the United Methodist Church, the latest Pew polling data on the voting intentions of white Mainline Protestants seem likely to represent today’s general voting patterns among United Methodists.
According to the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration, the UMC’s U.S. membership (Excel file) was 90 percent white and 5.8 percent black as of 2008 (the most recent data available).
The remaining UMC members were classified as Asian (1.1 percent), Hispanic (less than 1 percent) and either Native American, Pacific Islander or multiracial (less than one-half percent for each group).
In the 2008 presidential election, white Mainline Protestants were evenly split — 44% to 44% — between Republican candidate Sen. John McCain and Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
Voters who attended weekly religious services, however, went for Sen. McCain by a 55%-to-43% margin, according to Pew data.