Losing Their Religion

By Sessions, David | Newsweek, October 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Losing Their Religion


Sessions, David, Newsweek


Byline: David Sessions

The GOP's secularism problem.

There's been much angst on the right over the Republican Party's growing demographic problems, most memorably by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said the party was running out of "angry white guys." But conservatives may be facing another demographic threat as well: declining religiosity, especially among the young. The latest sign came in a Pew study released last week that found that one in five American adults now claims no religion, and that 34 percent of those younger than 30 consider themselves irreligious.

The GOP's own base may be partly to blame. The data echoes a landmark 2010 study, American Grace, by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, which linked the new chilliness toward organized religion to the rise of the religious right. Other recent studies bear out their hypothesis: in March, Pew found that a majority of the electorate, including nearly half of Republicans, is uncomfortable with the amount of religious talk in political campaigns. (As recently as 2006, the majority tipped the other direction.) Mitt Romney has avoided talking about his Mormonism, and voters like it that way: in July, eight in 10 Americans who knew about Romney's Mormonism said they didn't care, and only 16 percent of the entire electorate was interested in hearing more about Romney's faith.

The shift away from religion is especially pronounced among those younger than 30, who began abandoning churches in greater numbers at exactly the moment conservative Christians made gay marriage their signature issue. …

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