Half of the American Protestant population who attend church want to be part of a congregation that shares their political views, a recent survey shows.
The expectation that their co-religionists will mark ballots as they do is held by more than 50% of churchgoers, according to the Lifeway Research study released Tuesday. About 55% of those surveyed said their congregations are already in sync, politically.
“Studies have shown that voting patterns and political affiliation correlate with the type of church and amount of church involvement someone has,” Scott McConnell, the polling group’s executive director, said in a statement. “But when asked if churchgoers want political similarity to flow back into their church relationships, this is desirable for only half of churchgoers.”
The poll also revealed that 41% of churchgoers don’t want a politically homogeneous congregation and 10% said they’re unsure. Lifeway reported the numbers are similar to a 2017 poll, in which 46% said they wanted political unity in the pews.
A closer inspection of the numbers reveals some surprises, however. Of those who identify with evangelical beliefs, 44% prefer a church where everyone shares their politics versus 54% of non-evangelical Protestants.
Methodists, at 88%, and members of Restorationist congregations such as the Churches of Christ, at 80%, outpaced Baptists, Presbyterian/Reformed churchgoers, Lutherans and non-denominational congregants in wanting unified political views. None of those four categories crack the 50% level, the survey showed.
The survey found the majority of those under age 50 (57%) prefer to share a pew with those who are like-minded politically, the Lifeway survey shows. That preference drops to 47% for those aged 50 to 65 and to 41% for those over 65.
Black churchgoers (53%) and White attendees (54%) are more likely to want a politically homogeneous congregation, versus 25% of Hispanics, according to the poll.
Education also factored in, with those who have a high school education or less (44%) among the least likely to demand a similarity of viewpoints.
The Lifeway survey also revealed few pastors see congregations sparring over ballot-box choices.
“If one looks at the culture today, you might assume that most churches have been arguing over politics as well. While it appears more churchgoers notice the political views of other attendees, only 28% of pastors agree (14% strongly) that their church has experienced significant conflict in the last year,” Mr. McConnell said.
Lifeway said it canvassed “a national pre-recruited panel” of 1,002 Americans from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29. “The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error from the panel does not exceed plus or minus 3.3%,” it said.
The full results of the survey can be viewed online.