Whites are mostly negative about Obama, as consistently only around 30% approve of him (despite the Nobel Peace Prize). This 30% figure is far from the whole story. Wide differences in outlook on Obama within the White population are worth considering.
Modern polling allows us to open up a window onto, and look closely at, these differences. There are some surprises.
Using data collected by Reuters’ scientific polling in 2014 and 2015 (for a sample group of over 50,000 Whites), I present an in-depth analysis of White attitudes towards Obama:
1. Whites’ Views on Obama by Age Group, Sex, and Political Involvement
2. White Support for Obama by Religious Identification and Race [This Post]
3. Whites’ Views on Obama by Sexual Orientation
4. Whites’ Views on Obama by Income
5. Whites’ Views on Obama by Marital Status and Children
6. Whites’ Views on Obama by Education Attained
In this post:
Religious Identification and Race
Summary of Key Points
Much here is in line with Steve Sailer’s core vs. fringe theory of U.S. politics in the 2000s and 2010s. White Protestants overwhelmingly disapprove of Obama. White Catholics approve of Obama at slightly above the national White average. White Atheist support for Obama is way above the White average. Those eternal outsiders, the Jews, are the most pro-Obama of all. Hindus and Muslims are wildly supportive of Obama in comparison to any Whites. One surprise is that Black Atheists support Obama substantially less than Black Christians, but this can be explained easily if thought about, I think (see below).
Overall, only one in five White Protestants “strongly” or “somewhat” approves of Obama. This is as expected from actual voting patterns (see analysis on this site of the 2012 Vote by Race and Religion in the South and 2012 Vote by Race and Religion in the Northeast). With the exception of Episcopalians, White Protestants all support Obama at below the national White average, sometimes far below. This may be due to regional influences, i.e. there are more White Baptists in deep “red” states. A further analysis limited to one state or region would be useful here. I would expect similar patterns no matter the region, but surprises are possible as when the exit polling revealed Northeastern Lutherans voted nearly as strongly for Romney as Northeastern Baptists in 2012 (both near 60%, way above the regional White average of 45% in the Northeast in 2012).
The only substantial White religious demographic that is more anti-Obama than Protestants is the Mormons, again as expected. White Baptists’ and White Mormons’ Obama approval’s margins of error overlap. Both support Obama around 15%.
The Catholic sample group is large and as such we can be quite sure that White Catholics approve of Obama at a higher rate than White Protestants (except Episcopalians), actually a full ten points higher than non-Episcopalian Protestants. This is far from the days of decades ago of a solidly Democrat “White ethnic Catholic vote” bloc. On the other hand, the Catholic approval rate is not so far from the Lutheran here; the two groups’ margins of error slightly overlap. The higher white approval rate may be partly or wholly a result of Catholics living more in “Bluer” areas. This line of thought will tend to bog down in chicken-or-egg-ism so must be put aside until a more specific regional analysis is done.
“No Religion” Whites
Atheists, or at least those who say they have no religious identification, are the most loyal to Obama of all White religious subgroups. While only 17% of White respondents were “No Religion”-ists, they account for 25% of Obama’s White “Core Approval” Whites. Another 25% of Obama’s White core approval also comes from a combination White Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Other Protestants, and Mormons, a combined 36.3% of the respondent population.
What exactly people mean when they respond they are “another religion” is unclear. They are 13% of the respondent population, so writing them off as a small group of esoteric spiritualists or Neopagans is certainly not right. Some will identify like that, but many, I think, will be Christians in nondenominational churches. As such, I think this group is too varied to consider further as indicating anything much.
This is meant to be an analysis of the White population’s views on Obama. I felt it would be instructive to see some Nonwhite groups’ figures for comparison.
As expected, the Jews are much more pro-Obama than any group of White Christians, but even they Jews only give Obama a 4.6 on the weighted scale, which is still on the negative side, perhaps because Obama is considered not sufficiently pro-Israel. The Jews voted for Obama by large margins in both 2008 and 2012.
Post-1968 Immigrant Stock
Immigrants who entered the USA starting in 1968 and continue to arrive (after U.S. immigration law was loosened by law in 1965), here represented by Hindus and Muslims, and are still overwhelmingly pro-Obama. Interestingly, Hindus may actually be more pro-Obama than those Blacks who say they have no religion (but the margins of error overlap).
Black Christians vs. Black Atheists
This surprised me: Blacks who respond they are Christian overwhelmingly support Obama, a full 8.0 on the weighted scale. However, Blacks who say they have no religion support Obama at a much lower rate, more than a full point below on the weighted scale. This is the precise inverse of the situation with Whites, where “White No Religion”-ists are almost two full points more pro-Obama than White Christian groups. How can we explain this? Simply: For Blacks, support for Obama is an expression of “racial patriotism”, and those Blacks with the weakest civic involvement (represented here by proxy as not identifying as Christians) may be expected to support him less. For Whites, opposition to Obama is often a proxy expression of racial feeling, so those with the least racial feeling among Whites, the weakest civic engagement (those Whites who feel more on the “fringe”) tend to support Obama more. Anyway, this may be more evidence against the idea of a vast, untapped pool of (implicitly) “pro-White” Black conservatism in the USA, a common trope among the Respectable Right.
This is the combined data for all Reuters polls, conducted in the six months up to January 20th, 2015, which yields a huge sample size of 50,540 White Americans. Of course they polled all races, but their online database allows us to look at only Whites if we so wish. This large sample group yields a small margin of error for most demographic subsets. Two other benefits of this data are: (1) Lots of demographic breakdowns are available, and (2) a continuum of possible responses is provided rather than a clumsy “approve / disapprove” binary. The choices are: “Strongly Disapprove” — “Somewhat Disapprove” — “Lean Disapprove” — “Mixed Feelings” — “Lean Approve” — “Somewhat Approve” — “Strongly Approve”. This allows for more precise results. All this can be recreated at polling.reuters.com.
The three calculations on the right side of each chart are to help make sense of the data:
- “Core Approval” is the sum of a demographic’s “Somewhat Approve”, “Strongly Approve” percentages. So if Group A has a “Somewhat Approve” share of 15% and a “Strongly Approve” share of 10%, the “Core Approval” will be 25%.
- “Widest Approval” is Core Approval with “Lean Approve” and half of “Mixed Feelings” also added. Taking half probably as good a way as any to deal with the people with mixed feelings.
- Weighted Approval. This is a weighting of each demographic’s scores according to the scores on the charts. To account for intensity of feeling, “Strongly Disapprove” is weighted at -0.5 and “Strongly Approve” is weighted at 10.5.
Other demographic breakdowns by:
- Age Group, Sex, and Political Involvement
- Religious Identification and Race [This Post]
- Sexual Orientation
- Marital Status and Children
- Education Attained