If demography is destiny, the Democratic Party could be facing big trouble. A growing contrast between the two major parties centers more and more on stark differences in marital status and religious involvement – distinctions that should give substantial advantages to Republicans and place Democrats increasingly outside the American mainstream.
New polling from the Gallup Organization includes striking details that ought to alarm the administration and its allies. For the first time, substantial majorities of those who describe themselves as Democrats in the age of Obama say they are unmarried and irreligious—in a nation that overwhelmingly values both marriage and religion.
Between June and August, 2011, Gallup interviewed more than 78,000 adults, evenly divided between the two parties. Among Democrats, 52 percent say they “seldom” or “never” attend religious services; among Republicans, 61 percent go to church or synagogue once a month or more.
Even more surprisingly, 54 percent of Democrats say today they are single; up sharply from the 48 percent of the donkey party who counted as unmarried before Obama’s election. For the GOP, on the other hand, the great bulk of its support (62 percent) continues to come from married adults.
As a party overwhelmingly comprised of church-goers and married people, the Republicans not only mirror the nation at large (where solid majorities are currently married and attend religious services at least monthly) but, more importantly, connect to nearly-universal American aspirations.
The most recent figures from the Census Bureau show that in 2010 more than 83 percent had been married at least once by age 40, while surveys suggest that the biggest groups of single adults (the never-married below 25 and widows above 65) would personally prefer to be part of marital relationships. Few people who currently hold the status of husbands and wives nourish a burning desire to live as singles (if they did, they’d divorce) but huge proportions of those who remain unmarried wish they could marry (or, in some cases, marry again).