How Do Religious Groups View Joe Biden Right Now?
And, does this tell us anything about his chances in 2024?
One factor that seems to be looming over our politics right now is President Biden’s approval rating. As it stands when I write this, he’s underwater. Approval is just 42% and disapproval is 53%. Down eleven points.
Here’s what is striking to me about Biden. He’s easily the most religiously active President we’ve had since Jimmy Carter. Here’s data from Mark Knoller:
And I found this handy list of every time Jimmy Carter went to church when he was President. The total is 82. That's in all four years of being in the White House.
You can believe whatever you want about the man’s politics, but his devotion to regular church attendance is more evident than any President in my lifetime.
So, what do people of faith think about Joe Biden know that he’s halfway to the end of his first term? I’m going to muster a bunch of data to give a sense of where things stand in September of 2023.
Let’s start with this fun question battery that appeared in the Nationscape survey during the height of the Democratic primary process in late 2019 and early 2020. Respondents were asked to place all the major candidates on a five-point scale that ran from very liberal (1) to very conservative (5). Here’s how every major religious tradition viewed their options.
I must say that I am pretty heartened to see how basically every tradition sorted all the Democrats in essentially the same order. Here’s the consensus on the field, ranking the most moderate to the most liberal:
Bloomberg, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Biden, Warren, Sanders.
Which, I’m sure people will quibble with a bit in the comments, but I don’t think is really that from the real positions of those candidates. The way I see it you’ve got the moderates: Bloomberg, Klobuchar and then the liberals: Warren and Sanders. Biden or Mayor Pete are really the median Democrats of the bunch.
But notice how some traditions see a bit of daylight between Bloomberg and Sanders, while others don’t. You can see that among a group like Jews or atheists. But for white evangelicals, they see very little ideological distance from the furthest left Democrat and the ones that are less liberal.
That got me thinking. Who sees the biggest gap between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump? In a way, this is a proxy for the question: who sees the political landscape the most polarized? Here’s the answer:
These results are clear: agnostics and atheists. Recall that the scale runs from 1 to 5. Agnostics put Sanders at 1.3, the score for Trump was 4.4. The total gap is 3.1 points. The largest it could be is 4 points. Agnostics see Sanders as the most liberal and Trump as the most conservative.
White evangelicals put Sanders at 1.6 and Trump at 3.8. The total gap there is just 2.2. That’s pretty close to the median, by the way. For the entire sample, they placed Sanders at 1.7 and Trump at 3.9. That’s basically where “nothing in particulars” put those candidates. Muslims see the least polarized political world. They placed Sanders at 2.7 and Trump at 3.4, a gap of .7 points.
But who did they vote for in the Democratic primary? This one is tricky because for some folks who took the survey, it was about their intention (because their state’s primary had not happened when they were surveyed). For others, the survey was asked retrospectively. So, they needed to recall who they actually voted for. But, either way, I just restricted this to people who voted (or intended to vote in the Democratic primary).
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