Is religion the most important thing in your life? This is one of the questions people had to answer in a 2013 Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings survey as researchers tried to figure out how much faith influences people's views on culture and the economy. They got pretty striking results: More than half of people who they considered to be "religious conservatives" said yes, while only about 10 percent of people classified as "religious progressives" said the same. This means that on a whole host of issues, ranging from abortion and gay marriage to welfare and the minimum wage, faith probably has more of an influence on how conservatives think than it does for liberals.
It's tough to get inside people's heads and understand how their beliefs about God affect their views on culture, but a new report from Brookings hints at why researchers might want to: In terms of numbers, religious progressives are gaining on religious conservatives. According to the researchers, "religious progressives" are people of faith who have typically "liberal" opinions on a range of issues: They want more government support for the poor, rather than less; more freedom to have pre-marital sex and drink, rather than less, etc. From this break-down of age and race, you can see that religious progressives dominate America's growing populations:
Blacks, hispanics, and people of mixed race are all more likely to be religious progressives than conservatives; these groups are also among the fastest-growing demographics in the United States. Similarly, Millennials are more than twice as likely to be religious progressives than religious conservatives; in fact, people older than 50 make up more than 60 percent of those who are considered to be religious conservatives. Although it's impossible to talk to an 18-year-old about her views on culture and predict what she'll think in two decades, these demographic trends suggest that the religious right is about to start shrinking.