Politics as the New Religion for Progressive Democrats

Oct 25, 2018

By Emma Green

The voters who are most amped for the 2018 elections look elite in nearly every way. They are Democrats, college-educated, and largely secular. They are likely to be women, but they’re not necessarily white or particularly young. These are the people who might post rants about Donald Trump on Facebook or harass their friends to donate to Planned Parenthood. They may sign petitions on Change.org or follow the Facebook page of the U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, even though they don’t live in Texas. Maybe they attended the Women’s March two years ago, or the March for Our Lives this spring.

This is the sketch that emerges from a new poll by The Atlantic and the Public Religion Research Institute, which looks at Americans’ civic engagement in the lead-up to November’s midterms. With Democrats fired up in opposition to Trump and the Republican majority in both houses of Congress, it’s no shock that liberal voters are leading the way with political activism. “Whoever is in the losing party tends to be more energized,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. “They have something to win back.”

It’s the segment that’s surprising: Religiously unaffiliated voters, who may or may not be associated with other civic institutions, seem most excited about supporting or donating to causes, going to rallies, and expressing opinions online, among other activities. Political engagement may be providing these Americans with a new form of identity. And in turn, they may be helping to solidify the new identity of the Democratic Party.

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