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African American Forum


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  1. Most African-Americans across all major religious traditions, including those who are unaffiliated, prefer a bigger government that provides more services to a smaller government providing fewer services. Significantly more African-Americans (70%) report that they prefer bigger government compared with the total population (46%), who are much more divided on the issue (43% prefer smaller government). And nearly eight-in-ten (79%) African-Americans say the government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, while only 15% say the government cannot afford to do
  2. Regardless of their religious background, African-Americans overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. The 2007 Landscape Survey finds that more than three-quarters of all African-Americans (76%) describe themselves as Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party, while just 10% favor the Republicans. Across all religious groups, at least two-thirds of African-Americans express support for the Democratic Party. Among the total population, by comparison, less than half (47%) describe themselves as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 35% support the GOP. This unity o
  3. On a variety of measures, African-Americans express comfort with religion’s role in politics. According to a summer 2008 Pew Research Center survey, six-in-ten African-Americans (61%) say houses of worship should express their views on social and political matters, while only 36% say churches should avoid these topics. On this question, African-Americans closely resemble white evangelical Protestants, among whom 59% say churches should express their views and 38% say churches should keep out of social and political matters. By contrast, among the overall population, the balance of opinion lean
  4. Overall, about four-in-ten African-Americans (41%) think that homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 46% say that homosexuality should be discouraged. By contrast, among the public overall, those who say that homosexuality should be accepted outnumber those who say it should be discouraged (50% to 40%). Among African-Americans, members of evangelical churches express the most conservative views on this issue (58% say homosexuality should be discouraged), while unaffiliated African-Americans are among the least conservative (only 32% say it should be discouraged), a difference of 26
  5. Social Issues Similar links exist among African-Americans as among the general population when it comes to religion and views on social issues such as abortion and homosexuality. But once again, the religiously based differences on these issues are less pronounced among African-Americans than in the overall population. Abortion Overall, 49% of African-Americans favor keeping abortion legal in most or all cases, while 44% want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases. These figures are similar to those seen among the public as a whole (51% vs. 42%). Among African-Americans, mem
  6. Among African-Americans, as with the public generally, views on political ideology and social issues, such as abortion and homosexuality, are linked with both religious affiliation and religious observance (as measured by worship service attendance and importance of religion in one’s life). For instance, black members of evangelical Protestant churches and the more religiously observant express more conservative views than those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion or are less religiously observant. But these religiously based differences tend to be smaller in the African-American
  7. African-Americans also express higher levels of religious belief than do Americans overall. Compared with the population overall, for instance, African-Americans are more likely to believe in God with absolute certainty (88% vs. 71% among the total adult population), interpret Scripture as the literal word of God (55% vs. 33%) and express a belief in angels and demons (83% vs. 68%). They also are more likely to say they are absolutely convinced about the existence of life after death (58% vs. 50%) and to believe in miracles (84% vs. 79%). These views are held by the overwhelming majority
  8. African-Americans attend religious services and pray more frequently than the general population. While 39% of all Americans report attending religious services at least once a week, a majority of African-Americans (53%) report the same. Similarly, while 58% of all Americans report praying at least once a day, a significantly higher number of African-Americans (76%) report praying daily. This pattern is seen across most major religious traditions. Perhaps most interestingly, unaffiliated African-Americans attend religious services and pray in much higher numbers than the unaffiliated popu
  9. In many ways, African-Americans are significantly more religious than the general population, with the vast majority considering religion very important in their lives. African-Americans also are more religiously observant on a variety of other measures, from frequency of prayer and worship service attendance to belief in God. Importance of Religion Nearly eight-in-ten African-Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among the U.S. adult population overall. Consistent with this, members of historically black churches are among the most lik
  10. Gender As in the population overall, African-American men are significantly more likely than women to be unaffiliated with any religion (16% vs. 9%). African-American women are somewhat more likely than African-American men to describe themselves as Protestant (82% of women vs. 72% of men). Among African-American women, 62% are members of historically black Protestant churches, 16% are affiliated with evangelical churches and 4% are mainline Protestant; among men, 55% are members of historically black churches, 14% are evangelical and 4% are mainline Protestant. African-American women
  11. The vast majority of African-Americans are Protestant (78%), compared with only 51% of the U.S. adult population as a whole. By a wide margin, African-Americans stand out as the most Protestant racial and ethnic group in the U.S.; far fewer whites (53%), Asians (27%) and Latinos (23%) belong to Protestant denominations. But Protestantism in the U.S. – and in the black community – is not homogeneous. Rather, it is divided into three distinct traditions – evangelical Protestant churches, mainline Protestant churches and historically black Protestant churches. More than three-in-four African
  12. While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with a religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life. Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, c
  13. America is once again a nation of immigrants, as a long series of recent newspaper stories and policy analyses remind us. Since 1990 the Los Angeles metropolitan region has gained almost a million residents, the New York region almost 400,000, and the Chicago region 360,000–almost all from immigration or births to recent immigrants. Most of the nation’s fastest-growing cities are in the West and Southwest, and their growth is attributable to immigration. More than half of the residents of New York City are immigrants or children of immigrants. How will these demographic changes affect racial p
  14. It is virtually unprecedented for a newly successful group of Americans to grow more and more alienated from the mainstream polity as it attains more and more material success. One exception, David Mayhew notes, is South Carolina’s plantation owners in the 1840s and 1850s. That frustrated group led a secessionist movement; what might embittered and resource-rich African Americans do? At this point the analogy breaks down: the secessionists’ actions had no justification, whereas middle-class blacks have excellent reason to be intensely frustrated with the persistent, if subtle, racial barriers
  15. The course of American racial and ethnic politics over the next few decades will depend not only on dynamics within the African-American community, but also on relations between African Americans and other racial or ethnic groups. Both are hard to predict. The key question within the black community involves the unfolding relationship between material success and attachment to the American polity. The imponderable in ethnic relations is how the increasing complexity of ethnic and racial coalitions and of ethnicity-related policy issues will affect African-American political behavior. What make
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