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Religion may play more prominent role in America as baby boomers age

Published: Saturday, Dec. 29 2012 11:55 a.m. MST

Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 10 2014 1:49 p.m. MDT

Newport said past trends show people's politics tend to lean Republican as they get older and become more religious, which would benefit the GOP and the Christian right when baby boomers age. He writes that Democrats would do well to find ways to connect with an increasingly religious demographic that will be involved politically.

Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and other presidential candidates, agrees that older people have a higher propensity to vote and more discretionary time and money for political involvement. But he doesn't buy the conclusion that a person's political views will change because religion takes a more prominent role in his or her life.

"People tend to choose a denomination or a particular congregation based on an overall comfort level that involves political orientation," he said. "I really question the proposition that as (historically liberal) boomers grow older and more religious that suddenly their attitudes will shift on politically relevant questions and parties will have to deal with them in an entirely new way."

Galston explained that a substantial portion of the Democratic Party is made up of people who are either not religious or believe religion and politics should be separate. "And when you add to that the fact that the Democratic party increasingly has defining commitments on religiously tinged social issues, as do the Republicans, that makes it hard to believe there's going to be a fundamental change of orientation of the party based on the aging of the baby boomers."

The Morgans, who are Democrats, said growing older and more religious hasn't changed their politics.

"We would have loved to have had a Mormon president, but for some reason we just can't vote Republican," Janet said.

Baby boomers have always had an impact on the religious, political, economic and social landscape of America, experts agree, and Newport argues that those institutions that capture the projected religious zeal of the boomer generation as it grows older will have the advantage.

"Nothing is as motivating as a belief that what one is doing is based on a higher calling or response to divine initiative," Newport writes. "This gives those who mobilize religious Americans a significant advantage in efforts to modify the society they see around them."

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