According to a nationwide poll released Wednesday, Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to honor seven of the Ten Commandments. It may not be surprising that Republicans are more likely to say the first four more religious commandments are important principles to live by, but they are also more likely to uphold fidelity in marriage, obedience to parents, and not being envious of others.
“Regardless of whether you’re religious or not, which of the Ten Commandments from the Bible do you believe are still important principles to live by?” the poll, commissioned by Deseret News and conducted by YouGov, asked 1,523 Americans.
Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agreed on the importance of the commandments against stealing (95 percent, 93 percent, and 96 percent, respectively), murder (94 percent, 95 percent, and 95 percent), and bearing false witness (94 percent, 90 percent, and 94 percent). After those three, the consensus fell apart.
On the commandment to “honor (obey) your mother and father,” Republicans (92 percent) proved much more likely to uphold this principle than Democrats (79 percent), with independents in the middle (88 percent). This trend held true for each of the other six commandments.
On the commandment against adultery, independents (89 percent) actually proved more committed than Republicans (88 percent), leaving Democrats in the dust (78 percent).
More Republicans (86 percent) than independents (79 percent) or Democrats (74 percent) said the Tenth Commandment, “You shall not covet (desire) other people’s possessions,” was a good principle by which to live.
In each of these three cases, Republicans are at least ten percent more likely than Democrats to uphold the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Republicans also proved more likely to uphold the more religious commandments. A full 79 percent of them said “You shall not use the Lord’s Name in vain” is “still an important principle to live by,” while only 55 percent of independents and 49 percent of Democrats agreed.
More Republicans (82 percent) than independents (61 percent) and Democrats (57 percent) said it was a good life principle not to worship idols. Similarly, more Republicans (79 percent) than independents (53 percent) and Democrats (52 percent) upheld the First Commandment, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other God before me.”
The commandment to “Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy” proved the least popular of all. Even so, 70 percent of Republicans said it was a good principle to live by, while 44 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats agreed.
This poll does not necessarily suggest that Democrats are more sinful than Republicans, but it does confirm a few basic understandings about the two parties.
A recent survey in the journal Sociology of Religion found that the most common factors among supporters of Donald Trump in the 2016 election are issues centered around “Christian nationalism.” Questions surrounding whether America is a Christian nation, whether the country should acknowledge its Christian heritage, and whether it should allow prayer in schools proved much better predictors for a Trump vote than frequent Democrat attacks like racism or sexism.
Some aspects of this Christian nationalism are arguably wrong and potentially dangerous, but the emphasis on religion props up the “Golden Triangle of Freedom,” the founding fathers’ suggestion that religion supports morality, which supports freedom, which supports religion.
On the flip-side, Democrats seem to underemphasize religion in public life, to the degree that their party obscures the value of basic moral principles like urging people not to covet one another’s possessions. If Republicans stoke judgement and religion, Democrats arguably stoke the fires of envy by railing against the wealthy and corporations. Liberal positions on sex might undercut the stricture against adultery, and the emphasis on “Resistance” seems ill-fitting for honoring one’s father and mother.
Rather than finding a happy medium between these two positions — supporting a religion that upholds morality without declaring America a Christian nation — independents seem to have settled on a more simplistic middle position between over-religious conservatives and too-secular liberals.
The Deseret News/YouGov survey underscored the importance of religion in undergirding morality. Those who identified their level of religiosity as “high” or “medium” tended to value every single commandment more than those who said they had a “low” level of religiosity.
Unsurprisingly, the highly religious proved more likely to say honoring God (91 percent), not worshiping idols (92 percent), not using His Name in vain (89 percent), and keeping the Sabbath (81 percent) were important principles to live by, while fewer Americans of “low” religiosity said so of each of the first (24 percent), second (36 percent), third (25 percent), and fourth (18 percent) commandments.
The notable gap did not go away for the more secular moral commandments, however. Those of “high” religiosity proved more likely to say honoring parents (90 percent), not committing murder (95 percent), remaining faithful in marriage (92 percent), not stealing (97 percent), not lying (97 percent), and not fostering envy (92 percent) are principles to live by today. Those with “low” religiosity proved less likely to uphold the fifth (76 percent), sixth (91 percent), seventh (72 percent), eighth (91 percent), ninth (86 percent), and tenth (61 percent) commandments.
When it came to particular religions, evangelical Protestants proved most likely to uphold each of the commandments, followed closely by Mormons and then mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. For most commandments, all of these groups beat the national average, because the unaffiliated dragged down the average for each commandment.
The Deseret News/YouGov survey also focused a great deal on asking Americans under what circumstances it was acceptable to lie. Tragically, as the percent of “nones” or unaffiliated Americans has increased in the past decade, so has the general acceptance for lying — in all circumstances included in the survey.
In 2006, 93 percent of Americans said it was never acceptable to cheat on their taxes, 66 percent said it was never okay to call in sick to work when they aren’t sick, and 56 percent said it was never okay to exaggerate the facts of a story to make it more interesting. This year, 84 percent said cheating on taxes is always unacceptable, while only 40 percent said lying about sickness is always wrong, and only 44 percent said exaggerating a story to be more interesting would never be okay.