Long story short: we won't learn much about the political affiliation of mindfulness practitioners from surveys. If there have been formal surveys, I haven't been able to find them.* So somebody please do a survey! In the meantime, American Buddhists will have to serve as a proxy for mindfulness practitioners. Close enough. After all, the mindfulness movement did emerge from a Buddhist tradition and retains a Buddhist flavor.

Here's a poll from the 2016 primary season:

Which presidential candidate do you most support today? (357 responses – options were randomized in the poll):

Hillary Clinton: 86

Bernie Sanders: 232

Donald Trump: 5

Ted Cruz: 5

Marco Rubio: 7

Ben Carson: 2

John Kasich: 2

Other: 18

The above poll is consistent with an earlier 2014 Pew survey, which found that just 3% of Buddhists polled identified as Republican or leaning Republican and 83% were either Democrats or leaning that way.

I don’t think Buddhism naturally aligns with liberal views.  At one time there were plenty of Republican Buddhists, many of whom were Asian-Americans who had fled communist countries. These earlier American Buddhists saw no contradiction between their religion and conservative values. But Buddhism as practiced in the US today is a different animal, secularized and Americanized, focused more on personal wellbeing  and less on tradition, ritual, or the realm of the supernatural. Very much like the mindfulness movement, still in touch with its Buddhist roots.

[For more on Mindfulness and Politics, see: Mindfulness and Politics, Part I: Parties and Narratives.]

Next: Can one be compassionate and Republican and not deluded?


*As part of their 2014 survey on religion and politics, Pew did collect data on the political affiliation of meditation practitioners. They found that most were conservative. Well, there goes my thesis I thought. Delving further, though, it turns out that many religious groups practice meditation, including evangelical Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons.