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Fun Facts on Religion and Politics

You asked for it. Or maybe you didn't. But here it is anyway. Make of it what you will!

1. Most progressives are religious. For example, in 2000, 81 percent of Gore voters professed a religious affiliation. That’s within shouting distance of the 89 percent of Bush voters who professed a religious affiliation (2000 National Study of Religion and Politics [NSRP]).

2. It is true that progressives attend church less than conservatives. In the 2000 VNS exit poll, 33 percent of Gore voters said they attended church once a week or more, compared to 49 percent of Bush voters who said they attended church that often. (Note that both figures are probably too high–VNS data show levels of attendance that are inconsistent with all other data sources–but the magnitude of attendance difference between Gore and Bush voters is probably about right.)

But the whole US population is trending toward less observance, not more. For example, in surveys taken over the last thirty years, it is the ranks of those who never or rarely attend church that have grown the most. According to a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study, those who said they never attended church or attended less than once a year went from 18 percent in 1972 to 30 percent in 1998 . Confirming this latter figure, the National Election Study found that those who say they never attended was at 33 percent of the citizenry and 27 percent of voters in 2000 . That is a group about twice the size of those who identify themselves as members of the religious right, and it is a group that has tended to vigorously support Democrats rather than Republicans.

Indeed, according to the NORC study, if you add to the 30 percent mentioned above those who say they attend church only once or a few times a year, it turns out that about half the US population attends church only a few times a year or less.

3. In the 2000 VNS exit poll, it was widely noted that Bush won the support of voters who say they attend church more than weekly by 63 to 36 and voters who say they attend church weekly by 57 to 40 . And these voters make up 43 percent of the electorate. But even according to these unusually high VNS figures, the more observant groups were only a bit over two-fifths of the electorate. Each of the groups in the less observant three-fifths of voters—those who said they attended church a few times a month, a few times a year or never--preferred Gore over Bush, with support particularly strong among never-attenders, who gave Gore a 61 to 32 percent margin.

4. Not all evangelicals are conservative Republicans. Far from it. In the 2000 NSRP, a large subgroup of white evangelicals–“less observant” white evangelicals (about one quarter of white evangelicals and 7 percent of all voters)–supported Bush only 55-45. And in 1996, the same group either split their votes between Clinton and Dole or actually supported Clinton, depending on which survey you look at.

Early 2004 NSRP data from this spring use a different categorization (“traditional”, “centrist” and “modernist” evangelicals) and also show a progressive group of evangelicals–the modernists, about one-sixth of evangelicals. This group actually supports Kerry over Bush by 9 points (46-37).

5. Karl Rove has claimed that there were four million evangelicals who didn’t go to the polls in 2000, but who can be turned out in 2004. This is an urban legend. There is, in fact, no evidence that evangelicals’ turnout in 2000 was particularly low (it was about at the national average) and that, therefore, there are, in any meaningful sense, “missing” evangelicals in the voting pool.

John Green, perhaps the leading academic analyst of religion and politics, has said that these missing evangelicals Rove alludes to are more “mythical” than missing. And, to the extent they might really exist, he believes they are far more likely to be in solid red states than in contested battleground states.

6. Conservatives and the GOP have made aggressive efforts to target Catholics. But there is no evidence that this targeting is actually working. “Traditional” Catholics, to be sure, are strongly supporting Bush (60-30), according to the 2004 NSRP data. But they are only 27 percent of all Catholics. The rest of Catholics–73 percent–are supporting Kerry. The includes the “modernist” group (31 percent of Catholics) who support Kerry by a lop-sided 61-33 and the “centrist” Catholics–who are both the largest (42 percent) Catholic group and the real swing group among Catholics–who support him by 45-41.

More broadly, there is little evidence that centrist and modernist Catholics, which is the overwhelming majority of Catholics–including among Hispanics–are likely to vote the conservative social positions of the Catholic church on issues like abortion or gay marriage. That is what the GOP has been banking on, but it is highly unlikely to happen. Polling data suggest strongly that these Catholics are far more concerned and moved electorally by other issues, such as the economy, education, health care and so on.

7. The GOP has also targeted Jews. Again, there is no evidence their appeals are working. In the 2004 NSRP, Jews favor Kerry by 46 points (70-24).

Moral for the GOP: Don't count your (religious) chickens before they've hatched.


Hey Ruy!

What do you make of this article in the WashTimes??


It's about how the Bush campaign is looking at the internals of recent polls and seeing bad things for Kerry. It looks like a bunch of hogwash to me.. but maybe you can refute or discuss some of what the CREEP is saying...

or maybe someone on this board can...

Tim, after reading that article, my guess is that you have to look at some sort of baseline of what you would expect for a challenger's favorable ratings. The Bush camp is saying that Kerry's numbers on things like being trustworthy have fallen about 10 points in the last 3 months because (a) Kerry sucks, and (b) Bush's ads have been a spectacular success in convincing people of this.

On question (a), are the numbers quoted in the article all that bad for a challenger at this stage? They say they're around 50% for Kerry, which doesn't seem that bad to me for a candidate who still isn't known very well by the public. And on the question of the brilliant effectiveness of Bush's negative ads, shouldn't we remember that Kerry's high numbers from late Feb/early March were smack in the middle of the high point of primary season? I would guess that his high numbers were given a somewhat artificial boost by the constant media attention that the Dems were getting then for their still ongoing nominating race.

The statistics in the Washington Times article by Bill Sammon, to which Tim refers at the beginning of this thread, deal with two questions. The first is the percentage who say Kerry is "honest and trustworthy": Kerry has dropped from a 59-30 positive margin in March to 49-42 in the Washington Post poll published Monday. The second is that those who think Kerry is "a strong leader" have dropped from a 61-29 split in March to a 52-38 split.

The article also refers to a third question, whether Kerry "understands the problems of people like you", but does not provide figures. A check at the Washington Post article shows that Kerry was at 58-34 on that question on March 7th, but has now dropped to 52-43.

The comparable figures for Bush now are 53-45 on "honest and trustworthy", 62-37 on "strong leader", and 42-57 (a negative margin of FIFTEEN POINTS) on "understands the problems of people like you".

So Fox News Contributor Sammon in Rev. Moon's Washington Times cites three areas in which Kerry has declined. In one of them, whether he "understands the problems of people like you", Kerry is 52-43% positive and Bush is 42-57% negative. In a second, the result is a statistical tie, with Bush having a net positive of 8% to Kerry's net positive of 7% on whether he's "honest and trustworthy". Only on the question of whether he's "a strong leader" is Bush in better shape than Kerry.

I encourage everyone to read the entire poll. There's a link at Ruy's article on May 25th below. The overwhelming majority of its results are bad news for the President.

They found three things where Kerry has slipped (note that Sammon doesn't cite a single question on which the result is affirmatively good for Bush). This is what a campaign does when it's heading for the rocks. It cherry-picks a couple of points from a broad array of negative facts, and spins them to a friendly reporter for a friendly paper.

Who will tell Kristof?

There have been a number of articles about Jewish voters leaning more towards Bush. Not a majority, but enough to tip the scales in Florida or Ohio or Michigan. I don't know how that will pan out, but Corzine and others seem to be concerned.

At last -- someone is making the effort to challenge the conventional wisdom -- namely that the USA is super religious, and getting more so all the time. As is pointed out in Ruy's piece, the trend has been quite other for 25-30 years.

There is an additional bit of empirical evidence on this theme that needs adding into the discussion, and that's the Wall Street analyist's take on the rating to give various kinds of church bonds that are traded by NY Brokers. Apparently since the late 1980's the rating on bonds has been "high risk" particularly for bonds issued to build and enlarge the mega-churches. Something tells me this whole question would get a much more detailed look if the "market" information were given a standard business analysis.

Regarding the WashTimes article, note how pathetic the recommendations are. So the President needs to repeatedly explain his Iraq strategy to voters while drawing attention to Kerry's supposedly non-mainstream "values"? As if voters would care about what "Shrub" says at this point... Only ACTUAL RESULTS (in Iraq, regarding the employment situation, the economy etc.) matter if you're the incumbent.


"There have been a number of articles about Jewish voters leaning more towards Bush. Not a majority, but enough to tip the scales in Florida or Ohio or Michigan. I don't know how that will pan out, but Corzine and others seem to be concerned."

I wouldn't worry too much about it. Most of those articles consist of someone looking for a story to write ("Jews still voting Dem" isn't much of a story), so they quote some Republicans who talk smack about how it's all going to be different this time.

In Michigan, for instance, Gore won by a little over 200,000 votes in the last election (out of 4.2 million cast). There are about 100,000 Jews in the state, and how many can realistically be expected to swing towards Bush this time? Not much more than 5000 at the outer edge, I would say, if he picks up any at all. And even if it were a very, very surprisingly high 10,000 vote swing, the chances of that tipping the scales in the overall vote are extremely remote.

In response to the posting by James, the 2000 exit polls showed that 2% of Michigan voters were Jewish. In Ohio 3% were Jewish, and in Florida 4%. With such small samples it was impossible to get a breakdown of Jewish voting at the state level, but the national figure was 80-17 for Gore among the 4% of national voters who were Jewish. Ruy reports that Kerry is leading 70-24, so there's a bit of a falloff, perhaps 10%, in Jewish support for the Democrat. That amounts to 0.4% of the total vote nationally, and can be easily explained as falloff from politically conservative Jews who voted Democratic in 2000 due to the presence on the ticket of an Orthodox Jewish candidate for Vice-President.

Four tenths of one percent of the 2000 Florida vote amounts to a little less than 24,000. In Michigan, which Gore carried by 204,000 votes, four-tenths of one percent in 2000 was equivalent to about 17,000 votes, i.e. less than 10% of Gore's margin. In Ohio, it's a little less than 20,000 votes.

Any decrease in support among a staunchly Democratic group like Jewish voters is cause for concern. Obviously, the slightest breeze might tip Florida one way or the other, but saying increased Jewish support for Bush might be "enough to tip the scales" in Ohio or Michigan is a bit of a reach. If Bush wins those states by 20,000 votes or less, then perhaps the falloff in Jewish support for Kerry will have tipped the scales. Otherwise, it's just one more factor in elections which will draw more than 4 Million voters--97% of them not Jewish--in each of those states.

This email was sent to me by my brother-in-law, who earlier this year sent money to the Bush campaign but is becoming increasingly embarrassed by the Administration's performance. My father-in-law and I take turns verbally pummeling him at family gatherings. He seems to enjoy the sparring. All in a spirit of good fun, of course. (Not really, of course, but we try to keep a modicum of peace within the family.) He initially was in love with Gingrich and the "Gingrich revolution", yet voted for Clinton twice.

The scary thing about this schedule for the R convention is that it represents only a modest exaggeration of what is likely to transpire there. The email:

Republican National Committee Convention Schedule
New York, NY

6:00 PM Opening Prayer led by the Reverend Jerry Fallwell
6:30 PM Pledge of Allegiance
6:35 PM Burning of Bill of Rights (excluding 2nd amendment)
6:45 PM Salute to the Coalition of the Willing
6:46 PM Seminar #1 Getting your kid a military deferment
7:30 PM First Presidential Beer Bong
7:35 PM Serve Freedom Fries
7:40 PM EPA Address #1: Mercury, it's what's for dinner.
8:00 PM Vote on which country to invade next
8:10 PM Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh
8:15 PM John Ashcroft Lecture: The Homos are after your children
8:30 PM Round table discussion on reproductive rights (MEN only)
8:50 PM Seminar #2 Corporations: The government of the future
9:00 PM Condi Rice sings "Can't Help Lovin'Dat Man"
9:05 PM Second Presidential Beer Bong
9:10 PM EPA Address #2 Trees: The real cause of forest fires
9:30 PM Break for secret meetings
10:00 PM Second prayer led by Cal Thomas
10:15 PM Lecture by Carl Rove: Doublespeak made easy
10:30 PM Rumsfeld demonstration of how to squint and talk macho
10:35 PM Bush demonstration of trademark "deer in headlights" stare.
10:40 PM John Ashcroft demonstrates new mandatory kevlar chastity belt
10:45 PM Clarence Thomas reads list of black republicans
10:46 PM Third Presidential Beer Bong
10:50 PM Seminar #3 Education: a drain on our nation's economy.
11:10 PM Hillary Clinton Pinata
11:20 PM Second Lecture by John Ashcroft: Evolutionists: The dangerous
new cult
11:30 PM Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh again.
11:35 PM Blame Clinton
11:40 PM Laura serves milk and cookies
11:50 PM Closing Prayer led by Jesus Himself
12: 00PM Nomination

I think that the Annenberg results show that Kerry is successfully counteracting Bush's negative ads with his own positive ads in the battlegrounds.

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I’m the son and father of committed Democrats and was a Democrat for two decades before becoming a Republican. I’m now a registered Libertarian.