Counting Evangelical Democrats

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While we’ve groused about the failure of the exit pollsters to track evangelicals on the Democratic side, Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress Action Fund decided to do something about it, and hired Zogby to track down white evangelical Democratic voters in Missouri and Tennessee on Super Tuesday. The full results won’t be released until Monday, but the press release asserts that what they found were 159,000 in Missouri and 179,000 in Tennessee. According to the back of my envelope, in Missouri that was 19 percent of the Democratic vote (as opposed to 55 percent on the GOP side); and in Tennessee it was 29 percent of the Democratic vote (as opposed to 66 percent GOP). Altogether, in both states, there were twice as many white evangelicals voting in the Republican primary as in the Democratic.
White evangelicals voted for George W. Bush by a margin of three-to-one in 2004, and for GOP congressional candidates by a slightly smaller margin in 2006. So if the evangelical turnout by party can be taken as an indication of partisan preference, then there’s at least some indication of a shift towards the Democrats among white evangelicals. But bear in mind that some portion of this apparent shift doubtless has to do with nothing more than the much remarked enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. Come the general election, many of the GOP evangelicals who stayed at home on Super Tuesday will likely come out, enthusiastically or otherwise, to vote against the Democratic candidate.
Be all this as it may, it will be interesting to learn how the white evangelical Democrats in Missouri and Tennessee voted. I’m guessing Clinton–but if not, it will provide the first statistically significant indication of Obama’s much vaunted ability to appeal to white evangelicals.