God Gaps

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Over the past few elections, I’ve been involved in focusing a lot of attention on differences in voting behavior based on frequency of worship attendance. The now notorious God Gap has to do with the tendency of frequent attenders regardless of religion to vote Republican, and for less frequent attenders to vote Democratic. In 2000, this gap (measuring by just the frequent attenders) peaked at 20 percent and stayed there until 2006, when it declined by seven percentage points. An important question for the upcoming general election is whether the gap will shrink further, thanks (perhaps) to the strenuous efforts of the Democrats to prove to the electorate that they feel its faith.
But what about the existence of God Gaps within the parties? In the primary season thus far, there has been a pronounced one on the Republican side. The most frequent attenders have gone for Mike Huckabee; the least frequent, generally for John McCain. On the Democratic side, however, the picture is a lot murkier. In close contests–where such factors are likely to show most clearly–Barack Obama tends to draw both the most frequent attenders and the least, with Hillary Clinton drawing most from the moderate middle–leave us not say the lukewarm. Arguably the explanation has to do with Obama’s strength among two different groups: African Americans and secular liberals. They are, of course, traditional political allies–and religion has nothing to do with that, does it?