Montana Dems and the None Factor

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The first-take exit polls show Obama winning all attendance categories except weekly (more-than-weekly not large enough to register)–which is to say, he got the less religiously observant. He lost the Protestants sans Other Christians by a few points, but when combined, won them. He did much better among Catholics and Other Christians than among Protestants alone. He did best by far among those with no religion–19 percent of the voters–pulling 72 percent to Clinton’s 22 percent. Montana has nearly twice as many of these religious “Nones” as South Dakota, and in South Dakota he won that group by only eight percentage points, not 50. That’s a big part of the difference in the two primary results right there.
It’s becoming clear to me that one of the reasons Obama is doing as well as he is in the West is that it is that region of the country with the lowest rates of religious affiliation and identity. From the vantage point of, say, Connecticut, Montana and South Dakota might seem almost of a piece, contiguous and oblong and up there as they are. But whereas (according to the North American Religion Atlas) Montana has one of the country’s higher rates of religiously unaffiliated and uncounted at 53 percent of the population, South Dakota has one the lowest, at 30 percent. In this respect, Montana is a true Western state, while South Dakota is upper Midwest all the way
There’s been some recent journalism about the fight for the West between Obama and McCain, and McCain here has the advantage of coming from Arizona. But he’s got the GOP-evangelical alliance wrapped around his neck. And the more he tries to nail down his lukewarm evangelical base, the more he stands to alienate his secular fellow Westerners.