Pew Premie?

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Here’s what Pew has to say about religion in reporting its latest poll on the presidential race:

McCain’s support among white evangelical Protestants, a key Republican voter group, has inched up to 71% (Obama is supported by 21% of evangelicals). Based only on voters who express a preference between the two candidates, McCain’s lead among evangelicals (77%-23%) is comparable to Bush’s final margin among this group (78%-21%). McCain has a small edge among white Catholic voters, 48% to 41%. He also holds a clear lead among white Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly (52% McCain vs. 36% Obama). Four years ago, Bush beat Kerry 61% to 39% among this group.

It sure looks as though this race is reverting to type–i.e. to the 2000 and 2004 pattern–when it comes to religion. Thank Sarah Palin for that.
Specifically, the religion (or God) gap is back to previous levels. Among those who say they attended worship weekly or more, the Republican margin has risen from 10 points in August to 18 points in September. Meanwhile, among those who seldom or never attend, the Democratic margin jumped from 19 to 30. Not surprisingly, the Palin choice pulled all evangelicals toward McCain, and a few white Catholics; while the unaffiliated have shifted even more toward Obama. As in the past, frequent-attending white Mainline Protestants showed themselves less inclined to support GOP candidates who cozy up to evangelicals. Between August and September, McCain’s margin among this group was cut nearly in half, from 25 points (57-32) to 14 (53-39).
One caveat, however. Pew’s polling took place September 9-14–at the height of the GOP convention (or Palin) bounce. Since then, the polls seem to be showing a reversion to the August status quo ante. In other words, this snapshot may be more of a retrospective than a portrait of what’s to come.

  • Tom Hambrick

    I skimmed the Pew data but didn’t see anything on the Jewish or Hispanic Catholic vote, both groups that — if I’m remembering correctly — supported Bush at historic levels (which certainly helped him win two very, very close elections).
    Is McCain generating the same support from those groups that Bush received?
    If McCain is ceding ground to Obama with Hispanics, African Americans (another group that supported Bush at slightly higher rates in ’00 and ’04, no?), Jews, some religious voters, and youth, doesn’t that bode trouble for McCain?

  • Mark Silk

    Jews did not support Bush at historic levels; he jumped six or seven points from 2000 to 2004, but remained under a quarter–well below Reagan. And it was Hispanic Protestants (a much smaller group than Hispanic Catholics) who turned out for Bush. I’d say the key groups in November will be white Catholics in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, and Mainline Protestants. Of course, in a very close race, small shifts in any group can be the difference.