I don’t doubt that a large segment of the most consistent churchgoers are indeed of a conservative bent. In fact, in the US studies show that the more frequently one attends church, the more conservative one tends to be. But my point there was that these studies discount the religiosity of many a devout liberal or moderate church member, who even though they aren’t weekly attendants, they go two or three times a month. Its just not right to discount them as not members of “the mainstream”. And pundits and analysts miss something if they don’t see that behind the avid-weekly-republican crowd there’s an avid-almost-weekly-democratic one (with the obvious caveat that there are liberals in the former group and conservatives in the latter). Personally, I prefer the sort of analysis that breaks down various religious communities into traditionalist, centrist, and modernist perspectives, such as this one from 2001 in First Things.
All this has been swirling in my head these past weeks as polling organizations and those who blog mainly on political affairs note the auspicious numbers for democrats a month before the general elections. There was some media discussion several months ago about whether the Catholic vote was swinging back towards the democrats (but note that First Things article, which showed how in 2000 the modernist Catholic vote was Gore’s most reliable). This is around the time that the Religious Left was making a big push to be more prominent in the national political and media scene.
This week the Gallop Poll produced a fascinating piece that, if it is accurate, paints a bleak picture for the Republican party in November. From the precis:
The loss of support for Republican House candidates shown in the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll occurred disproportionately among religious white voters as opposed to less religious whites and nonwhites. At this point, religious whites are equally as likely to say they will vote Democratic as Republican, a marked change from their strong tilt toward the Republicans in surveys conducted June through September.
In this piece, Gallup is using that tested method for the most-frequent-churchgoers, that is, those who have been consistent supporters of the republican party over the past several years. The upshot: not only do the democrats have the support of those “less-frequent churchgoers” and non-churchgoers, but they’re getting more support from the most frequent churchgoers as well.
Here’s the recent polling in graphical format (the first for a generic “democratic candidate”, the second for the congressional race; note the former is pure percent of support, the second is the difference of democratic support minus republican support):
The long and the short of it is that these “frequent-churchgoing” voters are telling pollsters that they are now as likely to vote for a democratic candidate as they are a republican one.
Polls are polls, and what matters is the actual vote, but things look bleak for the national republican party. And, frankly, given what’s gone on with their recent blank-check-to-torture those under US custody and the Foley scandal, I’m not sure it should be any different.
More analysis at Washington Monthly.