Pew gap

2012 flashback: Pollster John C. Green's prophecy -- sort of -- about Democratic debates in 2019

2012 flashback: Pollster John C. Green's prophecy -- sort of -- about Democratic debates in 2019


When news consumers think about politics and religion, they probably think about the clout that evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics have in the post-Ronald Reagan Republican Party.

Can you say “81 percent”? I knew that you could.

There is a very good reason for this state of mind in the news-consuming public. Many (perhaps most) journalists in elite American zip codes have always viewed the Religion Right as the modern version of the vandals sacking Rome. Thus, that is THE religion-and-politics story of the age.

What about the Democrats? What about the evidence of a “pew gap” (active religious believers tend to back the GOP, whether they want to or not) that hurts the Democrats in the American heartland?

It is very rare to see coverage of this kind of story, other than the evergreen (1) rise of the Religious Left news reports or maybe stories about (2) Democrats making new attempts to court people in pews.

In this week’s “Crossroads” podcast — click here to tune that in — we focused on a recent New York Times piece about the three major divisions inside the Democratic Party, right now, and the role that religion is playing in that drama. This was a follow-up to my recent post: “Thinking about modern Democrats: There are three kinds and religion may be a crucial factor.”

Before we get to that, check out the top of this interesting news report about the Democrats and their recent debates. Doesn’t the point of view here sound strange?

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Some matters religious Americans, and journalists, might ponder as Trump era begins

Some matters religious Americans, and journalists, might ponder as Trump era begins

Donald Trump’s narrow Electoral College victory came accompanied by a narrow popular vote loss and some worrisome exit polling.

Yes, 60 percent of voters had an “unfavorable” opinion of the President-elect, 63 percent did not deem him “honest and trustworthy,” 60 percent said he’s not “qualified” for the job and 63 percent felt he lacks the needed “temperament,” while 56 percent were either “concerned” or “scared” that he might win. (Hillary Clinton’s numbers were nearly that dismal.)

Religious believers and journalists concerned for their nation should  contemplate whether a President has ever entered office with anything like that poor reputation.

Campaign 2016 was the ugliest since -- when? 1824? 1800? It damaged the stature not only of Trump but loser Hillary and husband Bill, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, even the Libertarians, the FBI and the Department of Justice, the American political system, and -- yes -- religious elements.

Amid the rubble, we also find all those caught-off-guard pundits, mistake-ridden pollsters, and news outlets whose prestige and influence are eroded by sensationalism and partisanship.

Some writers continue to proclaim the imminent demise of the Religious Right, that movement of evangelical Protestants, conservative Catholics, Mormons, some Orthodox Jews and other activists. As with frequent assurances that Trump could not possibly win the nomination or the presidency, that’s wishful thinking. Such efforts will persist as long as the issues do, for instance palpable alarm over religious freedoms.

On that, future  Supreme Court appointments were “the most important factor” for 21 percent of U.S. voters but fully 56 percent of Trump voters.

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Hey Washington Post czars: Evangelicals and Catholics are irrelevant in #NeverTrump camp?

Hey Washington Post czars: Evangelicals and Catholics are irrelevant in #NeverTrump camp?

It you have followed Republican politics over the past quarter century or so, you know that GOP White House wins have often been linked to what researchers have called the "pew gap," especially when there are high election-day vote totals among white evangelicals and devout Catholics.

That "pew gap" phenomenon can be stated as follows: The more non-African-Americans voters attend worship services, the more likely they are to vote for culturally conservative candidates -- almost always Republicans.

As I have stated before, it's hard to find a better illustration of this principle than the overture of the 2003 Atlantic Monthly essay called "Blue Movie." This piece focused on a campaign by Bill, not Hillary Rodham, Clinton, but it remains relevant. This passage is long, but remains essential -- especially in light of the very strange Washington Post piece about the remnants of the #NeverTrump movement that is the subject of this post. The Atlantic stated:

Early in the 1996 election campaign Dick Morris and Mark Penn, two of Bill Clinton's advisers, discovered a polling technique that proved to be one of the best ways of determining whether a voter was more likely to choose Clinton or Bob Dole for President. Respondents were asked five questions, four of which tested attitudes toward sex: Do you believe homosexuality is morally wrong? Do you ever personally look at pornography? Would you look down on someone who had an affair while married? Do you believe sex before marriage is morally wrong? The fifth question was whether religion was very important in the voter's life.
Respondents who took the "liberal" stand on three of the five questions supported Clinton over Dole by a two-to-one ratio; those who took a liberal stand on four or five questions were, not surprisingly, even more likely to support Clinton. The same was true in reverse for those who took a "conservative" stand on three or more of the questions. (Someone taking the liberal position, as pollsters define it, dismisses the idea that homosexuality is morally wrong, admits to looking at pornography, doesn't look down on a married person having an affair, regards sex before marriage as morally acceptable, and views religion as not a very important part of daily life.) 

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Let's stop and ask a few questions about religion and that Republican romp

Let's stop and ask a few questions about religion and that Republican romp

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: If you were working on the religion beat these days, especially if you were still new on the beat, wouldn't you welcome advice from someone who had excelled at this work at the highest levels for decades?

I recently had a long talk in New York City with Richard Ostling -- by all means review his bio here -- to ask if, along with his Religion Guy Q&A pieces, he would experiment with memos in which he offered his observations on what was happening, or what might happen, with stories and trends on the beat. He said he might broaden that, from time to time, with observations on writing about religion -- period.

To which I said, "Amen." -- tmatt

*****

Grumble  if you wish, but in this era of perpetual campaigns it’s nearly time for the usual news media blitz assessing evangelical Protestants’ presidential feelings about the Republicans’ notably God-fearing 2016 list.

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