Friday, February 16, 2007

God Gap


Exit Poll Results – The "God Gap" Widens

In recent years, some have asked whether the Democratic Party has a serious "God problem" – an inability to appeal to evangelicals and other highly religious Americans. But the results of this year's election raise the parallel question of whether the Republican Party can appeal to non-Christians and less religious voters. Exit polls find that the Democrats' gains were concentrated among non-Christians and secular voters, indicating an even larger political divide between highly religious voters and the rest of American society.

The GOP held on to voters who attend religious services more than once a week, 60% of whom voted Republican compared with 61% in 2002. A majority (53%) of those who attend church at least once a week also supported Republicans. But less frequent churchgoers were much more supportive of Democrats than they were four years ago. Among those who attend church a few times a year, for instance, 60% voted Democratic, compared with 50% in 2002. And among those who never go to church, 67% voted Democratic; four years ago, only 55% did so. As a result, the gap in Democratic support between those who attend church more than once a week and those who never attend church has grown from 18 percentage points in 2002 to 29 points today.


Though white evangelical voters have been the bedrock of the GOP throughout this decade, many wondered in the days leading up to the election if the party's troubles this year would hurt their prospects with this key voter group. But the GOP actually did very well among white evangelicals in 2006: 72% voted Republican in races for the U.S. House nationwide, and they gave strong support -- about two-thirds or more -- to Republican Senate candidates in several key states, including Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri and Virginia. These levels of support are comparable to those registered by evangelicals in 2004, when approximately 75% voted for Republican congressional candidates.


Most Americans (60%) – including majorities of white mainline Protestants (56%), black Protestants (84%), white Catholics (60%) and seculars (72%) -- say they are happy that the Democrats won the election. Only among white evangelicals did as many express unhappiness as happiness with the Democrats' victory (41% each).

Similarly, by a 50%-21% margin, Americans say they approve of Democratic congressional leaders' policies and plans for the future. Nearly half of white mainline Protestants (48%) and majorities of black Protestants, white Catholics and seculars express approval of the Democratic agenda. White evangelicals express much lower approval for the Democrats' plans, but nearly as many evangelicals express approval (32%) as disapproval (37%). And majorities of all religious groups, including 57% of evangelicals, expect the Democrats to be successful in getting their programs passed into law.

Immediately post-election there were stories out with somewhat different exit poll numbers. I don't know what accounts for this.