After reading stories about the New Hampshire election results last night, I remembered that 12 years ago Mark Penn and Dick Morris, two all-powerful pollsters for President Clinton, had discovered a remarkably effective polling technique.
Voters were asked five questions about their moral and religious values, including how often they attended church. Those who gave a liberal answer on three of the five questions voted for Clinton, while those who gave a conservative answer on three of the five went for Bob Dole. (Click here for an old tmatt column on that issue and, well, secularism.)
Except for race and party affiliation, the technique proved to be a more reliable guide to voter behavior than any other, more reliable than gender, social class, or age. It certainly was prescient in forecasting the red-state, blue-state divide that characterized the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.
Unlike last week, when the Edison-Mitofsky poll inexplicably failed to ask voters about religion, its pollsters did so yesterday. So did reporters write about voters’ religiosity? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but no, not really.
The Boston Globe focused on female, young, and independent voters. The Chicago Tribune wrote mostly about female voters. The Washington Post offered nothing. The New York Times did write about the evangelical vote, but the block quote below was about the extent of it:
As for Mr. Huckabee, his advisers say he has not written off Michigan and believe that his evangelical credentials will appeal to the large swath of Dutch Reformed evangelical churchgoers in western Michigan, while his populist rhetoric about his empathy with working people will strike a chord with the stateâ€™s blue-collar voters.
Hey, I know the main story last night was the two “comeback” victories of Hillary Clinton and John McCain. I will also concede that in the primaries, the voters of women, young people, and independents are telling indicators of a candidate’s strength. But do reporters really think that voters’ religious affiliation and frequency of church attendance aren’t worth writing about?
If reporters choose to analyze the voting returns in terms of religion, they will find plenty of material. Barack Obama won the secular vote handily. He beat Hillary Clinton 45 to 29 among those who have no religion. Almost two-fifths of Democratic voters (37 percent) say they never attend religious services. Mike Huckabee won only 7 percent of the Catholic vote and only 4 percent of those Republicans who have no religion. More than a fifth of Republican voters (22 percent said they never attend religious services.
All those sound like interesting and relevant stories to me. So why haven’t reporters written about them? GR readers, we need to hear from you.