Well, DUH!?!? (updated)

voting boothWell, gosh, where have we heard this thought before?

Well, Leah Daughtry is the chief of staff for the Democratic Party and the head of the upcoming Democratic National Convention that will be held out in Denver. So this is an op-ed in the Washington Post that might get some attention (as opposed to week after week of GetReligionistas yelping about this same topic).

So, I hereby bring you: “Hey, Pollsters: Democrats Care About Religion, Too.” This is a sample, but you should read it all:

Religion will play an important role in today’s South Carolina Democratic primary, just as it did in last week’s South Carolina Republican primary. The difference is that we’ll learn less about how religion affects today’s vote than we learned about how it influenced last week’s contest.

Last week, thanks to exit polls, we understood the religious breakdown, how often voters attended religious services, whether they considered themselves born-again or evangelical Christians, whether they said the candidates’ religious beliefs mattered and what they thought about abortion. And the polls helped to shape the news coverage, so we saw headlines such as: “Evangelical Republicans Drive S.C. Primary” and Ideology, Religion Important in “S.C.”

If previous exit polls this cycle are any indicator, religion will be much less central to the exit polls today. At most, Democrats have been asked which religion they identify with and how often they go to church. In Iowa and Michigan, Democrats weren’t asked about religion at all. And that, in turn, has shaped the news coverage, making it appear that one party has a monopoly on religion in this race.

Daughtry goes on to say some logical things and some things that will make some people say, “Yeah, right.”

But the logical is clear and journalists should cheer for it. Pollsters need to be asking the same basic political and social issues questions on both sides of this race. I think it would help if people at, oh, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life even asked some doctrinal questions, too, to probe how basic religious beliefs actually affect political beliefs and actions.

But this op-ed is a start. Hopefully someone out there in pollster land will listen.

Help us watch the exit materials in the major newspapers tomorrow, post-South Carolina. Did anyone see anything interesting on the cable networks tonight on these issues? Did anyone ask the Democrats about God and/or social issues?

UPDATE: CNN does have some data
, but not much, and it does appear that Obama cleaned up in the pews. Click here to see some of the numbers. I’m a bit confused about the two church-attendance questions. One says “vote by church attendance” and the other says, well, “vote by church attendance.” Huh? Why do we need the second set of numbers, which simply seem to be some categories mashed together?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://ochobl.blogspot.com Brian Lewis

    Call me crazy, but Obama’s victory speech sounded almost as if it were written by Michael Gerson.

    I could hear echoes of Bible verses and old hymns.

  • http://blog.muchmorethanwords.com gfe

    My guess about the dual questions on the CNN site is that they had two exit-poll forms, maybe a short one and a long one, that they used, depending on the precinct or some other factor. That’s just a guess; it is confusing.

    More germane to the original question, I note that the exit poll on CNN for the Democrats shows that they asked about church attenance. But they didn’t ask about denomination or whether the voter is “born again.” On the GOP side they did.

    And, for what it’s worth, it appears that in South Carolina Democrats attend church almost as much as Republican do. A quarter said they attend church weekly, and another quarter said they attend more than weekly. (For Republicans it was about 30 percent weekly, 30 percent more than weekly.)

  • John Stolzenbach

    I would expect there to be high — and I mean high — percentages of black voters in the Democratic primaries who would also be church-going folk.

  • Martha

    Certainly, it seems like basic common sense that you can’t accurately state what part religion is playing in elections if you only ask the adherents of one party questions about religion.

    That’s like polling Party X voters to see if they ate vegetables, how often, what kind, what were their opinions on organic farming, etc. and then basing your entire story/campaign on “Vegetarians vote for Party X!” (or Party Y, depending on answeres) and appealing to the Vast Untapped Vegetarian Republocrat/Demican Vote out there.

  • Asinus Gravis

    It does look a bit like the journalists wrote their stories first, and then did some poling to generate numbers to fit the stories. So, we get stories about the religious Republicans and the secular Democrats. That certainly cuts down on the thinking time and frees up more time to be with one’s family, or traveling to the next primary state.

  • Peggy

    The 2nd “vote by church attendance” combines the previous data set’s categories to 3 general groups. In the 2nd set of data, “weekly” =”weekly” plus “more than weekly” above. Never remains never. Occasionally in 2nd set is “monthly” plus “a few times a year.” The same thing is going on with the 2 sets of “importance of Bill Clinton campaigning” data set. Responses were combined to more general categories. I’ve done that before in analyzing results of surveys I’ve had commissioned.


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