Analyze this -- the Religious Left

left A few days ago, I called on reporters to examine why Catholics in the Wisconsin primary had moved from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. In response to my post, faithful GR reader Dale made a good point: Catholic voters migrated away from Clinton at the same rate as lower-income voters. Take it away Dale:

The swing of support from Clinton to Obama among Wisconsin lower income voters was nearly as strong as that among Catholics (22% versus 24%). Does that mean that Clinton is losing ground among lower income people, or that lower income people who support Obama have more of a presence in Wisconsin than they did in previous non-South primary states? I don't think there's enough information in the numbers to tell us one or the other is true, or for that matter, whether Clinton is losing support among Catholics qua Catholics.

Perhaps Frank Newport at Gallup followed our exchange, although I doubt it. (Tip o' the hat to Spiritual Politics) Newport found that Hillary Clinton has fared far better among highly religious white Democrats than Obama. As he noted,

All in all, in interviews conducted Feb. 15-20 as part of Gallup Poll Daily election tracking, 57% of white, non-Hispanic Democratic voters who attend church support Clinton, while only 29% support Obama. Among those who attend church less frequently or never, Clinton's support drops while Obama's climbs.

If Newport listened to our exchange, he took Dale's advice to heart. His story showed that even controlling for age and gender, Clinton fared far better with highly religious white Democrats.

I know, Newport neglected to control for income, geography, denomination, etc. He also did not put Clinton's lead among highly religious white Democrats in the proper context. Does Clinton do significantly better among this group than other demographic groups?

Even so, Newport's story deserves praise. None of the major newspapers or networks has broken down the vote among white religious Democrats so comprehensively. Also, his story showed that religiosity is a factor in Clinton's campaign, though its extent is unclear.

My only real criticism with Newport's story was its failure to probe why highly religious white Democrats support the former First Lady. As he wrote,

In general, one does not typically associate Clinton with conservative positions on the values positions that the typical religious voter cares about: abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research. But Democratic voters in the remaining primary states may have other concerns that she can tap into, and if the Clinton campaign is able to devise a strategy for nurturing her connection to religious voters, it could make a difference.

No, Clinton is not associated with conservative positions on the values issues, but all religious voters are not guided by hot-button cultural positions. The war, health care, Darfur, global warming -- you know, those issues are also kind of a big deal to millions of highly religious white Democrats. Surely, Mr. Newport has heard of the Religious Left. So why not ask questions related to their concerns?

Go all the way, Mr. Newport. You showed one big trend among highly religious white Democrats. Now examine why there was a trend in the first place.

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