Well, 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?