Last night, while watching the election returns from Super Tuesday roll in, I pined for the Democratic presidential contests of the 1970s. Talk about good coverage. Reporters wrote stories about Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern battling for the Catholic vote; about McGovern's choice of two Catholics, Senators Eagleton and Shriver, as his running mates; about Jimmy Carter's outreach to Catholics in the decisive Iowa caucus.
So did reporters write about Catholic voters, or those of any religious group? Nope. Not when covering the Democrats.
The New York Times did not write about them. The Boston Globe did not write about them. The Chicago Tribune did not write about them. And so far, no publication has discovered whether Edison/Mitofsky asked voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses about their religious affiliation and practice.
To be sure, some pollsters have reached conclusions about Democrats and religion. Consider John Green's analysis on a recent episode of Religion & Ethics Weekly at PBS:
There's a couple of interesting patterns here. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have competed very evenly for the votes of white Protestants, both mainline Protestants and evangelical Protestants. And in the states where Senator Obama has won, such as in Iowa, he tended to do a little bit better in that competition. Whereas the states where Senator Clinton won, she tended to do a little bit better -- so a lot of division among white Protestants. Part of the dynamic here, though, is age. Barack Obama seems to have done very well with younger evangelicals, younger mainline Protestants -- some of them very observant in religious terms, but also some of them perhaps not as observant. So he's kind of gotten both ends of the spectrum. Whereas Senator Clinton really appealed much more to older mainline Protestants and evangelicals.
Green's conclusions are not exactly firm. Younger evangelicals like Obama; older evangelicals like Clinton. That doesn't sound like a religious divide.
Later in the interview, Green noted one possibly interesting development:
One of the really interesting things here is that Senator Clinton really has done a lot better in the Catholic vote in all of the early primary states. She's done very well among white Catholics, a critical constituency for the fall campaign. She's also done well among Hispanic Catholics. That's one area where Senator Obama has not been able to compete as effectively thus far.
Fair enough. On Tuesday, Clinton won most of the heavily Catholic states -- Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York. But are these Catholics voting for her out of economic self interest, Catholic social teaching, or both?
Readers are left in the dark. Just like they are in the rest of the Democratic coverage.