For months, I have complained that newspapers have given readers too little information about the electoral preferences of religious and non-religious voters. Then came last Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. Now I know where to look for more information: the denominational press (the competing Baptist newsrooms, to be specific). Standing out from the pack was Robert Marus of the progressive Associated Baptist Press. Some papers noted that Catholic Democrats voted heavily for Clinton; CNN and The New York Times gave readers the raw data. Yet only Marus sliced and diced the religious vote on the day after the primary.
For example, early in his story Marus presented his readers with this information:
Catholics -- who represented 36 percent of all Democratic voters -- chose her over Obama by a whopping 40-point margin, 70 percent to 30 percent.
Pennsylvania's Protestants went for Clinton in percentages almost identical to that of the commonwealth's overall Democratic electorate -- 55 percent to Obama's 45 percent. After Catholics, they made up the next largest religious category in the primary, with 24 percent of the total. Jews, who made up 8 percent of Pennsylvania's Democratic turnout, favored Clinton 62-38 percent.
Only three broad religious categories favored Obama in the state. Those who said they were Christian but did not identify as Protestant, Catholic or Mormon made up 13 percent of voters, and they favored Obama by a 2-to-1 margin. He also had a 24-point edge among those listing no religious affiliation, who made up 10 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats. And the six percent of primary voters who listed a religious affiliation other than Christian, Mormon, Jewish or Muslim went for Obama 58-42 percent.
Michael Foust of the conservative Baptist Press also beat the mainstream media to the story. Though his analysis was less detailed, Foust showed his readers that voters' religious observance was a factor in the Pennsylvania primary results:
Clinton carried the state, 55-45 percent, and edged Barack Obama among those who attend church weekly (61 percent to Obama's 39 percent) and more than weekly (51-49 percent), according to exit polls. Combined, the two groups made up 36 percent of Democratic voters. Obama won among those who never attend church, 56-44 percent (a group comprising 17 percent of voters).
The MSM did break down the religious vote -- four days after the Pennsylvania results were in. Jennifer Agiesta of The Washington Post wrote one of the better stories. Agiesta's two main insights related to religious observance and race:
In amassing her 10 percentage point win, Clinton had one of her strongest showings among white Catholics, who gave her a 44 percentage point margin over Obama and made up nearly a third of Keystone state Democratic primary voters. Among the most devout in this group, those who attend Mass at least weekly, Clinton won 3 to 1.
White Catholics have been a Clinton mainstay throughout the nomination contest. She has won the group by double-digits in 16 of the 22 states where data were available. In Pennsylvania, Clinton won 70 percent of all Catholics.
But among Protestants and other Christians, Obama's six percentage point win masks a sharp racial fissure. Black Protestants went for Obama, 93 percent to 7 percent, while white Protestants broke for Clinton, 59 to 41.
Voters who attend religious services weekly gave Clinton a double-digit margin, but this group, too, was divided by race. Black voters gave Obama a nearly 80-point margin, while whites went for Clinton by 36 points.
My only complaint with all three stories is their absence of information about why voters behaved as they did. Did Jewish voters break for Clinton based on her remarks about defending Israel from a hypothetical attack from Iran? Why did highly observant Catholics break heavily for Clinton while the same was not true for highly observant white Protestants? Was it perhaps related to the observations of Julia and Deacon John M. Bresnahan?
... (The ) talking heads on cable news television ... are hinting, implying, or openly saying that the reason Catholics in large numbers are writing off Obama as worthless is "racism." Yet word was spreading months ago among Catholics that on the issue of abortion Obama is by far and away the worst, most vicious proponent of abortion-on-demand in recent American political history -- even so fanatical on the issue that he favors infanticide after a failed abortion.
Unless reporters start asking those questions, readers will not know. If the denominational press breaks this story, too, the MSM will really be on its heels.