Stalking the religious Democrats

cross in flag cropped smallHey, there you go. It has taken almost the whole primary season, but it now appears that the national press -- or, at least, the Washington Post, which is a big deal in my zip code -- has accepted that there are religious believers in the Democratic Party. Hurrah. Long-time GetReligion readers will remember that we've been harping on this story for several years now. What's next? Discovering that there are different kinds of religious believers in the party and that this has something to do with regional, racial and cultural tensions in the White House race and other contests as well?

But first things first. It appears that, for better and for worst, it was the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., who pulled the lever to yank this story into normality. Personally, I thought that the various "Catholic vote" factors would have done the trick.

So click here to get to the Post story with the headline "Wright Controversy Deepens Voter Divide -- Religious, Racial Split in N.C., Indiana." There is really nothing unusual in this story, other than the fact that reporters are getting to interpret some of the same kinds of exit-poll questions about Democrats that they have been seeing asked about people in God's On Party for years. Here is a sample:

In network exit polling, about the same number of voters in each state said they considered the situation with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. "very important" to their vote as those who said it was "not at all important." And most who gave the issue a heavy weight voted for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), while those who said it was not a factor went for Obama, the Illinois senator, by wide margins.

In both states, frequent churchgoers were more apt to say they were influenced by Wright than were less actively religious voters. In North Carolina, among those who said they attend religious services weekly, nearly six in 10 called Wright important to their vote, almost double the figure among those who never attend services. Even among Obama's own supporters in the Tarheel state, 45 percent who attend services weekly called the controversy important to their vote; among those, a third who rated it "very important."

In Indiana, the issue also split voters: About half of those who attend services weekly or occasionally rated the Wright issue important, while only a third of those who never attend services said the same.

What the story is lacking is any connection between religion and other issues -- such as the Iraq war, health care, abortion, the environment, gay marriage, etc. In other words, we are used to seeing -- in GOP coverage -- how religious factors (think "pew gap") affect voter's views on other subjects.

At this point, the coverage of the Democrats seems to be focused only on race and, to a lesser extent, the mere fact that people are "Catholics" (as if there there was one Catholic vote).

Still, it is good to get even the most basic, blunt data. This is progress, even if everything is coming through the Wright Stuff lens at the moment.

Beyond Wright, Democratic voters again divided along religious lines in Tuesday's primaries. Clinton carried white Catholics in both states, but by a smaller margin than she did in Pennsylvania two weeks ago. She won about two-thirds of white Protestants in Indiana and North Carolina.The two split weekly churchgoers in Indiana, and Obama held a 12-point edge among these voters in North Carolina. And active religious voters again divided along racial lines: Clinton won white weekly churchgoers in Indiana and North Carolina by 30-point margins, while Obama outpaced Clinton by better than 9 to 1 among blacks who attend church weekly.

Here's the main point, again. There is content to all of this, facts linked to what groups of people believe, how often they worship and other questions.

It would be good to see the same depth of coverage devoted to religious people on the left side of the political aisle -- heck, even people in the middle -- as on the right.

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