The Blog

A Familiar Pattern

10:28 AM, Mar 3, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
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Last week I wrote that neither party's front-runner enjoyed broad support among frequent churchgoers--a key target group for both parties in 2008. Exit polls show that those who attend church more than once a week prefer Clinton to Obama and Huckabee over McCain. Neither party will nominate the top choice of the regular church crowd.

So what about a head-to-head match up between Obama and McCain? Turns out that when confronted with that choice, a familiar pattern emerges. Regular churchgoers and those who don't attend are perfect mirror images of each other.

Gallup's Frank Newport reports based on his most recent survey, those who attend church regularly favor John McCain over Obama by a margin of 58 to 36. Those who attend "seldom or never" support Obama over McCain by 58 to 37.

This tilt in the electorate--with the more religious siding with the Republican candidate and Democrats winning the allegiance of secular voters--is not new. It has been a dominant predictor in American politics since at least 1980, Newport points out.

The composition of the religious divide also points to a close election. Gallup data reveal about equal proportions of the electorate go to church "at least once a week or almost every week" (between 43 and 45 percent, based on several surveys) compared to those who say "seldom" or "never" (between 39 and 42 percent). Maybe both sides should start saying their prayers.