Given all the talk that takes place in the fevered swamps of right-wing American paranoia about president Obama secretly being a Kenyan/Indonesian Muslim or godless Commie, coupled with the major war waged by the Catholic hierarchy against Obama on the issues of contraception and abortion (which has conveniently pushed aside all discussion about its abusive and pedophilic priests), one would expect that there might be a big gap in support among religious people for the two candidates.
But according to a recent poll conducted by the Hartford Courant and UConn, that does not seem to be the case. Mark Silk, a professor of religion at Trinity College, looks at the survey results and comments on the conclusions.
And what we find is that frequent attenders prefer the GOP ticket (Romney/Ryan) by 51 percent to 43 percent. That’s down by one-third from the 55-43 margin for the GOP (McCain/Pain) in 2008.
Then there are the occasional attenders, who in 2008 preferred Obama/Biden 57-42. That margin has now been cut by nearly two-thirds, to 49-43. Finally. we have those who never darken the door of a house of worship. They strongly prefer Obama/Biden, but by a modestly smaller margin than in 2008: 61-31 compared to 67-30.
What’s most striking about the God Gap this year is that for the first time since 1960 (!) it’s smaller than the Gender Gap. In 2008, women preferred the Democratic ticket to the Republican one by 13 points; the Courant/UConn poll show that gap now running at 17 points. In 2008, men preferred the Democratic ticket by a single point; they are now going Republican by 12 points. The differential between the two gaps was 16 points in 2008; it’s now running at 29 points.
It seems, in short, that gender is now trumping religious identity.
I must admit that I am a little puzzled by these results. Why is the Obama/Biden ticket doing better among frequent and occasional attenders now than they did against the McCain/Palin ticket but worse among the less religious?
What I also found interesting is the percentage of people who attend religious services once a week or more (those classified as frequent attenders) is only 43% and while those who attend just once or twice a month (the occasional attenders) is an additional 14%. That means only 57% of people take their religious observances seriously enough to show up at least once a month. No wonder the Catholic bishop of Cleveland complains that only a quarter of Catholics attend mass weekly though it is obligatory for them to do so. Intentionally not going is a ‘mortal sin’, which is no laughing matter since it results in “exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell”, unless you repent to a priest and are forgiven.
The number who never attend religious services is 18% which is consistent with the recent Pew survey results that found the number of religiously unaffiliated to be 20%.