Religion Gap Lives

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Gallup’s out with a new poll that shows that yes, Virginia, there is a religion (or, if you prefer, a God) gap. The issue at hand is not, as in the exit polls, frequency of worship attendance but whether religion is or is not “important in my life.” In the aggregate, McCain leads 50-40 among the “importants,” Obama 55-36 among the “non-importants.” The biggest margin is to be found among non-Hispanic, non-Catholic white Christian importants, who favor McCain 63-27; the not importants in that demographic break even. No surprise there. Non-Hispanic white Catholics break similarly, but the margin among the importants for McCain is 20 points smaller. Among Hispanics and blacks, the difference in preference between the two religious categories is negligible. There’s a result for Jews, of interest in part because the exit polls don’t turn up enough of them for the relevant cross-tabs. Jewish importants break even between McCain and Obama, while Jewish not importants favor Obama 68 percent to 26 percent. Apart from showing an expected religiosity divide, these numbers indicate a level of Jewish support for the Republican presidential candidate higher than anything seen since Ronald Reagan: just 55-33 for the Democrat. (Importants are 39 percent, not importants 61 percent of the Jewish population.)
Update: I’m not an expert in these things, but it seems to me that there may be a bit of a problem with Gallup’s numbers because the sample results from summing up surveys done from March through June. Not only did a lot happen on the religion front during that period (including the whole Wright affair), but for most of it Obama was not the Democratic nominee. So although they ended up with a sample of nearly 95,000, which in normal circumstances means a tiny margin of error (plus or minus one), I wonder if the results are somewhat skewed in McCain’s favor, at least compared to what they would be if the entire survey had been taken in the past few weeks. Maybe Pollster will have something to say about this.