Pew’s got its new religion-and-politics survey up, and its lede is the not-so-new news that Americans are less enthusiastic about mixing religion and politics than they were a couple of years ago. Gallup had a bead on this story two years ago. As John Green and I put it in a story in Religion in the News last year:
Throughout President Bush’s first term, annual Gallup surveys found that more Americans believed organized religion should have greater influence in the nation than believed it should have less. For the past three years, however, it’s been the other way around.
What Pew adds is a major change in the views of conservatives in this regard: Two years ago 30 percent of conservatives believed that churches should stay out of politics; now, 50 percent do. The Bush Enchantment has waned, and a sadder but wiser conservative religious community appears to be pulling in its political horns.
Nonetheless, Pew finds that evangelicals are showing no sign of swinging to Obama. When it comes to presidential preferences, the main difference is that they are far less enthusiastic about John McCain this year than they were about George Bush four years ago. I remain persuaded that it is important to keep an eye on possible regional variations in the evangelical vote this year. My hypothesis is that on the West Coast and (most importantly) in the Midwest, a significant fraction of evangelicals are attracted to Obama. The most recent evidence of this comes from the latest Humphrey poll, which shows evangelicals in Minnesota favoring McCain by only 57-32 percent. If Obama ends up getting upwards of 30 percent of the evangelical vote in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, he’s in good shape.
Now, back to Frenchman’s Bay.