We know that white evangelicals have been a big force in the Iowa Republican caucuses at least since 1988, when they pushed Pat Robertson into second place (after Bob Dole) and scared the bejesus out of the George H.W. Bush campaign. We also know that white evangelicals matter a lot in the Minnesota GOP. So as the field of Obama opponents shakes itself out, it would be nice to know whom those white evangelicals find most congenial–not least because two Minnesota evangelical types, former guv Tim Pawlenty and current congresswoman Michele Bachmann (between whom there is no love lost) both want to seize the brass ring.
Unfortunately, however, the pollsters are forcing us to peer through the glass darkly. In its latest Iowa poll, Public Policy Polling doesn’t ask for respondents to identify themselves by religion. Neither does SurveyUSA In its latest Minnesota poll. Both an express an interest in Tea Party affiliation, and in ideology (liberal to conservative), but the standard question of the past few cycles–“Do you consider yourself a born-again or evangelical Christian?”–has disappeared. There’s not even a question about “social conservatives.”
I’m afraid I’m going to sound like a broken record on this, but I’m afraid that for lack of asking the question, the significance of religion in the coming election is going to be lost. So if white evangelicals (and Catholics and Jews and Mormons, and non-evangelical Protestants) vote in the forest and no pollsters take note, does that mean that we have passed the era when faith-based voting matters?