by Lowman S. Henry | February 03, 2004

Republicans corner the market on religious voters

The saying goes there are two things you should not talk about in polite company: religion and politics. Since I always like to turn political correctness on its ear, today we’re going to talk about both at the same time.

In the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential election much has been written about the wide gulf between the “blue” (ie: liberal Democrat) states, and the “red” (ie: conservative Republican) states. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has shed considerable light on the critical role Americans’ religious beliefs and practices plays in fueling this divide.

Steven Thomma, of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Washington Bureau, researched the impact of religion on politics and came to the conclusion that if you: “Want to know how Americans will vote next Election Day? Watch what they do the weekend before.”

Thomma’s succinct conclusion sums up the Pew poll’s findings that American voting patterns are increasingly determined by the degree to which religion plays a role in the individual voter’s life. This religious fervor is breaking solidly in favor of Republican candidates. The poll found voters who regularly attend religious services supported George Bush 63% to 37% over his rival, Al Gore. Conversely, voters who never or rarely attend religious services backed Democrats 62% to 38%.

The “God Gap” has been greatly widened by President Bush himself who makes no secret of the fact religion rescued him from what could have been a life of alcoholism and anguish. His personal relationship with Christ clearly guides the President’s approach to national policy – and the Pew poll finds voters approve.

Fifty-eight percent of those participating in the Pew poll said the President relies on his own religious beliefs to make decisions “about the right amount” of time, while 21% said he should rely more on his religious beliefs, and only 10% said he does so too often.

These poll results fly in the face of the mainstream media’s portrayal of Bush as being out of step with America by making too much of religion in his public life. If anything, with 21% saying he should rely on religion more often, there is room for the President to evangelize even further.

Overall, 41% of voters told the Pew pollsters that political leaders don’t express their religious faith enough, while only 21% felt they did so too much. These results statistically validate the fact that America remains a deeply religious nation that is comfortable with the mingling of religion and public policy.

This should come as no surprise. After all, America is a land founded in large measure by those from other nations seeking to escape religious oppression and to find a new home where they would have the freedom to worship in whatever manner they saw fit. That heritage has not only sustained itself, but grown even stronger through the 225 plus years of our national experience.

This year’s crop of Democrat Presidential candidates has been ham-handed in dealing with the issue. Aside from the Reverend Al Sharpton and Senator Joe Lieberman, who has always publicly proclaimed the importance of religion in his life, attempts by Democrat candidates to invoke spiritual themes have sounded hollow and insincere. One candidate, in fact, derisively said “God, Guns and Gays” motivated the Republican electorate.

Polling now shows that statement, at least as is relates to religion, to be accurate. Religion plays a politically defining role in “red state” America . While it may be sacrilegious to suggest God is a Republican, there is no doubt Republicans rally around Him. And despite liberal efforts to downplay the issue, religion will play a major – perhaps decisive role in this November’s election.