Kerry and Bush are tied at 44 percent of nation-wide RV’s, with 11 percent unsure, according to an Investor’s Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor/TIPP Poll conducted 9/22-27.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
June 2: Rise of Religious “Nones” a Mixed Blessing for Democrats
Since I’m always standing at the intersection of politics and religion, I’m always interested in fresh data on the subject, and wrote some up at New York:
One of the big predictions in American politics lately, of infinite comfort to embattled progressives, is that the increasing number of religiously non-affiliated Americans, particularly among younger generations, will spur a steady leftward drift. Perhaps that will mean, we are told, that Democrats will be able to build their elusive permanent majority on the grounds of abandoned houses of worship. Or perhaps, some hope, the religious roots of today’s Republican extremism will begin to wither away, allowing American conservatives to resemble their less intemperate distant cousins in other advanced democracies, ending the culture wars.
Both propositions may be true. But it’s a mistake to treat so-called nones as an undifferentiated secularist mass, as Eastern Illinois University political scientist Ryan Burge explains with some fresh data. He notes that “in 2022, 6% of folks were atheists, 6% were agnostics, and another 23% were nothing in particular.” This large bloc of “nothing in particular” voters may lean left, all other things being equal, but they tend to be as uninterested in politics as in religion, making them a less than ideal party constituency. He explains:
“To put this in context, in 2020 there were nearly as many nothing in particulars who said that they voted for Trump as there were atheists who said that they voted for Biden.
“While atheists are the most politically active group in the United States in terms of things like donating money and working for a campaign, the nothing in particulars are on another planet entirely.
“They were half as likely to donate money to a candidate compared to atheists. They were half as likely to put up a political sign. They were less than half as likely to contact a public official.
“This all points to the same conclusion: they don’t vote in high numbers. So, while there may be a whole bunch of nothing in particulars, that may not translate to electoral victories.”
As Burge mentioned, however, there is a “none” constituency that leans much more strongly left and is very engaged politically — indeed, significantly more engaged than the white evangelicals we’re always hearing about. That would be atheists. In a separate piece, he gets into the numbers:
“The group that is most likely to contact a public official? Atheists.
“The group that puts up political signs at the highest rates? Atheists.
“HALF of atheists report giving to a candidate or campaign in the 2020 presidential election cycle.
“The average atheist is about 65% more politically engaged than the average American.”
And as Thomas Edsall points out in a broader New York Times column on demographic voting patterns, atheists really are a solid Democratic constituency, supporting Biden over Trump in 2020 by an incredible 87 to 9 percent margin. It’s worth noting that the less adamant siblings of the emphatically godless, agnostics, also went for Biden by an 80 to 17 percent margin and are more engaged than “nothing in particulars” as well.
So should Democrats target and identify with atheists? It’s risky. Despite the trends, there are still three times as many white evangelicals as atheists in the voting population. And there are a lot more religious folk of different varieties, some of whom have robust Democratic voting minorities or even majorities who probably wouldn’t be too happy with their party showing disdain for religion entirely. There’s also a hunt-where-the-ducks-fly factor: If atheists and agnostics already participate in politics and lean strongly toward Democrats, how much attention do they really need? There’s a reason that politicians, whatever their actual religious beliefs or practices, overwhelmingly report some religious identity. Congress lost its one professed atheist when California representative Pete Stark lost a Democratic primary in 2012; the only professed agnostic in Congress is Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, whose political future isn’t looking great.
It’s a complicated picture. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat argues that American liberalism’s increasing identification with secularism is keeping a lot of conservative Christians from politically expressing their reservations about Donald Trump. And religious people beyond the ranks of conservative faith communities may feel cross-pressured if Democratic politicians begin to reflect the liberal intelligentsia’s general assumption that religion is little more than a reactionary habit rooted in superstition and doomed to eventual extinction.
Perhaps it makes more sense for Democratic atheists and agnostics to spend time educating and mobilizing the “nothing in particular” Americans who already outnumber white evangelicals and ought to be concerned about how they’ll be treated if a Christian-nationalist Gilead arises. Only then can “nones” become the salvation for the Democratic Party.
I would acknowledge that there were some polls that seemed to show some momentum for Dubya, but I will stick to my point that the name recognition of Gallup makes them a little more influential than other polls. Thus I think a careful critique of their process is warranted.
It is interesting that the election is soooooo close that even the polls themselves are competing.
I do like ARG and Zogby, but I do consider other polls as well.
I also get the sense that besides political junkies like us, many people are just now taking a close look at the race and I think that this will bode well for Kerry. They already know ( and don’t like) GW.
I don’t know what to make of Zogby, as his polling techniques differ significantly from most others. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s wrong. Nobody’s perfect.
But I don’t buy the theory that he intentionally biases his polls (pre-or-post 9/11.) And as to the idea that he’s in the tank with the Democratic party, I might remind everyone of the 1996 election, when his surveys showed Bill Clinton winning with a significantly lower margin than other polls forecast–and Zogby was correct. (In fact, if I recall correctly, the weekend prior to the election he had Clinton’s margin shrinking to a dangerously low 2% or so over Bob Dole.) The GOP at the time hailed him as the best pollster in the business. Maybe he’s adjusted his methods since, but I don’t think he’s deliberately cooking the numbers just to favor Democrats.
pro-Kerry — then your average is more like 3-4 points than 6-9.
Posted by km at September 29, 2004 11:17 AM
The bigger picture on all of these results are that
Bush has not moved above the 47% approval rating
month after month for the past year, if you take out
the discredited media polls.
Three other factors, the past three presidents elected by the electoral college have not been
re-elected, no president with an approval rating
below 50% has been re-elected, and no president
with negatives on the economy and war has been
re-elected. The electronic media is doing it’s best
to put the best face on this story. The true strory is that Bush is in big trouble and lack of media coverage is the major factor dragging down Kerry.
Even with all of the misinformation coming out of the electronic media, Bush’s poll standings show
how much effect the 2000 election has on the voters
perceptions. If the new voters can overcome all
of the obstacles being thrown in their way Kerry
will win easily.
Km, Point well taken, but small (3-4) leads in general translate into decisive Electoral College victories, ie 300 EC votes for the winner. Whether GWB wins by 3-4 or 6-9 makes no difference to me.
That was prior to 9/11 when Zogby was widely viewed as a balanced pollster. Since then he has aligned himself more closely with the views of his brother Jim, the President of a Bush hating Arab organization in the US.
As a case in point, Zogby completely blew the 2002 midterms: He had Dems Mondale (MN), Cleland (GA) & Carnahan (MO) all winning by comfortable marginsl, but they all lost.
A final point to consider regarding Zogby: A few months ago he suggested the race was Kerry’s to lose and has been making very Pro Kerry comments ever since. It’s in HIS interest to tilt his poll to match HIS pre-ordained POV.
Apparently in Smooth Jazz’s world, any poll that doesn’t show a substantial Bush lead favors Dems.
We’ve clearly got two universes of polls going on out there — one assuming a whopping GOP-ID-ing edge, and one assuming 2000 status quo. The first batch are bad news for Bush, since an incumbent really needs to crack 50% or he’s in trouble; the second group say he’s home free (though with the lowest re-elect percentage of any incumbent since Truman). It’s possible on or other of these sets of polls will break decisively before Election Day, but more likely, we’ll be in the dark till returns start pouring in.
I’m not sure the general public pays as much attention to polls as we do. The newly registered voters in lower income areas wouldn’t even have the time, trying to make ends meet. Now, if only Bush’s goons will let them vote!
i think this attack on Zogby is unwarranted. Zogby got the last 2 presidential elections dead on.
I certainly wouldn’t characterize ARG as a Democratic poll — I thought the opposite was true.
Additionally, if you throw in Rasmussen, Economist and Fox News — all of which are Bush by two or less, and none of which can be accused of being pro-Kerry — then your average is more like 3-4 points than 6-9.
New Economist poll is also a dead heat — 46-46.
I like their poll because it has such a large sample (about 2500), which for a nationwide poll is good.
Here’s the link:
I hear you, but consider this: Wash Post/ABC, CBS, Pew, AP and Battleground, all came out with results similar to Gallup – GWB up 6-9 points among RVs and a similar margin among LVs. You can trash Gallup all you want, but if ALL other polls taken at a similar time show a similar result, then there is a degree of finality that is taking over, notwithstanding the offensive against Gallup.
At the same time, I would be careful about cocooning yourself with results from ARG & Zogby ONLY as the panacea of all credible polls. These entities are arguably Dem leaning, so you focus on them exclusively at your peril. At a minumum, I would average those 2 with all the other public polls to avoid getting false comfort from sympathetic Kerry surveys only.
Great points by Steve.
Very unfortunate that Gallup is such a “brand name” that the general public accepts their information without question.
Will be interesting to see if MoveOn’s anti-Gallup ad has any effect on the polling industry.
I am very hopeful that the Zogby-Arg polls will be more accurate and lead to a big election-night surprise for Kerry.
There has been a lot of discussion
over how polls are skewed but even
the NYT article on Gallup doesn’t
begin to touch on the systematic
disinformation that comes from
the media reading the Gallup polls
along with the GOP talking points
right off the prompter.
It used to be the CIA’s job to
influence elections overseas.
Now Porter Goss has been charged
to merge all the intelligence
As we observe CIA disinformation
activity in Iraq begining to be
a factor in how people vote
in the US its worth noting
that how the polls are reported
is a self fulfilling prophecy.
The GOP uses pre-emptive strikes
to paint Kerry into corners where
he can’t get his message out
Issue: Bush is a deserter in time of war
Effect: Vietnam and candidate service
records are old news, everybody served
Issue: Republican Lies
Example: Bush inherited a recession
Tax break helps economy (as we can see)
War on Terror becomes Patriot Act
Exchange Freedom for Security
Unilateral urgency of WMD’s
becomes Liberate Iraq from ruthless dictator
who tortures people in Abu Garoube
becomes bring Democracy to the Near East
becomes nation building Bush campaigned against
becomes to argue not to stay the course in the
face of an unwinnable and disastrous popular
uprising and civil war is unpatriotic
becomes polls show American voters still
support Bush on issues of terrorism and Iraq
PES: Kerry is flip flopper
Effect: Long list of Republican Lies to itemize
becomes Kerry changing his mind
about what the issues are.
Issue:Anybody but Bush
PES: Kerry is a weak candidate
Effect: Internal Democratic
anybody but Kerry
weakens base support,
Bush is perceived as strong
and effective rather than
stubborn and incompetent
PES: Bush is ahead in the polls,
Kerry as underdog needs to win
Effect: post debate spin builds on
pre debate polling
It’s like that
Gallup, Strategic, Vision,
Survey USA, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN,
Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post
all use the same old discredited
Zogby, ARG, Rasmussen, TIPP/CSM,
and others that match their sampling
to the actual demographics get
Having polsters, pundits and
reporters less knowledgable about
the election than the people
who get their information from
the net is something new.
The next step would be to get to
the point where what we know
get’s disseminated with the same
force as cable news and radio.
Talking points should be poll
skewing not rules of debate.