A head-to-head poll of nation-wide LV’s by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted 9/12-14 for Democracy Corps has Bush ahead of Kerry 49-48 percent with 1 percent going for other.
TDS Strategy Memos
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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.
The difference is there in both 3-day and 7-day tracking data. Never mind! Strange though how the spread is similar in both 3 day (4.6) and 7 day (3.7). The one day jump must have been enormous to add 2% difference to the previous 7 day average.
Probably a sampling error. When you take a poll every day, you wind up with a bad sample now and then. When looking at a tracking poll, the important thing is the trend, not the daily number. The trend for Bush has been downward since the end of the convention and Kerry’s trend has been upward since then. When the bad sample rolls off, the numbers will narrow again.
Rasmussen just switch from a 3 day rolling average to a 7 day or 14 day rolling average. This could explain the sudden jump in the number since it would include some of the early post-convention data If true it will smooth out in about 4-7 days.
Any body have suggestions though on why Rasmussen’s rolling daily poll suddenly showed what had been a Bush lead of one percent or less for several days jumping to about five points today? This is a three day rolling poll, so if the numbers are remotely correct, something weird happened. I’d love for somebody to ‘explain’ this since Rasmussen has not seemed off base before. T.J.
Yeah, tony, that occurred to me, too (the most famous example is the percentage of people who, post-assassination, said that they had voted for Kennedy–it was a huge percentage). In this case, the other numbers are not representative, either. 80 percent white, 10 percent black, 7 percent hispanic, whereas those last two numbers were in the 12-13 percent range in the 2000 census. What are the demographics of people who no longer have land lines, but only cell phones? Who will they vote for? Does any pollster know?
Remember that when people are asked who they voted for in 2000, it’s quite likely that some will be in error. Perhaps they did not actually vote, but want to identify with a winner, so they say they voted for Bush. Or perhaps they want to convince themselves they voted for a winner and so say they voted for Bush. Evidence of differential reported voting patterns in 2000 does not necessarily mean you’re looking at a nonrepresentative sample.
Never mind. I just found it’s the Democracy Corps poll.
Paul, what new poll are you referring to? The Democracy Corps survey? I know that the Time magazine poll had an similar unrepresentative majority of Bush 2000 voters.
The biggest difference between now and last month is that all polls switched to using LVs, which exaggerated bush bounce. Conversely it will also underestimate the drop in the bounce.
Page 19 of this new poll shows that of those who were polled, 43 percent voted for Gore in 2000, and 51 percent voted for Bush. Since we all remember that more people voted for Gore in 2000, there seems to be a bias in the polling sample towards Bush. There is no indication that the polling percentages were weighted to account for this, but it’s hard to believe that wouldn’t be taken into account.
What I don’t understand is how many news magazines are continuing to use poll data taken during the Republican convention. Today’s TIME had the same Sept. 7 poll that most newspapers stopped citing over a week ago.
Seems to me like in the information age the print media is always a bit behind the curve.
My post should say Kerry is leading by 1 among LVs.
timshel, They likely rounded off the numbers. If the Kerry number is 46.4 and the leaning Kerry is 1.4, that adds up to 47.8, which rounds off to 48.
Here’s more good polling news: Harris has Kerry leading by among LVs, and Bush’s reelect number is just 45 percent. I read this on the Wall Street Journal site.
Presumably roundoff error is playing a role here.
It looks to me like they have their own totals incorrect. When asked who you would vote for (or something similar),
46% said Kerry
1% said Lean Kerry
48% said Bush
1% said Lean Bush.
Wouldn’t that mean the poll shows Bush ahead 49 to 47, as opposed to 49 to 48?