Search This Blog

Friday, January 6, 2012

Religion and the Upcoming Primaries

At Gallup, Frank Newport offers data about religion in the next three primary states:
The three remaining states with GOP primaries this month -- New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida -- present very different religious profiles, and therefore different religious contexts for the Republican candidates’ campaigns. 
The biggest religious distinction is between New Hampshire, which holds its primary Jan. 10, and South Carolina, which has its primary on Saturday, Jan. 21. New Hampshire is one of the least religious states in the union by any measure, while South Carolina is one of the most religious states. 
I base this analysis of the relative religiosity of the states on two measures: self-reported church attendance, and the percentage of residents who do not have a formal religious identity. 

Attend at least monthly
No Formal Rel. Identity
New Hampshire would be relative fertile ground for Santorum -- in the abstract -- given that it has a higher than average Catholic population. One problem with this assumption arises from my analysis of data from December indicated that Catholics nationally were no more likely to support either Santorum or Newt Gingrich (the other Catholic in the race) than any other candidate. So it’s not clear if Santorum will benefit politically from New Hampshire’s disproportionate Catholic skew.

On the other hand, the relative irreligiousness of New Hampshire residents would suggest that Santorum has no particularly strong religious constituency to play to leading up to next Tuesday's primary. This in theory may be less auspicious for Santorum’s chances of beating expectations in the Granite State.

The high level of religiosity of the residents of South Carolina would seem to be a plus for Santorum’s religious-centric, family-value-oriented campaign positioning. The low percentage of Catholics in South Carolina, on the other hand, does not give him any religious-branding advantage, and its possible that Protestants may have some lingering suspicion of Catholics, given that they are relatively rare in the Palmetto state.

Romney would appear to face a more significant challenge in South Carolina. As noted, our national polling suggests that highly religious Protestants Republicans are somewhat less likely to support Romney than the national average. And there are a lot of these in South Carolina.