“God Gap” Increased in 2006 Elections
Bottom line: the polarization that separates religious people and secular people (the latter group including a fairly large number of nominally religious) increased. Particularly instructive were comparisons with 2002, the last national non-presidential election year.
The GOP held on to voters who attend religious services more than once a week, 60% of whom voted Republican compared with 61% in 2002. A majority (53%) of those who attend church at least once a week also supported Republicans. But less frequent churchgoers were much more supportive of Democrats than they were four years ago. Among those who attend church a few times a year, for instance, 60% voted Democratic, compared with 50% in 2002. And among those who never go to church, 67% voted Democratic; four years ago, only 55% did so. As a result, the gap in Democratic support between those who attend church more than once a week and those who never attend church has grown from 18 percentage points in 2002 to 29 points today.In other words, there was a general swing toward the Democrats (obvious on election night) but those who frequently attend religious services moved hardly at all in a Democratic direction, while those who seldom or never attend religious services moved sharply in Democratic direction.
Thus two things were going on. 2006 was a “deviating” election in which short-term forces favored the Democrats. But it also continued the “secular realignment” — here “secular” means it’s happening over decades — which is sorting out the parties.
The Mainstream Media spin on the election was that white evangelical voters voters were going to defect from the Republicans in large numbers, supposedly because of the “outing” of Republican Representative Mark Foley as a homosexual who exchanged obscene e-mails with a former page. This fit nicely into the Mainstream Media stereotypes of conservative Christians as homophobes would would go ballistic at learning that a Republican congressman might be gay.
In fact, evangelical Christians yet again calculated that, on issues like abortion and gay marriage, they are better represented by the Republicans.