New Hampshire Exit Polls and Religion

The exit polls from New Hampshire show many trends, such as increased support for Obama with greater education, higher income, younger age, and lack of party affiliation. unlike in Iowa, Clinton won among women, possibly aided by the video of her showing emotion the day before the vote. With Obama often discussing faith in the campaign, the questions on religion are also of interest.

Obama beat Clinton decisively, by 45% to 29% among those reporting no religious affiliation. Obama also led Clinton more narrowly by a 39% to 35% margin among those who never attend church services, but also led among those who attend weekly. Those who attend church less than once a week favored Clinton.

The lead among those who attend church frequently isn’t surprising in light of Obama’s personal religious views. These numbers show that not only doesn’t Obama alienate the non-religious, but that he receives their support. This might simply be a consequence of the demographics Obama otherwise attracts, but it might also be due to his statements in defense of separation of church and state. Many who are not religious do not believe that the religion of a candidate matters but have gained increased respect for the importance of separation of church and state as the principle has come under attack in recent years.

Obama spoke about separation of church and state during the CNN/YouTube debate. He also discussed this during an interview with CBN in July, Obama said:

For my friends on the right, I think it would be helpful to remember the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but also our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.

It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they didn’t want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Given this fact, I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.

Whatever we once were, we’re no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we’re formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we’ve got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.

There’s one other set of numbers which I found of particular significance as they might show why the polls released over the weekend were wrong. The exit polls show that 39% of Clinton supporters and 36% of Obama supporters decided who to vote for on the day of the primary. The polls might have been accurate on the day they were taken, but they were just a snap shot in an extremely fluid race.

The Plank also reviews the exit polls.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    Martin Vennard says:

    Hi, I work for an international discussion programme called World Have Your Say on BBC World Service radio and today (Wednesday 9th) between 1pm and 2pm Eastern Time in the States we are discussing why the media and pollsters got it so wrong when it came to predicting the results in New Hampshire and whether the media is in love with the idea of an Obama presidential victory. If you are interested in taking part in our discussion, please send me a brief explanation of your point of view and your contact numbers to martin.vennard@bbc.co.uk or call me +442075570635 and I will call you straight back.

    Many thanks

    Martin Vennard

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