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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

FACULTY OPINIONS...November 9, 2004
What About Kerry and the Atheist Vote?

By Dr. Paul Kengor

While liberals complain about the religious vote that went for George W. Bush, they refuse to discuss—and perhaps happily accept—the non-religious vote that went for John F. Kerry. Which ought to be considered a greater liability for an American president: to receive the overwhelming support of devout Protestants and Catholics or to be backed by atheists? Which speaks worse? Don’t we have this backward?
We’re hearing plenty about President Bush’s huge advantage in the 2004 election from evangelicals, and (less so) about the extremely significant fact that Catholics who attend Mass weekly voted for Bush by 55% to 44%, which is a startling religious rejection of John Kerry, a Catholic. Yet, the one aspect of the November 2 vote that is being completely ignored is the behavior not of the most devout but the least devout.
According to CNN exit poll data, those who attend church more than weekly made up 16% of 2004 voters, or 18.4 million voters, and they went for Bush by 63% to 35%, or by 11.6 million to 6.4 million, a difference of 5.2 million votes. However, those who never attend church, which equaled 15% of voters, or 17.3 million voters, went for Kerry by 64% to 34%, or by 11.1 million to 5.9 million, also a difference of 5.2 million votes.
This was much like the 2000 vote, when those who attended church more than weekly went for Bush by 63% to 36%, whereas Vice President Al Gore bagged those who never attended by 61% to 32%.
Ten percent of those who voted on November 2 claimed no religion at all. They made up nearly 15 million voters. Of those, 68%, or 10.2 million, voted for Kerry, but only 30%, or 4.5 million, voted for Bush—a Kerry advantage of 5.7 million votes.
In other words, religious voters who won the day for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential contest were countered by non-religious Americans who tried to win the day for John F. Kerry.
The agnostic/atheist vote was even larger in states where Kerry got the most ballots. In California, 24% of voters, almost one in four, said they never attend church, and they went for Kerry 63% to 34%. In New York, those who claimed no religion at all voted for Kerry by 78% to 19%. These eager atheists comprised 12% of New York voters, and they offset those Catholics in New York who favored Bush by 51% to 48%.
So, atheists were most prominent in the two bluest states. Hollywood and Manhattan made their presence known.
It has been noted that 22% of the electorate, or 25.3 million voters, said that “moral values” was their most important issue—79% of which went Bush. This should not suggest the other side stayed home. Consider the abortion issue: While 15% of those who voted believe that abortion should never be legal, another 15% said it should always be legal.
2004 exit poll data point to a statistically accurate profile: Next to African-Americans, the surest Democratic voter is an unmarried, city-dwelling, Northeast, pro-choice atheist with a graduate degree who thinks that gay people should be legally married. The least likely Democratic voter is a married mom or dad who regularly attends church, thinks abortion should be illegal, and cites “moral values” as a top priority.
Liberals will maintain that Karl Rove revved up the religious vote for Bush. What they don’t want to realize is that they drove religious voters to Bush. Among the reasons were their relentless attacks on Bush’s faith. America recognizes that George W. Bush is not unusual religiously speaking, either by contemporary or historical standards. When Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd hammer Bush unceasingly on his faith, they merely preach to the choir, and unwittingly inform devout people of who is not on their side (and why they shouldn’t bother with the New York Times). The Democratic Party is paying a price by kowtowing to the liberal wing’s fear of faith, embrace of moral relativism, and support of abortion on demand.
If Democrats don’t like this situation, they should change it. For starters, liberals should stop blasting Bush each time he mentions God. Or, they might avoid nominating candidates like John Kerry, a Catholic who claims that his faith affects “everything I do in public life” except protect innocent babies in the womb.
The fact, however, is that liberal Democrats will do neither, because they can’t resist. They are who they are, and they are contemptuous of those religious “morals” voters who beat them on November 2, who they view as stupid. That is a crass caricature born of willful ignorance, of not interacting with moderate to conservative Christians, of not visiting their websites and reading their publications—of never pausing to accurately inform themselves of those they ridicule.
The Democratic Party needs to think hard about why its candidate for the presidency was resoundingly defeated by church-going Protestants and Catholics. Conversely, Democrats must pause to contemplate why atheists are gung ho for their presidential nominees. Until then, the Democratic Party will remain a very liberal political party that will increasingly attract the most secular and least religious among us.

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