A study that Pew Research released July 10 has some useful numbers on the Democrats’ problem with religion: A lot of them don’t like it, especially among the more liberal members.
The survey’s finding that there is a sharp contrast between Republicans and Democrats is no surprise. Seventy-three percent of the Republicans interviewed said that religion had a positive effect “on the way things are going in the country”; just forteen percent said the effect is negative. Half of Democrats had a positive view, and thirty-six percent, negative.
Beyond that, the study finds a sharp difference among Democrats:
Liberal Democrats are about as likely to say the impact of churches and religious organizations is negative (44%) as they are to say it is positive (40%). By two-to-one (58% to 29%), more conservative and moderate Democrats say churches have a positive [rather] than negative effect on the country.
The distance between liberal and moderate or conservative Democrats is not as wide as the gorge between Democrats and Republicans, but it is substantial. And the Democratic Party is going to need these moderate and conservative Democrats if it is ever going to escape its No. 2 status.
Instead, the party has pursued a strategy of catering to a more liberal and secular vote in hopes of winning on a heavy turnout. It certainly does not seem to be working.
It’s not easy to bridge the gap: Barack Obama exemplified that in the 2008 campaign with his remark that people living in small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion …”
Here was Obama in community-organizer mode, trying to moderate between the two Democratic constituencies our Pew study finds are divided over religion: He wanted wealthy, well-educated, liberal, secular San Francisco-area audience to appreciate the grievances of blue-collar workers. But the candidate explained himself into a deep hole. His opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, said his remarks were “elitist.”
As for Clinton, consider that a Pew poll released about six weeks before the 2016 election found that eighty-three percent of church-going Catholics said that having an abortion is “morally wrong,” nearly twice the national rate, forty-four percent. Not all those Catholics who said abortion is immoral would vote based on abortion and a portion of them would favor or tolerate a legal right to abortion.