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Monday, February 11, 2008

The myth of the Christian Right - what happens when you ask Democrats if they too are born-again?

A press release "New Post-Election Poll Demonstrates Political Diversity of Evangelical Christians", which I CANNOT find online, reports on a Zogby poll, which found that the tendency of legacy media to treat American evangelicals as an "ideologically monolithic" voting bloc, is quite misleading.

Not news to me. I've commented on the "dangerous Christian Right" myth here. (Is there really a "Christian Right" vote? A bunker or just bunk?) I wrote about the myth in Chapter 8 of The Spiritual Brain as well.

But here's something I didn't know until today. One way that the "Christian Right" effect is created is by asking only Republicans but not Democrats if they are "born-again or evangelical Christian." What happens when you ask both parties' exiting voters, as Zogby did?
While exit polls in both states identified all Republican white evangelical voters, the Missouri exit polls failed to identify 159,000 white evangelical Democratic voters – a figure greater than all voters under 30, equal to all voters over age 65, and equal to all voters who said the Iraq war is the most important issue facing the country, according to the Missouri Democratic exit polls. The Tennessee exit polls failed to identify 179,000 white evangelical Democratic voters – a figure equal to all African-American voters, greater than all voters over 60, and greater than all voters who said the Iraq war is the most important issue facing the country, according to the Tennessee Democratic exit polls.

And so what happened when they factored in these born-again Democrats?
In both Missouri and Tennessee, white evangelicals who ranked jobs and economy as the most important issue area in deciding how to vote far outnumbered those who considered abortion and same-sex marriage most important.

The press release is from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, one of whose spokespersons for a press conference is Jim Wallis, an American Christian left activist, so they must be pretty pleased with their find.

So am I, because it coincides with reality - for once.

Why do media commentators maintain the myth of a dangerous Christian Right, poised to take over? Well, one reason is that it is a way of increasing one's social importance cheaply. That's because it is much easier to slay imaginary dragons than real ones.

The commentator invents the dragon and tells the world how scary it is. If the commentator is a good writer, the world listens.

The dragon doesn't do much, but that - we are told - is precisely because this brave and clever person and some worthy companions are holding it in check.

It all sounds pretty impressive until someone gets around - as this Center for American Progress has done - to asking for evidence that the dragon ever existed.

Now, I just wish they would put their press release on line.

Oh wait, just got mail! Ah, finally, here's the link!

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