Friday, June 10, 2005

What will be Mark Hanson's undoing?

Why we must learn how to "speak to our base."

"Politically, Lutherans are just as predictable. With other predominantly white Protestant denominations, Lutherans are overwhelmingly Republican, a tad more so than Methodists, a tad less so than Presbyterians. In 1988, over 63 percent of Lutherans who voted cast their ballots for George Bush as compared to about 60 percent of Methodists and 65 percent of Presbyterians. Lutheran identification with the Republican party is about the same as among Presbyterians and Episcopalians. These findings are especially welcome to Republican strategists, since Lutherans turn out to vote in very strong numbers, about 85 percent in 1988, a percentage somewhat higher than Catholics, Methodists, or Episcopalians, and almost as high as Presbyterians.

None of this information could possibly be startling to those who live among Lutherans, but at least two social-scientific conclusions do set the Lutherans apart-where they live and what effect church attendance has on their political choices. A fairly recent county-by-county survey of American religious allegiance provides overwhelming demonstration of the Lutherans' geographical concentration. This survey shows that Lutherans are the largest religious body in 259 counties throughout the United States. Of those counties, over 80 percent are located in seven midwestern states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana. Of the 109 counties where Lutherans make up at least 50 percent of the church members, 98 percent are in these same seven states, with 61 percent found in Minnesota and North Dakota alone. (Parenthetically, the demographic dilemma faced by Lutherans is highlighted by these numbers, since results of the 1990 census show that, of the seven states, only Wisconsin and Minnesota have gained significant population in the last ten years.)

The surveys show that, in general, white Protestants who attend church regularly are more likely to vote Republican than those who do not attend regularly. Lutherans are distinctive, however, in that church attendance makes more difference for them than the other Protestant families. In the elections from 1956 to 1988, Republican presidential candidates received from 12 to 23 more percentage points of support from Lutherans who regularly attend church than from those who do not. In the language of political scientists, these figures show the "ethnic" character of Lutherans, since church-going usually reveals the sharing of "associational" values as opposed to merely "communal" values."

Read the whole thing (that which is going to bite Hanson in the rear) here.

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