Note that the presumptive frontrunners from New York are regarded as the least religious of the major candidates (the respondents are probably correct about RG, but not about HRC, who is a garden-variety liberal Methodist). Of course, those who are more suspicious of her religiosity are disinclined to like her on any ground; they just can’t believe that she’s got faith in anything other than herself. The report’s authors note that religiosity has a positive valence: those who regard a candidate as religious tend to like that candidate. But that may get the order of causality wrong; at least for a certain proportion of the people, the affection precedes the ascription of religiosity. In other words, for many people the candidate’s religiosity isn’t the first thing they look for, and they don’t look too closely in any event.
Allow me to draw a conclusion about this for HRC: emphasizing her religiosity isn’t going to help her with the faith-based anybody-but-Hillary crowd. With others, if she can overcome the challenge of likeability, she doesn’t need to stress religion; if they come to like her, they’ll by and large think of her as "religious enough."
It’s also noteworthy that in August 2007, more people perceive the Democrats as unfriendly to religion than in August 2004, when John Kerry was displaying his incredible ineptitude at appealing to religious voters. The concerted efforts to portray the party as "faith-friendly" don’t appear to be working very well.
But I’m not convinced that they matter all that much, since Iraq and the economy are the dominant issues. And while there are distinctive "religious" voices on all sides of those issues, I don’t think that they are the loudest and most influential. As a result, religion may well "mean less" in 2008 than it has in recent elections. Whether this will be the "new norm" or an aberration remains, of course, to be seen.