Well, this time we have a less obviously religious Republican candidate and a more obviously religious Democrat. Does this have any influence on voter preferences? Check out this Pew analysis, comparing voter preferences at this stage in ’08, ’04, and ’00.
The unchurched even more overwhelmingly support Obama, despite the fact that McCain is hardly identified with religious conservatives. Might there be a secularist ceiling for Republican candidates, with even the most resolutely irreligious conservative (if that isn’t already an oxymoron) facing a pretty low ceiling of support among the religiously unaffiliated?
And Obama hasn’t (yet) made many inroads among white Protestants, who may not be supporting McCain at quite the levels they supported Bush, but aren’t yet transferring their affection to Obama. There are a few more undecideds. The question about the latter is whether a more obviously religion-friendly McCain could win those over. (Please note that I’m not saying that McCain isn’t religion-friendly, just that that’s pretty far from the core of his self-presentation.)
Note finally that white, non-Hispanic Catholics favor McCain over Obama by a larger margin than they favored Bush over Kerry. McCain doesn’t do quite as well as Bush did, but Obama seems to fare considerably worse than Kerry did. 13% of this group are undecided. If one or the other candidate can make the sale here (given the concentration of Catholics in swing states), this could be the election.
Of course, it’s only July....