This Pew poll suggests that the Foley mess hasnt made a huge difference in voter attitudes, which were already unfavorable to Republicans. Does this mean that things can only get better?
Well, no, says the WaPos Alan Cooperman, whos looking at Pew data I cant find anywhere. His data, which may find its way to one of the Pew sites in the next few days, suggest that evangelicals are cooling a bit on Republicans (Foley hurts here, but so do a lot of other things), but not warming to Democrats:
"The allegiance of evangelicals has been more in flux over the past 12 months, suggesting that the considerations going into their votes are changing," said Scott Keeter, Pews director of survey research.
In addition to the war and congressional scandals, those considerations may include a broader definition of religious issues. Some influential ministers, such as the Rev. Rick Warren, author of the bestselling "The Purpose-Driven Life," are urging evangelicals to fight poverty, safeguard the environment and oppose torture on biblical grounds.
To the extent that evangelicals now view these issues as "matters of conscience" alongside abortion and same-sex marriage, they could shift some votes into the Democratic column, said Ron Sider, head of the group Evangelicals for Social Action.
Another factor in evangelicals changing loyalties may be the efforts of Democrats to reach out to them. In Michigan, evangelical pastors helped write the preamble to the state partys new platform. "Democrats in this state are seeking the Common Good -- the best life for each person of this state. The orphan. The family. The sick. The healthy. The wealthy. The poor. The citizen. The stranger. The first. The last," it says.
But before Democrats take credit for the shift, they might ponder one of the findings in a recent survey of 2,500 voters by the Center for American Values, a project of the left-leaning People for the American Way Foundation: Republicans have lost more support (14 percentage points) than Democrats have picked up (4 points) among frequent churchgoers.
That rings true to Michael Cromartie, an expert on evangelicals at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank. "Erosion for evangelicals doesnt necessarily lead to Democratic voting. It leads to nonvoting," he said.
Here is the other survey that Cooperman cites.
The Pew site also has this commentary on state-level partisan allegiances. If you look at the regional trends, things continue to look pretty good for Republicans over the past six years, except on the coasts (shocking!). A closer look at particular states suggests that the Power Line guys would have to be unhappy with Minnesota, which looked better a couple of years ago than it does now, and everyone (well, every Republican) should be worried about Virginia, which seems to be trending Democratic. You couldnt tell it by the horserace polls, but Ohio looks better for Republicans now than it did a few years ago. So if you step back and look at the proverbial big picture, the Bush years have been relatively good for Republicans. But that doesnt mean that November 7th, 2006 will be good for them, only that politically the underlying trends look mildly favorable.