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Religion and Minnesota Politics

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The relationship between religion and politics should fascinate even the most casual political observer. (In recent weeks religion has become an interesting sidebar in the 6th District US House race—a matter best saved for another blog entry).

Karl Rove—President George W. Bush's trusted political strategist in the White House—is credited with turning out the religious vote in 2004 to the benefit of not only Bush himself, but also republican candidates generally.

While sweeping statements are sometimes made regarding the fact there is a close association between the Republican Party and those expressing religious faith, by and large most Minnesotans—regardless of partisanship—are indeed 'god-fearing.' Nearly four-fifths (78%) of Minnesotans polled in 2003 indicated they "definitely believed" in God, while another 13% indicated they were leaning in that direction (Minnesota Poll, December 2003).

Therefore, although Minnesota tilts toward the blue end of the blue-red political spectrum, the majority of its card-carrying Democrats are indeed 'true believers'. What may separate Minnesota from the Bible belt is thus not belief in God, but the extent to which belief in God should inform public policy.

But are religious individuals more likely to vote in Minnesota than those that do not identify themselves with the world's major religions?

A study of several surveys by the Minnesota Poll suggests this might be so. In three surveys conducted from a sample of the general adult population from August 2002 to March 2004, an average of 31% of Minnesotans polled did not identify themselves as Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim (indicating they had no religious preference or labeled themselves as 'something else'). However, in five surveys conducted of likely voters between September and November 2004, this number dropped to 24%—or a decline of 23%.

While some folks are very passionate about their politics, one doubts they convert in greater numbers to God on Election Day. So—in general—Rove's strategy is sound in this regard: efforts to turn out voters to a point will increase the proportion of religious voters. The danger for Rove is this: if voter turnout is too large (and Minnesota has the highest in the nation), then that means those motivated to vote will be increasingly coming from the pool of nonbelievers (who are not Rove's desired demographic).

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    Remains of the Data

    Which States Own the Best Track Record in Backing Eventual GOP Presidential Nominees?

    Nine states (each with primaries) have an unblemished record in voting for the eventual Republican nominee since 1976 - and not all host contests on the back end of the calendar.

    Political Crumbs

    Evolving?

    When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


    73 Months and Counting

    January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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