Pew's latest poll, which has Obama up over Romney by eight points, cast some interesting light on how religion is factoring into the electorate's preferences.
Let's start with evangelicals. As widely suspected, they are proportionately no less supportive of Mitt Romney the Mormon than they were of John McCain the Non-Mormon in 2008. It's 73 percent who say they'll vote for Romney versus 74 percent who voted for McCain. And there remain some undecideds, some of whom will doubtless end up in the Romney camp--which might bring him close to George W. Bush's all-time evangelical high of 78 percent. (Only 19 percent support Obama now, as opposed to 26 percent who voted for him last time around.) Of course, what the survey can't tell us is what the evangelical turnout will be. If a lot of evangelicals decide not to get off their tuchuses and vote, then it's bad news for Romney in states like Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Obama looks to significantly improve his standing with mainline Protestants. He lost them by 11 points to McCain, but he's now just one point down to Romney. On the other hand, the Nones--those who say they have no religion who Pew insists on calling "Unaffiliated"--have slid away from Obama a bit. Whereas they voted for him over McCain 75 percent to 23 percent, they're only supporting him over Romney 65 percent to 27 percent--a swing of 14 points. Maybe these are the libertarians who have signed on to the Tea Party.
Meanwhile, and despite all the tub-thumping by the Catholic bishops, Obama's Catholic support has remained absolutely firm: It was 54 percent in 2008 and it's 54 percent now. Indeed, with Romney running behind McCain at 39 percent to 45 percent, it looks like the president will outperform himself with Catholics this time around. Evidently that Fortnight for Freedom from Contraception didn't have much of an impact.
My guess is that Romney has lost ground with mainline Republican women with the increased salience of abortion. As for Obama, he's got to figure out how to improve his standing with the non-religious without alienating evangelicals even further. Good luck with that.