So is New Hampshire just too godless to pick a president? Of course not. States differ in their balance of faith and non-faith, and when you add up the early voting states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada -- you get a pretty good mix. New Hampshire is as qualified as any to make a political statement. But it will be interesting to see if commentators who fretted about Iowa's religiosity will be equally concerned about New Hampshire's non-religiosity.
In the heat of a campaign, it's difficult to speak with much subtlety about the role religion plays in voting. The entrance polls measure religion very crudely, says John C. Green, professor of politics at the University of Akron and a top authority on evangelicals in politics. A lot of the evangelicals in Iowa may belong to mainline Protestant churches or even be Catholic.
Many such distinctions were lost in the punditry. Also, the statistics above describe each state's entire population, not just its most politically active residents. Which means that, yes, lots of political activists are evangelicals. But lots of evangelicals aren't active in politics.
Finally, there was a lot of bias in the pundits' descriptions of Iowa and conservatives in general. A number of commentators are alarmed to see conservative evangelicals in great numbers playing a key role in politics, and out of that concern, they ask whether Iowa is too evangelical. New Hampshire is a little more moderate, so the religion question doesn't occur to them.
Also, most pundits live in the Northeast or in Washington, so New Hampshire seems almost in the neighborhood. Really, what's the problem?
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