My PolySigh colleague, Dorian Warren writes:
Maybe I'm missing something, but based on my read of the exit polls, the religious right had a significant impact on this election. White evangelicals were 23% of the electorate, an increase of +9 points from 2000! They broke 78% Bush, 21% Kerry. Is a 9 point increase insignificant?
I checked the exit polls for each year and the numbers are for somewhat different categorizations. In 2004, the breakdown was for "white evangelical/born-again" but in 2000 it was the much narrower category of those who considered themselves "part of the conservative Christian political movement, also known as the religious right." The difference in question wording probably explains the jump from 14% to 23%.
The only direct comparisons we have between the two elections suggest no great surge by white, Protestant evangelicals. In 2000, Protestants were 56% of the electorate, this time out they were 54%. Their support for Bush went from 56% to 59%.
In 2000, those attending church once a week or more were 42% of the electorate and in 2004, they were also 42%. Their support went from 63% (attending more than weekly) and 57% (attending once a week) to 64% and 58%.
On both scores, the increases are pretty small, certainly no more than Bush's +3% overall, indicating that the change from 2000 was not due religious voters.