Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Huckabee and Catholics, Again

Others have begun picking up on my post regarding Mike Huckabee and the Catholic vote in Iowa. Special thanks to Matt Yglesias and Andrew Sullivan, two my favorite bloggers, for mentioning it. Over at the debaser, there are some criticisms of my analysis:

Unfortunately, there is a confounding variable. Catholic populations are higher in urban areas than in rural areas. People in urban areas tend to support Romney, people in rural areas tend to support Huckabee. So we have a negative correlation between Catholicism and votes for Huckabee that can be explained by looking at a third factor. Another reason to find this alternative explanation more convincing is because Catholics mostly vote Democratic anyway, so only a few would be voting in the Republican primary.

Let me first say that my analysis is merely suggestive and was intended only to shed some light since the exit polls did not ask about religious denomination, only born-again status. Second, I'll be the first to admit that county-level analysis can be a pretty crude measure of things and there are obvious problems of ecological fallacy when you use any analysis with aggregate data.

But those things said, I did try to account for the confounding variable urban vs. rural residency. My regression included a variable for the percentage of population living in rural areas and even when you control for this factor, the variable for Catholics was still statistically significant. As for the possibility that few Catholics are Republicans, there isn't much evidence. The exit polls from 2004 show that Bush got 46 percent of the Catholic vote in Iowa.

Of course, this issue could be cleared up if we had some polling data that asked about religious denomination. A a recent Pew poll suggest that Huckabee does do poorly among Catholics, but his real problem is with mainline Protestants. Huckabee had the support of 28 percent of evangelical Protestants and 17 percent of Catholics, equal to his overall percentage. On the other hand, only 4 percent of mainline Protestants supported him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure those asssertions about Catholics being more numerous in urban areas are valid these days. The large immigrant Catholic communities in rust-belt cities are mostly gone, dispersed to the sprawling suburbs across both the Northeast and the sunbelt. Look in any city like Cleveland or Buffalo- those old Italian and Irish neighborhoods are gone. Instead we see huge new 'exurban' Churches in the outer fringes of cities like Charlotte NC.
Just sayin.