All posts from “Polls”

March 7, 2012

Super Tuesday Analysis: Romney Does Poorly Where Evangelicals Are GOP Majority

The GOP candidate wins much-needed states, but he is likely to face more resistance in the south.

Mitt Romney won six out of the 11 Super Tuesday primaries, victories that followed a regional pattern from past primaries. Romney has performed best in New England and the mountain west but he has done poorly in the Midwest and even worse in the southern states. In a closely watched state, Romney edged out Rick Santorum by one percentage point in Ohio. Santorum won in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and Newt Gingrich picked up a win in Georgia.

Beneath the Republicans’ regional split is Romney's failure in states where the Republican base is made up of socially conservative evangelical voters. In New England and other states where evangelicals are in the minority, Romney has been able to win over the lion share of the evangelical vote. The result is a double-whammy for Romney: in states where the GOP is made up of more evangelicals, evangelicals are less likely to vote for Romney.

In Vermont, Romney received four out of every 10 evangelical votes and performed similarly among evangelicals in Nevada. In both cases, evangelicals make up less than a third of Republican voters. In New Hampshire, where there were many more candidates, Romney received about a third of evangelical voters, equal to Santorum's share. However, in states like South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, where evangelicals make up a majority of GOP voters, Romney received less than 30 percent of votes from evangelicals.

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Continue reading Super Tuesday Analysis: Romney Does Poorly Where Evangelicals Are GOP Majority...

January 27, 2012

Marking Four Decades of Abortion Politics

CBS responds to backlash over coverage of March for Life, demonstrating contentious public opinion.

Like every year since 1974, pro-life demonstrators participated in this week’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. to protest the Supreme Court's decision. Organizers hope that the march brings focus to the issue of abortion, but they are often dismayed by event coverage. This year, pro-life activists were particularly upset with coverage by CBS, which posted a slideshow that initially only featured images of those protesting the March for Life. CBS has since changed the content so that it now includes photos of pro-life participants.

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The backlash over coverage highlights the contentiousness that surrounds abortion nearly four decades after Roe v. Wade. The country has seen significant changes in abortion politics over the past four decades, and today slightly more Americans lean in a more pro-life direction.

At the time of Roe, few Americans had given much thought to abortion as a political issue, candidates rarely mentioned it, and political parties did not consider putting an abortion plank in their platforms. It was not until 1984 that the Republican and Democratic parties took clear opposing positions on abortion. Today, however, nearly all Democratic members of Congress vote in favor of pro-choice legislation and nearly all GOP candidates are consistently pro-life on abortion. Republican and Democratic parties often use the issue as an ideological litmus test.

Continue reading Marking Four Decades of Abortion Politics...

December 28, 2011

Poll: Evangelicals (and Everyone Else) Want Wealthy to Pay Fair Share of Taxes

Just before Christmas, Congress decided to delay major changes to income taxes. Instead, legislators gave themselves more time to negotiate by extending this year's payroll tax cuts through February. The payroll tax debate will be at the top of the agenda in 2012, but even supporters of an extended payroll tax cut know it is temporary.

Instead, most Americans prefer a more dramatic overhaul of the tax system, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. And unlike many other political issues, the poll shows few differences between religious groups: Most people of all faiths feel taxes are unfair and that the wealthy need to pay more.

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A majority (54 percent) said the federal tax system was either “not too fair” or “not at all fair” in Pew's December survey, a number up from 48 percent in 2003. Also up: the percentage who say the problem with the system is that some of the wealthy do not pay their fair share. The poll found that six out of ten believe Congress needs to completely change the system.

On many political issues, evangelicals tend to poll more conservatively than other religious groups. But on the question of fairness, all religious groups have the same evaluation of the tax system. Of evangelicals, 53 percent said the system is unfair, which was about the same as every other religious groups. A majority of each major religious group said the tax system is unfair.

There were some differences in opinion over what the problem was in the tax system, but much of these differences were due to race and income, not religion. Among all religious groups, most people said the problem with the tax system is that “some wealthy people get away with not paying their fair share.” However, this view is more prominent among Christians in historically African-American churches. 82 percent of black Protestants said this was the problem, compared to around half of white Protestants and Catholics.

About one-third of white Protestants and Catholics said they were bothered by the complexity of the tax system; one fifth of those unaffiliated with a religion said the same thing. Black Protestants, however, were much less likely to say the tax system was the problem (just eight percent).

The Pew survey suggests that there are major divisions among Republicans on the issue of taxes. Among Republicans who agree with the Tea Party, only 22 percent say the wealthy need to pay their fair share while 57 percent said the problem was the complexity of the tax system. Those in the GOP who disagree with the Tea Party, however, held a different view, with most saying the wealthy do not pay their fair share.

Editor's Note: The Pew Research Center for People and the Press (Pew) provided Christianity Today with a religious breakdown of questions from the Dec. 7-11 survey of 1,521 Americans on their views of the federal tax system. However, CT is responsible for all analysis and interpretation of the results. Pew identifies evangelicals as white, non-Hispanic Protestants who described themselves as "born-again or evangelical." Around 18 percent of Americans are evangelicals by this definition. The margin of error for this subsample is around seven percentage points. The results are descriptive; religious differences could be due to partisanship, ideology, income, or other factors.

December 16, 2011

Evangelicals' Complicated Relationship with Romney and Gingrich

The economy remains the most prominent issue ahead of the primary season as social issues play a less prominent role. The most salient personal split has been between Mitt Romney, an executive-turned-politician who is Mormon, and Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House.

While Romney has his base of support, Gingrich has been taking off in the polls. Christian conservatives appear more comfortable with a thrice-married Lutheran-turned-Baptist-turned-Catholic than a Mormon candidate who has been married for over four decades.

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Gingrich's political director in Iowa resigned after less than a week on the job. Craig Bergman's resignation came after the website The Iowa Republican reported that Bergman called Mormonism a cult, just one day before he joined Gingrich's campaign. 

Speaking as part of a focus group, Bergman said, “A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon…There’s a thousand pastors ready to do that.”

A century ago, the Senate debated whether to allow Reed Smoot to represent Utah. Smoot was not a polygamist, but there were still questions raised about the issue. Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania took to the floor of the Senate, glared at his colleagues with less-than-chaste reputations, and delivered one of the best retorts in Senate history.

"As for me,” Penrose said, “I would rather have seated beside me in this chamber a 'polygamist' who doesn't 'polyg-' than a 'monogamist' who doesn't 'monag-'."

Continue reading Evangelicals' Complicated Relationship with Romney and Gingrich...

November 18, 2011

Iowa Poll Shows Religious Breakdown in GOP Race

Those who will likely vote in Iowa’s presidential caucuses remain undecided, a new poll suggests. Those that did report an opinion in the poll admitted that they could still be persuaded to change their vote.

Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney are leading the pack among likely caucus goers, according to a poll conducted by Iowa State University, The Gazette, and KCRG of 1,256 of registered Iowa voters. Other candidates received single-digit support in the Hawkeye State.

Herman Cain received the most votes among Catholics (35 percent) and Protestant/born-again (25 percent), but he has very little support among secular voters (10 percent). Secular voters represent a small portion of caucus voters, but they are the most unified with six-in-ten of them backing Ron Paul.

Among religious voters, born-again Protestants are the least supportive of Mitt Romney. Only one-in-eight born-again voters support the former governor of Massachusetts, compared to nearly one-in-four support among other Protestants. Evangelicals are twice as likely to support Rick Perry compared to other religious voters.

Michele Bachmann is also trailing in the poll, partly due to her lack of support (0 percent in the poll) among Catholics. Bachmann's former membership in a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church in Stillwater, Minnesota, previously drew some attention earlier this year because the Synod suggests that the Catholic Papacy is the Antichrist.

The poll found a high level of fluidity among voters. Dave Peterson of Iowa State said that the race in Iowa is still up for grabs.

“My take away from these results is that voters are still really unsure of whom they will support. Over half of the people are still trying to decide, and another third are merely leaning toward a candidate,” said Peterson, who is interim director of the Harkin Institute of Public Policy. “When asked, people will express a preference for one candidate, but that they will also admit that this is a weak attitude. This is anyone's race at this point.”

Religious voters appear fairly undecided.

“Religious voters are particularly fluid at this time," Peterson said. "While only around 16 percent of all voters say they have made up their mind, the rate is even lower amongst voters of faith. 37 percent of secular voters say that they have made up their mind, but less than 10 percent of voters who identify as either Catholic or Protestant have made a firm choice.”
Iowans cast votes for the GOP nomination on January 3.

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November 17, 2011

What Evangelical Women Want: The Political Gender Gap

Michele Bachmann and Beverly LaHaye appear to be the exception, not the rule, in conservative politics. A recent “Battleground Poll” conducted by Politico and George Washington University suggests that there is a gap between male and female evangelicals.

The November poll interviewed 1,000 likely voters about their plans for the upcoming election, their views of current events, and their evaluations of government. Among those interviewed, evangelical men were some of the most conservative.

Evangelical men in the survey preferred a generic Republican to Obama by a two-to-one margin. Two-thirds of evangelical men said they would vote for the Republican candidate next year. Only 27 percent of these men (including African Americans and other minorities) said they would support Obama.

Evangelical women, however, were almost evenly split, with around 44 percent favoring Obama and 43 percent supporting the Republican, about the same as men who are not evangelical.

Women who are not evangelical are the most supportive of Obama with a majority reporting they will vote for him next fall. A majority of these women (58%) also identify themselves as Democrats. In contrast, 64 percent of evangelical men say that they are Republicans. For evangelical women and men who are not evangelical, there is an even split between Republicans and Democrats.

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Continue reading What Evangelical Women Want: The Political Gender Gap...

October 10, 2011

FRC's Tony Perkins Downplays Straw Poll After Ron Paul's Victory

This weekend's Values Voters Summit brought together GOP presidential hopefuls with social conservatives, also featuring a presidential straw poll.

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Going into the weekend, the straw poll was expected to be a harbinger of which candidates conservative Christian activists were backing. The winner, however, was not Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, or Rick Santorum. Instead, libertarian-leaning Ron Paul was this year's surprise winner with 37 percent of the 1,983 votes. (Read Christianity Today’s interview with Ron Paul.)

Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins dismissed the results as ballot stuffing. At a press conference following the vote, Perkins said that 600 people registered Saturday, stayed for Ron Paul's speech, voted, and then left. Ron Paul received 732 votes. “You do the math,” Perkins said.

Straw polls are rarely representative of voters; they measure campaign's ability to organize. To register for the conference, each participant needed to pay $99. Other campaigns would have also mobilized voters to the confab.

Continue reading FRC's Tony Perkins Downplays Straw Poll After Ron Paul's Victory...

August 26, 2011

Tea Party and Christian Conservatives: Similar but Not the Same

A diverse set of grassroots conservatives has emerged. Some are social conservatives. Some are not.

Is the tea party just a rebranding of Christian conservatives? Debate over this question is not new, but it has received new fuel recently.

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David Campbell of Notre Dame University and Robert Putnam of Harvard University wrote an August 16 op-ed for the New York Times, reporting on their recent survey that shows that those who like the tea party are not the non-partisan fiscal conservatives described by the movement's leaders. Campbell and Putnam find that the tea party has attracted Republicans—not just any Republicans—social conservatives who want religion to play a greater role in political life.


“The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government,” Campbell and Putnam concluded.


First Things editor R. R. Reno agreed that tea party supporters were religious conservatives. However, he took issue with Campbell and Putnam's conclusion that it was religion, not fiscal issues, that were drawing people to the tea party.


“The religious and social conservatism of the Republican Party intermixes with the fiscal and economic conservatism in all sorts of close and complex ways,” Reno wrote. “But it is willful of Putnam and Campbell to conclude that it’s the religious dimension that constitutes the most salient—and most controversial—dimension.”


Campbell and Putnam are not the first to find a link between the old-fashioned conservative Christian movement and the tea party movement. A link, however, does not mean that the two are the same.


Among the general public, neither the tea party movement nor conservative Christians are well-known. In last year's religion poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, only 28 percent of registered voters had heard enough about both groups to voice an opinion on them. For the vast majority of Americans, neither is something they have heard of or care about.

Continue reading Tea Party and Christian Conservatives: Similar but Not the Same...

August 5, 2011

Patriotism God Gap: Is the U.S. the Greatest Country in the World?


New data offers evidence for a patriotism God-gap in America. Evangelicals are most likely to think that the U.S. is the best country in the world, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Those with no religion, however, hold a much less rosy view of the country.


Nearly all Americans think they live in the best country on earth. While a majority of Americans believe there are other countries just as great, nine-in-ten say no nation is better. Within this high view of America, there are differences between different religious groups.


Four-in-ten Americans agreed that “the U.S. stands above all other countries in the world,” according the Pew Political Typology poll that asked 1,525 Americans about their view of the United States. Evangelicals (52 percent) were the more likely to hold the view that the U.S. stands above other countries. Nearly all of the other evangelicals surveyed said “the U.S. is one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others.” Only 3 percent said they believed there were other countries better than America.

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Continue reading Patriotism God Gap: Is the U.S. the Greatest Country in the World?...

July 26, 2011

Poll: Majority of Americans Say Same-Sex Relations Are OK

Recent data suggests that Americans for the first time since 1973, a minority says homosexual relations are 'always wrong.'

The state of New York began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this week. New York's decision to expand the definition of marriage to include gay couples, which affects the third-largest state population in the U.S., is seen by many as an important symbolic victory in the fights over gay rights and marriage.

In the days leading up to the new legislation, proponents of gay marriage said that traditional marriage advocates would find themselves on the wrong side of history. A long-running beliefs poll indicates a dramatic shift in views of homosexuality in recent years: What was once widely believed to be wrong is now considered morally acceptable by a majority of Americans.

From 1973 to 2010, the General Social Survey (GSS) has asked Americans if they think sexual relations between same-sex couples are wrong. Up until 2008, a majority of Americans have answered that such behavior is 'always wrong.' But the latest GSS, conducted in 2010, finds that only 46 percent of Americans hold this position.

The GSS, a federally-funded survey, is considered the gold standard for polling on social behaviors, attitudes, and values and has asked the same question on homosexual behavior since its inception: “Are sexual relations between two adults of the same sex always, almost always, sometimes, or never wrong?” Until the 1990s, opposition to homosexuality ran high. Nearly seven-in-ten Americans said same-sex sexual relations were always wrong.

But the early 90s saw a dramatic change in views toward homosexuality.


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Continue reading Poll: Majority of Americans Say Same-Sex Relations Are OK...

June 24, 2011

Opposition to Interracial Marriage Lingers Among Evangelicals

This month marks the 44th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. A 1968 Gallup poll found three-quarters of whites disapproved of a whites and blacks marrying. Today, opposition to interracial marriage is low, but it still lingers. Among religious groups, evangelicals remain the most opposed to interracial marriage, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (Pew).

Pew's February Political Typology Poll asked people about recent trends in American society. Pew asked if “more people of different races marrying each other” was good or bad society. Overall, only nine percent of Americans said it was bad for society. However, 16 percent of white evangelicals said this, more than twice the opposition found among other Americans (7 percent). The survey found that 27 percent of Americans overall said more interracial marriage was good for society, compared to 17 percent of evangelicals.

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Evangelicals may have the most negative view of interracial marriage, but there is also opposition among white mainline Protestants (13 percent) and Catholics (10 percent). Statistically, the percentages in these traditions who saw interracial marriage as bad for society were about the same as for evangelicals.

The views of white Christians stand in stark contrast to two other groups: black Protestants and those with no religion. Only three percent of either group said interracial marriage was bad for society. Eight-in-ten respondents said the trend “doesn't make much difference.”  Those who are not religious were more optimistic, with 38 percent saying it was good for society.

Continue reading Opposition to Interracial Marriage Lingers Among Evangelicals...

June 9, 2011

Poll: Americans Ambivalent on Abortion

People tend describe themselves as either pro-life or pro-choice. But a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that the average American still holds conflicting views on abortion nearly 40 years after Roe v. Wade. Evangelicals remain much more opposed to abortion than other Americans, but they, too, often do not fit neatly into pro-life or pro-choice camps.

PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox said, “For some time now, Americans have held a stable tension between two views: majorities both say that abortion is morally wrong and say that it should be legal in all or most cases. The binary ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ labels don’t reflect this complexity.”

On the poll's simplest, straightforward abortion question, a majority said abortion should be legal. PRRI found only four-in-ten said abortion should be illegal. However, few took a consistently pro-life or pro-choice position. Only 19 percent said abortion should be legal in all circumstances; 14 percent said it should be always be illegal. That leaves nearly two-thirds approving abortion in some cases but not in others. These results a similar to those by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. A similar question by Gallup finds fewer in the middle category, but overall the pattern is the same: most Americans approve of abortion in some, but not all, circumstances.

Among religious groups, white evangelicals stand out as being against abortion. Less than one-third (29 percent) said abortion should be legal; two-thirds believe it should be illegal. Support for the legality of abortion is much higher among other Protestants and Catholics.

This, however, is only part of the story. When asked abortion should be available to women in their community, 37 percent of evangelicals agreed. A majority of non-Latino Catholics and black Protestants said abortion should be available. Over 70 percent of Mainline Protestants and those unaffiliated with religion took this view.

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Continue reading Poll: Americans Ambivalent on Abortion...

June 3, 2011

Evangelicals: Less Likely to Vote for Gay or Mormon Candidates

Mitt Romney formally announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president yesterday in New Hampshire, but a new poll suggests that the former governor of Massachusetts may still face an uphill climb to secure the votes of evangelicals because of his Mormon faith.

The May 25-30 survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked people how they would vote for presidential candidates with different traits. The survey found that a third of evangelicals (34 percent) said they would be less likely to vote for someone who is Mormon, compared to Mainline Protestants (19 percent) or Catholics (16 percent).

The findings were similar to Pew's 2007 survey when Romney attempted a previous run. With evangelicals making up a major voting bloc in the GOP primaries, particularly in early states like Iowa and South Carolina, a reluctance to vote for a Mormon candidate could hurt Romney. It could also affect fellow Mormon (albeit with different level of commitment) former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman who may still enter the race.

Overall, 25 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for a Mormon. Liberal Democrats were most opposed to a Mormon candidate (41 percent). Pew found that among the voters who were opposed to a Mormon candidate, about two-third of them said there was “no chance” they would support Romney for president.

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Evangelicals were also much more likely to oppose a gay candidate, with nearly two-thirds of them said they would oppose such a candidate. This is over twice the opposition among either Mainline Protestants (30 percent) or Catholics (25 percent).

Unlike opposition to a Mormon candidate, views of a possible homosexual candidate have changed over the past four years. In 2007, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) said they would be a less likely to vote for a homosexual candidate. In this survey, that percentage dropped to just one-third, and all groups showed less opposition to a gay candidate. Evangelicals also dropped (71 to 65 percent), but this was less than the change among other groups. Some of the largest changes in the two surveys came among African Americans (53 to 34 percent), those over 65 years of age (59 to 40 percent), and conservative Republicans (73 to 58 percent).

Continue reading Evangelicals: Less Likely to Vote for Gay or Mormon Candidates...

April 20, 2011

Majority of Americans, Evangelicals Disapprove of Obama & Congressional Leaders

In Washington, cherry blossoms are in bloom. Love for political leaders, however, is not. A majority of Americans do not approve of how President Obama is handling critical issues such as the situation in Libya or the deficit, according to the April political poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The poll suggests that Americans also are pleased with leaders in Congress.

While Obama’s overall approval rating was 47 percent, approval of his handling of the deficit was only 33 percent. He fared better for his handling of the situation in Libya, with 41 percent approving. Support was, not surprisingly, highest among Democrats, over 60 percent of whom gave Obama thumbs up on both issues. Republicans were not impressed, with less than one-in-ten approving of his handling of the deficit.

Evangelicals were similarly disapproving of Obama. Only 13 percent approved of his handling of the deficit; 25 percent approved of his job on Libya. This was lower than approval ratings for other religious groups, though mainline Protestants and Catholics showed a similar pattern of having higher approval for Libya than the deficit. Black Protestants and those who are not affiliated with a religious tradition showed the same level of support for Obama's handling of both issues.

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But if GOP leaders expected evangelicals to approve of Republican leaders in Congress, they were disappointed. Overall, the public does not look kindly on Congress. Roughly a third approved of Republican leaders in Congress. The same proportion approved of Democratic leaders.

As with Obama's approval rating, there is a partisan split, but not as much of a religious one. Republicans approved of GOP leaders (60 percent) but not Democratic leaders (10 percent). Democrats were the opposite with 59 percent approval for their party's leadership and 15 percent approval for the Republicans.

Evangelicals were the most approving of religious groups of the Republican leadership, but a majority disapproved of the GOP and only 43 percent approved. Mainline Protestants and Catholics disapproved of both parties, and only a third of each tradition approving of each party's leadership. Black Protestants and those unaffiliated with a religious tradition had higher approval of Democrats than Republicans in Congress.

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It is unclear from the poll whether the lack of support among evangelicals reflects a low view of Republican leaders per se. While evangelical approval of GOP leaders was not as lopsided as the approval among the rank-and-file Republicans, evangelicals were the only religious group to have a higher approval rating for Republican leaders than Democratic leaders.

Editors Note: The Public Religion Research Institute provided Christianity Today with a religious breakdown of questions from the poll. However, CT is responsible for all analysis and interpretation of the results. Around one-fifth of Americans are identified as white evangelicals in the poll. The margin of error for subsamples is larger than for the poll as a whole. The results are descriptive; religious differences could be due to partisanship, ideology, income, or other factors.

April 15, 2011

Religious Americans More Likely to Display Flag

A new poll suggests that 78 percent of religious people display the American flag while 58 percent of nonreligious people do the same. The poll finds that evangelicals are the most likely to show off the stars and stripes.

The American flag is a ubiquitous part of life in the United States. People pin it to their jackets, hang it outside their homes, and stick it to the bumpers of their cars. In its March 30-April 3 survey, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked 1,507 Americans if they “display the American flag, in places such as at your home or office, or on your car or clothing.” Three-quarters of Americans said they displayed the flag.

Showing off the American flag is most common among those who belong to a religious tradition; 78 percent of religious Americans show off the flag. More than 80 percent of evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics display the flag. Black Protestants are slightly less likely to do so, but overall the differences between religious groups are small and are not statistically different from each other.

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Together, members of these religious traditions are more likely to display the flag than those who are not affiliated with a religion. About one-fifth of Americans are not actively part of a religion. Only 58 percent of these unaffiliated display the flag.

Even though the flag is a national symbol, it is more likely to be displayed by those on the right than the left. The vast majority of political conservatives display the flag (87 percent). Liberals (55 percent) and moderates (75 percent) were less likely to do so.

Pew also asked about the flag as part of a series of questions on the Confederate flag and the American Civil War, which began 150 years ago this week.

Continue reading Religious Americans More Likely to Display Flag...

April 6, 2011

Majority of Evangelicals Prefer Government Shutdown to Budget Compromise

The federal government is, once again, nearing a government shutdown due to the impasse between House Republicans and Senate Democrats over this year's budget. The key issue is how much to reduce discretionary spending. For evangelical political leaders, the fiscal fight represents a moral battle where there is little room for compromise.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests that a majority of Americans want legislators to compromise, but evangelicals want politicians to stand their ground.

Pew asked the public how they wanted lawmakers who share their views to do. A majority of Americans (55 percent) said that their legislators should “be more willing to compromise even if that means they pass a budget [I] disagree with.” Only 36 percent said lawmakers should “stand by their principles even if that means the government shuts down.”

Evangelicals are more likely to want lawmakers to say, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Among the major religious groups in the U.S., evangelicals are the most likely to agree that their lawmakers should not compromise even if it leads to a shutdown. A majority (51 percent) took this position; 39 percent favored a compromise.

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This attitude on the budget is not found among other religious groups. Black Protestants are the most in favor of compromise (72 percent). A majority of other groups including Mainline Protestants (52 percent), Catholics (63 percent), and nonreligious people (55 percent) support compromise even if it means a budget that they disagree with.

Social conservatives want to keep in a complete ban on funding for Planned Parenthood. Advocates for relief organizations are conducting a month-long fast to raise awareness of cuts to aid for the world's poor. Both groups are calling on lawmakers to resist any compromise that violates these issues.

Continue reading Majority of Evangelicals Prefer Government Shutdown to Budget Compromise...

March 31, 2011

Polling Evangelicals: God Causes Disasters, U.S. Should Help Victims

Why are there disasters like the events in Japan? Are they "natural" disasters or "supernatural" events caused by God? A recent poll finds that evangelicals are far more likely than other Americans to believe that God causes disasters and sometimes does so as punishment.

A majority of Americans believe that God controls everything in the world, according to the poll from Public Religion Research Institute, in partnership with Religion News Service, conducted the poll March 17-20, 2011. A vast majority of white evangelicals (84 percent) believe God is in control of everything, which is more than mainline Protestants (56 percent) or Catholics (52 percent).

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Evangelicals are also far more likely than other religious groups to believe that God uses disasters to punish people or send signs. A majority of evangelicals (51 percent) believe that "God sometimes punishes nations for the sins of some of its citizens,” Only one-fifth of mainline Protestants or Catholics hold this believe.

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More people believe that natural disasters are a “sign from God.” Just over a third of Americans believe disasters are signs from God. However, a majority of evangelicals believe this (59 percent), which is more than other religious groups.

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The poll also found that 83 percent of Americans believe that is important for the U.S. to help out financially when nations like Japan suffer a natural disaster. This support is roughly the same for evangelicals (86 percent), other religious traditions, and those who are not religious.

Continue reading Polling Evangelicals: God Causes Disasters, U.S. Should Help Victims...

March 28, 2011

Poll Finds Religious Split in GOP Presidential Primaries

Just 318 days before the Iowa caucuses launch the first round of the presidential primaries, a poll suggests a religious divide among Republican primary voters. Former Arkansas governor (and former Baptist pastor) Mike Huckabee polls well among church-goers and evangelicals who are key voting blocs in the Republican primary, according to a new poll by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Pew finds Huckabee and Romney leading the field among Republicans nationwide, each with around one-fifth of Republicans naming them as their top choice. But there is a religious split among GOP voters, with 29 percent of white evangelicals favoring Huckabee and only 15 percent picking Romney.

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Huckabee did about as well among Catholics (27 vs. 16 percent). Huckabee's support among white mainline Protestants was lower (15 percent); Romney was the top-choice of 22 percent of mainliners.

In general, Huckabee performs best among religious voters, with 30 percent of those who attend church weekly supporting him. Romney, however, polled best among those who are not religious. He is the top pick among those who do not attend church weekly (24 percent). Within the GOP, one-third of those who are not religious or belong to a smaller faith group want Romney as the Republican nominee. Only 7 percent said they preferred Huckabee. Indeed, both former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (14 percent) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) (8 percent) did better than Huckabee among those who are nonreligious or belong to a smaller faith group.

Palin also did well among evangelicals, with 16 percent voicing support for her. A sizable number of mainline Protestants also support her (13 percent). She fared worse among Catholics, with only six percent naming her as their top choice.

Continue reading Poll Finds Religious Split in GOP Presidential Primaries...

March 10, 2011

Polling Evangelicals: Is Islam Violent?

Evangelicals are the only religious tradition with more followers seeing Islam as violent than those who see it as not more violent.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, is making headlines for his hearings on the "extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community." King said that hearings will address both efforts by terrorists to recruit Americans and the reactions by Muslim leaders in the U.S. to these attempts to radicalize American Muslims.

"The danger comes from a small segment within the Muslim community," said King. "Unfortunately, the issue we are facing is that not enough leaders in the community are willing to come forward when they know an individual is being radicalized. In some cases, these leaders have encouraged individuals to not cooperate with investigations."

David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good is one of several evangelicals who have criticized the hearings.

"It is always a very dangerous thing when one group is singled out in front of the rest. It is humiliating, shaming and stigmatizing, and almost invites average citizens to marginalize and mistreat members of the targeted group. When religion is involved, and a minority religious group to boot, the danger grows exponentially," said Gushee.

Still, Gushee said that despite his concerns, "I do not dismiss the legitimate fears that lie behind widespread public support for such hearings."

According to a newly released poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (Pew), such "legitimate fears" are far more common in evangelicalism than in other religious traditions in America.

Pew asked people if they thought Islam "is more likely than others to encourage violence among its believers" or if it "does not encourage violence more than others." Among evangelicals, 60 percent said that Islam was more violent than other religions. Other Americans hold the opposite view, with only 35 percent seeing Islam as more violent.

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Evangelicals are the only religious tradition that had more people seeing Islam as violent than those who see it as not more violent. Mainline Protestants and Catholics were split equally over the question (statistically speaking). Around four-in-ten of each of these traditions saw Islam as more violent; the same proportion saw Islam as no more violent than other religions. African-Americans and those with no religion were the least likely to see Islam as violent. A majority of each group said Islam was not violent.

Continue reading Polling Evangelicals: Is Islam Violent?...

February 21, 2011

Polling Evangelicals: Fix Deficit with Spending Cuts, Tax Increases

On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution containing deep cuts for education, environment, and health care programs. All told, the resolution cuts $60 billion dollars from this year's budget. The resolution faces an uncertain future, as it must pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and President Obama vowed to veto the House version of the bill.

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For many evangelical activists, the deficit is a top moral concern. But how important is the deficit to everyday evangelicals in the pews?

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press provided Christianity Today with a religious breakdown of questions from its December and February polls on the deficit and government spending. These polls show that while unemployment is a more pressing economic issue for evangelicals, they agree that the federal government should fix the deficit immediately and are willing to raise taxes (coupled with spending cuts) to do so.

When asked if the federal government should spend more money to create jobs or reduce the budget, nearly two-thirds of evangelicals said that the deficit was a more urgent problem (64 percent). Other Americans were more evenly split, with only 46 percent favoring deficit reduction.

This emphasis on the deficit likely reflects a distrust of government spending as a solution to unemployment. In a December survey, Pew found that 39 percent of evangelicals thought the job situation was the nation's most pressing economic problem. Only 22 percent named the deficit. This is similar to the views of other Americans, 45 percent of whom chose jobs and 19 percent chose the deficit.

In that same poll, however, 80 percent of evangelicals said the deficit was an issue that needs to be addressed now rather than waiting until after the economy improved. Other Americans were more willing to wait. Just over two-thirds of other Americans voiced a need to address the deficit immediately (68 percent).

Continue reading Polling Evangelicals: Fix Deficit with Spending Cuts, Tax Increases...

November 29, 2010

Pew: Half of Evangelicals Oppose Gays Serving Openly in the Military

Most Americans (58 percent) say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Twenty-seven percent of Americans oppose homosexuals to serve openly.

About half (48 percent) of white evangelical Protestants oppose letting gays serve openly in the military, while 34 percent support a reversal of status quo. Among all Protestants, 34 percent oppose the idea while 49 percent favor it.

A few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would release a study of the effects of a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal tomorrow. The Washington Post reported earlier that the study concludes the military can lift the ban with only minimal risk. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said yesterday that leaders are nowhere 'near' votes to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell."

October 26, 2010

Survey: 6 in 10 Protestant Pastors Disapprove of Obama

Six out of every 10 Protestant pastors say they disapprove of President Obama's job performance, a LifeWay Research survey found.

Researchers said of the 61 percent who disapprove of Obama's work, 47 percent disapprove strongly.

The survey, released October 21, found that 30 percent of pastors approve of the president's performance (including 14 percent who strongly approve). Nine percent were undecided.

When the Southern Baptist-affiliated research group surveyed Protestant pastors about their voting intentions just before the 2008 elections, 20 percent indicated they planned to vote for Obama, compared to 55 percent who planned to vote for GOP candidate John McCain.

"If voting intentions and job approval measure similar things, the president hasn't made many friends in the pulpits of America's churches throughout the first year-and-a-half of his presidency," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

The new research was based on interviews with 1,000 Protestant clergy October 7-14 and had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Researchers also found that 84 percent of Protestant pastors disagreed with the idea of pastors endorsing political candidates from the pulpit.

May 1, 2009

Torture vs. Abortion & Same-Sex Unions

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A new study suggests that evangelicals are the most likely religious group to justify torture. Around 60 percent of evangelicals said use of torture against suspected terrorists can often or sometimes be justified, compared to 50 percent of Catholics 46 percent of white mainline Protestants who said the same thing, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. David Neff takes a look at the survey over at CT's liveblog.

Meanwhile, the latest national survey suggest that overall support for legal abortion is down 8 percent from last August. Just 23 percent of white evangelical Protestants now favor legal abortion, down from 33 percent in August and mid-October and 28 percent in late October.

Also, a new Quinnipiac poll suggests that while Catholics support same-sex civil unions 68 -27percent, evangelicals oppose the unions 61-34 percent. Catholics support gay adoption 61-33 percent, while evangelical Christians oppose gay adoption 64-30 percent.

Continue reading Torture vs. Abortion & Same-Sex Unions...

February 23, 2009

Slicing the evangelicals

Posting on Christianity Today's political blog, Tobin Grant of SIU-Carbondale pooh-poohs the idea that anything significant happened with the evangelical vote for president last November, even as he acknowledges that the exit polls showed a geographical split, with Southern evangelicals more likely to vote for McCain than their Midwestern co-religionists:

The news, however, is that despite the economy, the war, and at least some campaigning by Obama, evangelicals remained unmoved in their support for the Republican candidate.

No, the news from 2008 is the emergence of significant internal divisions within the evangelical vote, not only geographical but also generational. The geographical one (on display in Ted Olsen's cool interactive map) enabled Obama to carry Midwestern states (Ohio, Indiana) that had been beyond the reach of Democratic presidential candidates for a long time. The generational division was portentous, because it showed that among evangelicals, the young went from being the most enthusiastic Bush voters to the least enthusiastic McCain voters, while the old went in the opposite direction.

Continue reading Slicing the evangelicals...

January 28, 2009

The Importance of Religion: State by State

Gallup just released data comparing importance of religion in Americans' lives.

Overall, 65 percent of Americans say religion is an important part of their daily lives. The number is lower than what the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found in their Religious Landscape survey released in February 2008. In that survey, 82 percent of Americans said religious belief and practices was very important or somewhat important, while only 65 percent of Gallup respondents said religion is an important part of their daily life. The Pew Forum gave an option for "very important" or "somewhat important" "not too important/not important at all" while Gallup gave respondents yes, no, don't know options.

So how does your state rank?
Top 10 most religious states
1. Mississippi
2. Alabama
3. South Carolina
4. Tennessee
5. Louisiana
6. Arkansas
7. Georgia
8. North Carolina
9. Oklahoma
10. Kentucky
(Texas comes in at 11)

Top 11 least religious states
1. Vermont
2. New Hampshire
3. Maine
4. Massachusetts
5. Alaska
6. Washington
7. Oregon
8. Rhode Island
9. Nevada
10. Connecticut

The results were based on telephone interviews with 355,334 adults.

December 23, 2008

Bogus Bogus Trend Story?

Slate's media watchdog Jack Shafer thinks he's got the NYT dead to rights for Paul Vitello's December 14 story on how the recession is boosting worship attendance, at evangelical churches in particular. Not so, clucks Shafer, citing Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport's marshalling of evidence that there has, in fact, been no increase in church attendance in these hard times. Weekly attendance, saith Newport, has remained around 42 percent for months and months.

Unbeknownst to Shafer, however, is the bogosity of Gallup's church attendance numbers. What Newport doesn't say is that his company's surveys have shown church attendance to be in that exact numeric neighborhood ever since they began asking the question 60 years ago. As sure as death and taxes, two in five Americans will say they attend church weekly.

But for over a decade, sociologists of religion (and those who read them) have known that 1) a lot of those supposed weekly attenders are fibbing; and 2) more of them are fibbing now than used to. The evidence for this comes from multiple sources, including time-usage studies, on-the-ground observation of parking lots, church attendance records, interviews with clergy. These days, the real number for weekly attendance is in the low 20 percent range. (Here's a citation for one of the more important articles on the subject: C. Kirk Hadaway, Penny Long Marler and Mark Chaves, "Overreporting Church Attendance in America: Evidence That Demands the Same Verdict," American Sociological Review, Vol. 63, No. 1 [Feb., 1998], pp. 122-130.)

So does this meant that Vitello's article is on the money? Could be. A bunch of phone calls to pastors is more likely to turn up something new in the going-to-church department than Gallup's invariant two-in-five. Don't expect the phenomenon to last, though. After 9/11, a host of stories tracked a bump in churchgoing, and then a host tracked the quick reversion to the norm. As Yoda might have said, "Backsliding always we are."

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

December 22, 2008

New Congress Reflects Overall U.S. Religious Landscape

The religious makeup of the incoming 111th Congress roughly matches the overall American religious landscape, with overrepresentation among Jews and Mormons, according to new analysis by the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Just over half (55 percent) of House and Senate members who will take office on Jan. 6 are Protestants, compared to 51 percent of the U.S. population. The second-largest group, Catholics, make up 30 percent of lawmakers, compared to 24 percent of all Americans.

Among Protestants, Baptists lead in the House and Senate, at 12 percent, followed by Methodists (11 percent), Presbyterians (8 percent), Episcopalians (7 percent) and Lutherans (4.5 percent).

Like the nation as a whole, the proportion of mainline Protestant members in Congress has fallen in recent decades. Methodists, for example, made up nearly one in five lawmakers in 1961. Episcopalians and Presbyterians have seen similar drops, while Lutherans have remained
relatively steady.

Catholics, meanwhile, have grown from 19 percent in 1961 -- the same year John F. Kennedy took office as the nation's first Catholic president -- to 30 percent today. Catholics make up a larger share of the Senate (37 percent) than the House (21 percent).

Jews make up 8.3 percent of the new Congress, compared to just 1.7 percent of the general population. Mormons, too, account for 2.6 percent of Congress but 1.7 percent of the general population.

The 111th Congress will see the return of two Muslims (Democrats Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana) and two Buddhists (Democrats Hank Johnson of Georgia and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii) who were all elected to the House during the 110th Congress.

The Pew analysis said no Hindu has ever been elected to Congress, although a Sikh, Rep. Dalip Singh Saund, represented California for three terms beginning in 1957. Only one member of Congress, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., is a professing nonbeliever; five members did not specify a religious affiliation in data collected by Congressional Quarterly.

December 4, 2008

Poll: Religion Drove Calif. Gay Marriage Ban Votes

A new poll suggests that religion and economic status played a driving force than race and age in determining whether voters would approve a ban on same-sex marriage in California, Lisa Leff reports for the Associated Press.

The ban drew its strongest support from both evangelical Christians and voters who didn't attend college, according to results released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Age and race, meanwhile, were not as strong factors as assumed. According to the poll, 56 percent of voters over age 55 and 57 percent of nonwhite voters cast a yes ballot for the gay marriage ban.

People who identified themselves as practicing Christians were highly likely to support the constitutional amendment, with 85 percent of evangelical Christians, 66 percent of Protestants and 60 percent of Roman Catholics favoring it.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life provides a graph of how Americans' opposition to same-sex marriage has varied over the years. A 2007 survey showed that 55 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage while 36 percent were in favor of it. Evangelicals in California (85 percent) voted for the ban slightly higher than the percent of evangelicals overall who oppose gay marriage (81 percent).

December 2, 2008

Frozen Chosen

Steve Waldman poses a question that has been gnawing at those of us who spend way too much of our time poring over exit polls by religious category; namely: Why didn't any more white mainline Protestants vote for Barack Obama? Like Steve, I expected Obama to make real inroads among his co-religionists, a onetime heartland Republican constituency that had been trending Democratic in recent elections. In the event, they voted (according to Pew's account), 55-44 for McCain (as opposed to 56-44 for George Bush in 2004.) Meanwhile, Obama reduced the Republican margin among white evangelicals, whom he wasn't supposed to be making headway with, by a full 11 points. What gives? Here's the best I can manage by way of an answer, based on currently available data.

Mainliners were the only Judeo-Christian grouping whose vote for Bush decreased from 2000 to 2004. And that decline occurred solely among those who attended worship frequently (once a week or more), to the tune of 8 percentage points. Bush actually picked up one percentage point among the less frequent attenders. (These data, worked up by John Green for an article in Religion in the News, can be found here.) We don't yet have the crosstabs for religious traditions by frequency of attendance in 2008, but we do know that among white Protestants, the evangelical portion of the vote increased (by three points), while mainliners dropped by a point. And in the overall attendance categories, there was a drop in turnout only among the more-than-weekly attenders. I'm guessing that the part of the mainline community that had not been in motion--the less frequent attenders--remained in place as it had in 2004, while among those who had been in motion--the frequent attenders--all that changed was that a small number decided not to vote for president this time around.

OK, but so what? My hypothesis is that 1) lukewarm mainliners have for the past decade been frozen into their partisan commitments in a way that may have more to do with where they live and what particular denomination they belong to than with their identity as generic mainline Protestants; and 2) worshipful mainliners reached a new partisan equilibrium in 2004, such that in 2008 just a few were sufficiently torn between conflicting impulses (economic conservatism, anti-Palinism, whatever) that they crossed their arms and stayed at home. Bottom line: White mainliners are now kind of like white Catholics--modestly more Republican than Democratic but less likely to shift around.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

December 2, 2008

Non-Evangelicals Didn't Move to Obama

About two months ago I sagely predicted that mainline Protestants would flood to Obama and white evangelicals (thanks to Obama's positions on abortion, Sarah Palin and other factors) wouldn't go anywhere near him.

It looks like I got it pretty much exactly backward. I've written elsewhere why I think evangelicals did move to Obama in meaningful numbers, but I'm absolutely stumped by this: according to an analysis by the Pew Religion Forum, non-evangelical Protestants didn't move to Obama at all. Kerry got 44%. So did Obama.

Given that just about every other religious group shifted to the Democrat, I'm scratching my head as to why these folks didn't.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

November 7, 2008

A Generation Gap Among Evangelicals

We numbers junkies thank Laurie Goodstein at the New York Times for doing a special slice-and-dice on the exit polls that gives us this fascinating nugget:

Obama doubled his support among evangelicals (Obamagelicals, as we like to call them) ages 18-29 (getting 32% compared to 16% in 2004).

What the Times didn't mention is that Obama actually went down among evangelicals 65 and older (Kerry got 32% of them; Obama got 26%)

In other words, in 2004 the senior evangelicals were more Democratic than the juniors. Now it's the other way around.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

November 5, 2008

What Broader Agenda?

If anybody never sleeps, it's John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Green has been giving a series of conference calls with reporters on religion and the election results.

While there was a large surge in the minority Christian vote, early exit polls do not show much change in the white evangelical turnout. Several people, including Green, have been pointing to a broader agenda in the evangelical community, so I asked him why the results were similar to 2004. Here's part of what he said late last night.

"I think there's a lot of evidence that among certain elements of the community and many evangelical leaders there is this press to broaden the agenda. The initial numbers suggest that however important that maybe it didn't connect to the vote for many evangelicals.

"Now, there are at least two explanations that we'll have to sort out. One was that there was a lot of interest in the broader agenda but there was counter pressure on the social issues. Another possibility is that many of the elements of the new agenda the environment, international human rights, poverty, and so forth just didn't figure into presidential voting choices in this election.

"They may in the future, or they may be important when it comes to considering legislation that the new president may propose. I don't think we can take these numbers to say now the broadening of the agenda didn't happen, but it does suggest that whatever was going on it wasn't wired up to the vote in the way many evangelical leaders had hoped."

November 5, 2008

Examining the Exit Poll Data on Evangelicals

As readers of this blog know, I've been pushing the hypothesis that evangelicals in the Midwest were going to be shifting to Obama in ways that their co-religionists in other parts of the country, especially the South, were not. And lo and behold, yesterday's vote more or less bears that out. Across the Midwest, where evangelicals tended to vote 3-1 for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004, they tended to vote only 2-1 for John McCain over Barack Obama yesterday. Meanwhile, in the South and what we call the Southern Crossroads, whereas in 2004 evangelicals voted 3-1 or better for Bush over Kerry, in most states they actually voted by greater margins for McCain over Obama.

Let's compare Indiana and Oklahoma. Hoosier evangelicals favored Bush by 77-22 but McCain by only 66-41. Oklahomans, by contrast, voted 77-23 for Bush and 77-22 for McCain. Midwest pickups for Obama included 11 points in Ohio, 13 in Michigan, 11 in Iowa, 11 in South Dakota, and 19 in Nebraska. But he lost one point in Alabama, five in Mississippi, three in Kentucky, five in Tennessee, eight in Louisiana, and five in Arkansas. There were some exceptions. In Missouri, which we include in the Southern Crossroads (but which has real Midwestern features), there was a 14-point shift to Obama. And in Kansas, which we include in the Midwest (but which has real Southern Crossroads features), there was a 2-point shift to McCain. Meanwhile, out West, there were significant shifts by evangelicals toward Obama in Oregon (15), Colorado (20), and Idaho (12). In the latter two states, however, the shift didn't even manage to bring the vote down to 3-1 levels.)

I haven't tried to do all the calculations, but one thing is clear. In Indiana's astonishing flip to blue, fully half the 21-point shift came from the evangelicals. The larger question has to do with explaining the overall bifurcation. The most likely explanation for what happened in the South and Southern Crossroads is the persistence of racial prejudice in those regions. It's also the case that this is where evangelicals are most heavily organized and mobilized as Republican partisans. But in the Midwest, there is Obama's identity as a Midwesterner, and the common Midwestern religious sensibility that he appealed to, to take into account. Not to belabor the point, but Obama's communitarian outlook is very much the Midwestern way--a point Andrew Walsh and I make in our new book, One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics. The book postulates that, led by the likes of Obama, we may be now be trading the Crossroads ethos of Bush and Company for a Midwestern one. As the book's last line reads: "If there is to be a new style of religious pluralism in America, there is something to be said for having it emerge from the Midwest."

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

November 5, 2008

Results: The Gap

It will be widely noted that the God Gap, as measured by the partisan preference of frequent (weekly or more often) worship attenders, shrank from 20 points in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections to 12 points this time around. And some may be inclined to credit this year's focus on religious outreach by Obama and the DNC for what happened. But in fact, the shift occurred in the 2006 midterm elections. Then, what had been a 20-point preference by frequent attenders for GOP congressional candidates in 2000 and 2004 shrank to 13 points. Meanwhile, the gap among less frequent attenders bumped up from 13 points for Democratic candidates in 2004 to 25 points in 2006--the same territory as the 23 percent of less frequent attenders who went for Obama. Measured in terms of comparing frequent and less frequent attenders, then, the God Gap remains as big as ever, just with both the former and the latter both more Democratically inclined than they were in 2000-2004.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

November 5, 2008

How the Evangelical Exit Poll Question Misleads

Conrad Hackett, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, has a helpful if wonkish (and expensive) article in the last Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion on measuring evangelicals.

Michael Lindsay, he of Faith in the Halls of Power, cowrote the article and has an executive summary on his website.

But today on The Immanent Frame blog, Hackett summarizes the article with an eye to tonight's exit poll data:

The question used to identify evangelicals in today's exit polls is "Would you describe yourself as a born-again or evangelical Christian?" Unfortunately, this is not a great survey question.

One problem with this measure is that it produces estimates of the evangelical population considerably larger and different from estimates based on measures more commonly used by scholars. The measure originates with the Gallup Organization, which has been using it since 1986 to track the size of America's evangelical population. It was introduced into presidential election exit polls in 2004.

Despite Gallup's reputation, the measure has several flaws. It is a double-barreled question that implies that "born-again" and "evangelical" are interchangeable labels, which may not be true for all respondents. It does not offer respondents alternate ways of expressing religious identity, which no doubt inflates estimates of the evangelical population. In this respect, a better question would be "Would you describe yourself as an evangelical Christian, another type of Christian, or a non-Christian?"

More helpful analysis follows, including a nod to the problem of asking only white Protestants whether they're evangelicals or born-again Christians.

November 4, 2008

Weekly Churchgoers vs. Occasionals

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One thing that puzzles me about these numbers: Obama's progress among Catholics is with those who don't attend mass weekly. But among Protestants, he improved among those who do attend weekly.

One possible theory: abortion. Mass-attending Catholics are more likely to care about abortion than those who go less regularly. Protestant weekly attenders, on the other hand, include Mainline Protestants that are not necessarily pro-life.

But that's just a theory. Based on very preliminary exit polls.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

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November 4, 2008

A Few More Obamagelicals

Barack Obama had made a major effort to win white evangelicals. For several months, it looked as if his efforts were for naught.

But the early exit polls show that Obama did make some progress. Bush beat Kerry 78%-21% in 2004. So far, McCain's beating Obama 72%-26%

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

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November 4, 2008

The God Gap Narrows

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For several elections, Republicans have dominated among the most religious and Democrats among the secular.

Based on the first wave of exit polls, Obama has narrowed the God Gap considerably, dramatically improving on John Kerry's 2004 performance among those who attend church frequently.

Bush beat Kerry among weekly church-goers by 61%-39%. McCain is beating Obama 54%-44%

Another key group is the Sorta Religious. Those who attend a few times a month or a few times a year. Among those who attend a few times a month, went for Bush 50%-49%. Obama is winning this group, 52%-47%, according to the first wave of exit polls.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)


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November 4, 2008

The Mile High City

CT Politics Blog reader Christine Tatum sends us these photos from outside of Denver.

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November 4, 2008

From the Rockies

CT Politics Blog reader Debbye Harmon tells us her story from Palisade, Colorado, which she describes as a small, mostly conservative town.

Faith in God, pride in America, and taking care of family is the core of this community. Our voting takes place, very appropriately, in the Veteran's Memorial Park.

I saw working adults taking time from their work day to vote. I saw an elderly man wheeling himself into the building in his wheelchair, wanting to cast his vote. I saw an elderly woman walking slowly but determinedly with her oxygen tank to cast her vote. I saw young adults working with older adults in their volunteer roles of overseeing the election.

All were polite. The atmosphere was friendly, but not jocular. There was a seriousness to the matter at hand, and respect for one another and for a most important decision we were all making together. I was proud to be there amongst such good people, and proud to be an American. Perhaps that sounds a bit sappy, but I make no apology.

Whatever the outcome of this election, may God bless America and each of you who read this.

Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

The Golden State

CT Politics Blog reader Khari Johnson took this picture at a polling location at Cajon Valley Middle School in El Cajon, California.

Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

How Many Evangelicals?

The Associated Press says, "One in four voters were white born-again evangelical Christians."

It's unclear if how much the news service is rounding. In 2004 evangelicals were 24 percent of the vote. (In 2000, exit polls asked voters whether they were part of the religious right, not whether they were evangelicals. 14 percent said yes.)

So regardless of the turnout story, it looks like evangelicals came out in about the same percentage as they did four years ago.

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November 4, 2008

CNN's Exit Poll Numbers on Evangelicals

CNN just announced that according to its exit polls today, McCain beat Obama among evangelicals by a margin of 72%-26%.

McCain did best with evangelicals in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and worst (or least well) in Minnesota and Iowa. He had a majority of the evangelical vote in all states.

More to come. A lot more to come. (So far, CNN's website doesn't include its exit poll data on evangelicals. If you ask me, on the TV side of CNN's operations, the tech toys are getting in the way of presenting information helpfully. They're like the kids on Christmas who are more interested in the box the toy came in.)

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November 4, 2008

The First Evangelical Exit Poll Numbers

Gawker and other sites are leaking early exit poll data. Here's a bit so far:

In Indiana, 42% of voters are white evangelicals, up from 35% in 2004. McCain is getting 68% of their support. Bush captured 77% of the vote in 2004.

In Missouri, white evangelicals are 38% of the vote in and they are backing McCain by 67% to 32%. Not as strong a showing as Bush in 2004.

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November 4, 2008

How You Voted

Since January, Christianity Today has asked its online readers to tell us who you support.

Both candidates went through a little roller coaster, so while they are interesting, the polls are unscientific.

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November 4, 2008

Don't Mess With Texas

CT Politics Blog reader Kelley Mathews took these photos outside city hall in Anna, Texas, a town of 9,000. Here's her story:

It took me about 30 minutes to get through the line and complete the easy, computerized voting machine. The small crowd was very friendly, which is typical around here, and you could feel the buzz. No bantering between political parties - just excitement about the big day.

The second photo is of Kelley's three-year-old daughter, Maggie. Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

What's Up, Mormons?

Here are a few last findings from Harris and Pew, the former having to do with registered voters and the latter with likely ones. The polls are pretty close overall, Obama 53-44 (Harris) and 52-46 (Pew). White Catholics diverge radically: McCain 57-40 (Harris), Obama 47-45 (Pew). Harris has white evangelicals surprisingly close (for them): McCain 61-34; Pew has them at a more expected 68-23. Harris has Jews backing Obama 76-24 (nothing from Pew).

If there's anything really noteworthy here as we wrap up our pre-election poll-reading, it's what Harris reports on Mormons, who tend to come in for precious little attention, given their staunch Republicanism and demographic concentration in states (Idaho, Utah) where it would take a partisan sea change to make a difference in a presidential election. Anyway, Harris finds Mormons backing McCain 60-37. That seems like a pretty healthy plurality until you realize that 81 percent of Mormons voted for George W. Bush.

What's up with that? Well, at a session on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign at the American Academy of Religion, it emerged from Mormon attendees that there was a good deal of unhappiness among Mormons with the Republican Party and how Romney was treated by its evangelical base. The anecdotal evidence cited suggests that not a few Mormons have decided not to vote for the GOP nominee, and may even pull the Democratic lever.

Could such a decision make a difference? Well, both Nevada and Arizona are pretty close, and Mormons constitute six and five percent of their populations respectively. A shift of 40 points among Mormons would equal 2-3 percent of the vote in those states--which could well turn out to be the difference.

(Originally posted at Mark Silk's Spiritual Politics.)

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November 4, 2008

Live From New York

CT Politics Blog reader Alison Bowen took these photos outside polls in New York City. Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

What We'll Know and When We'll Know It

Pre-election polls come and go, and obsessed as we are with them, they matter little when all is said and done. But exit polls are something else entirely, both for historians and political scientists assessing the significance of elections and for politicians and their minions planning for the future. Think, in recent years, of the amount of attention given the God Gap or the 2004 "Moral Values" vote. So as the polls close tonight, the exit polls will be on display for instant analysis; I expect to be doing a bit of it myself. I am, however, more aware than ever of the caveats. Here are three.

1. Exit polls in the absence of actual vote totals reflect guesswork on what particular precincts are worth in terms of the total vote. When the totals are in, the exit polls are then adjusted to reflect the actual vote. In an election like the present one, where there are major imponderables (the turnout among younger voters and African Americans foremost among them), the guesswork is more than usually difficult. So initial indications of the voting patterns of various groups, including religious ones, will need to be taken with a major grain of salt.

2. Exit poll calculations this year are further complicated by the large number of voters--perhaps one-third of the total--who have cast their votes early. The pollsters are doing surveying of these voters, but integrating a survey of voters who say they've voted into an exit poll is not an easy thing.

3. Our new American Religious Identification Survey raises problems with assessing the evangelical vote. It turns out that nearly 40 percent of Mainline Protestants (identified by denomination) and 15 percent of Catholics answer yes to the standard exit poll/survey approach to identifying evangelicals: "Do you consider yourself an evangelical or born-again Christian?" Nationwide, that's maybe one-third of the voters who answer yes, but we don't know yet how these "evangelicals" are distributed regionally or state-by-state. There are many things to weigh here but one is: In places the Midwest, where there's a large proportion of mainliners, it may be that indications of a greater tendency of "evangelicals" to prefer Obama just reflect a mainline propensity.

Bottom line: Any immediate conclusions drawn from the exit polls have to be considered highly provisional. It's going to take a while to get this sorted out.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

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November 4, 2008

Free Food, Drinks, Flu Vaccination

Voting today? Lifehacker has a nice post showing where you can get the freebies. Hold on to your "I voted" sticker.

* Ben & Jerry's: Free scoop of ice cream between 5-8 p.m.
* Books-A-Million: Free cup of coffee.
* California Tortilla: Free taco.
* Chick-fil-A: "Several hundred" Chick-fil-A restaurants are handing out chicken sandwiches.
* Krispy Kreme: Free star-shaped doughnut.
* Shane's Rib Shack: 3-piece chicken tenders, fries, and 20-ounce drink to the first 300 customers at participating locations.
* Starbucks: Free tall coffee at any Starbucks.
* Vote & Vax: National project by non-profits to offer free flu vaccinations on election day.
(Note, not all chain stores may participate.)

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November 1, 2008

Poll: Young Evangelicals Surging Towards ... McCain?

Eighty-five percent of evangelicals under 39 plan to vote for McCain compared to the 13 percent who plan to vote for Barack Obama, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall, the poll suggests that 77 percent of all evangelicals will break for McCain while 21 percent will vote for Obama. McCain's support is higher than the breakdown in a recent Pew Center survey (65-22).

The breakdown for younger evangelicals also does not match up with earlier polls sponsored by Faith in Public Life and Religion & News Ethics Weekly.

In the Faith in Public Life survey conducted August 28 to September 19, 65 percent of young evangelicals (under 34) supported McCain while 29 percent were for Obama. In Religion & News Ethics Weekly's survey conducted September 4 to 21, 62 percent of young evangelicals (under 30) planned to vote for McCain, while 30 percent broke for Obama.

Julia Duin of The Washington Times suggests that abortion is the key issue keeping evangelicals - including young evangelicals - from voting for Obama. A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll found that 70 percent of evangelicals say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.

"While young evangelicals - and the public - have become more liberal on other social issues like gay marriage," Pollster Anna Greenberg said, "we do not see the same movement towards a liberal position on abortion."

October 30, 2008

Poll: How Pastors Will Vote

A little over half (53 percent) of Protestant pastors plan to vote for John McCain compared with 20 percent who plan to vote for Barack Obama, a new poll suggests. A full 22 percent were undecided in the LifeWay Research poll conducted October 10-28.

Sixty-six percent of self-identified evangelical pastors plan to vote for McCain while 13 percent are for Obama and 19 percent are undecided. A recent Pew Center survey suggested that 67 percent of evangelicals plan to vote for McCain while 24 are for Obama.

Among mainline pastors, 36 percent plan to vote for McCain, 37 percent support Obama, and 24 percent are undecided.

Fifty-three percent of Protestant pastors said that they have personally endorsed candidates for public office this year, but outside of their church roles. Less than 3 percent said that they have endorsed candidates during a church service this year.

This is what surprised Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, a polling organization associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

1. Self identified "mainline" pastors not more pro-Obama (they were split).
2. A sizeable minority of pastors are still undecided.
3. A majority [of] pastors endorsed candidates outside of their church role.

October 29, 2008

Evangelicals by Swing States

A new poll shows that fewer Hoosier evangelicals plan to vote for John McCain than in other swing states.

Indiana: 57 (McCain) 33 (Obama) percent
Florida: 72-21
Ohio: 61-33
Pennsylvania: 62-31

Update: Mark Silk has a helpful explanation of why Hoosier evangelicals are significant (besides the fact that Indiana is my home state).

In this usually dependable red state, it is not good news for McCain that evangelicals are supporting him by less than 2-1 (57-33). In 2004, they backed Bush 77-22. Bush won Indiana by 21 points, 60-39. Evangelicals constitute 35 percent of the Hoosier vote, so their 31-point shift toward Obama represents about half the total shift in the partisan breakdown from 2004 to now. In other words, evangelicals in Indiana seem to be shifting disproportionately toward Obama. For a core (as opposed to a swing) constituency, that's big news indeed.

October 29, 2008

The Religious Left and Political Films

Barack Obama may seem like the perfect candidate for the Religious Left.

He's outspoken about his faith, he has a staff devoted to religious outreach, and he talks about finding common ground on divisive issues like abortion. Still, recent polls show he hasn't pulled many votes away from John McCain.

David R. Swartz, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Notre Dame, writes about the Religious Left's influence among evangelicals in CT's sister publication Books & Culture.

"Evangelicals' engagement of diverse politics - including New Left, progressive New Deal, and right-wing politics, all since the early 1970s - suggests the volatility of evangelical politics and its susceptibility to co-optation, sudden shifts, and identity politics. The politicization of evangelicalism has exposed the limits of evangelical politics."

Swartz says Amy Sullivan and Jim Wallis may have the best case for a "sea change" now than at any other time since 1973.

"But given the persisting limits of evangelical politics on the Left in the past three decades, Wallis and Sullivan's hopes for a large, robust progressive movement may well be dashed again."

Also, if you're thinking about plopping down the bucks to see W., Brett McCracken wrote a commentary over at Christianity Today Movies on whether political movies matter in the election season. Read the whole thing, but here's his conclusion:

"Perhaps film isn't the best method of political propaganda; there just isn't enough evidence to back it up. But don't expect Hollywood to stop producing election-themed fare any time soon. As we've seen from Saturday Night Live this season, enjoying 50 percent higher ratings than this time last year, politics is good for entertainment. But is entertainment good for politics? Does it make a difference? The verdict is still out."

October 28, 2008

Evangelicals' Support for McCain Slowly Slipping

John McCain is behind Barack Obama 36 percent to 52 percent in the Pew Center's latest survey, and his support from evangelicals has been slowly draining.

In the last three weeks, support for McCain has slipped from 74 percent, 67 percent, to 65 percent. However, support for Barack Obama has stayed relatively the same at 18 percent, 22 percent, and 22 percent.

October 24, 2008

Poll: More evangelicals hearing from McCain's campaign

Despite Barack Obama's heavy outreach to religious voters, more evangelicals report hearing from John McCain's campaign, a new poll suggests.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll report shows that 26 percent of evangelicals have been contacted by McCain's campaign, compared with 15 percent who have heard from the Obama campaign.

The Obama campaign seems to take a more public approach with their faith tours, while perhaps the McCain campaign is taking a quieter approach.

The 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign urged people to obtain church directories, but last year, McCain's campaign denied the same approach. Obama's head of religious outreach Joshua DuBois told Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe that the campaign would not "steal" church directories to call people. Eric Gorski of the Associated Press wrote last month that a McCain campaign spokesman declined to say whether parish directories were in the campaign's plans.

October 23, 2008

Evangelicals in the polls

Barna just released a poll that shows only 45 percent of "born again" voters plan for vote for John McCain while 43 percent plan to cast a vote for Barack Obama. Sixty-three percent of evangelicals plan to vote for McCain while 23 percent plan to vote for Obama.

Earlier this week, a Pew Center survey found that 67 percent of evangelicals for McCain while 24 plan to vote for Obama. Why the difference? The centers poll differently (the Pew Center looks at white evangelicals while the Barna poll includes African Americans), but the numbers are interesting.

Mark Silk points to recent regional Quinnipiac polls for McCain's lead among evangelicals: Florida (71-23), Ohio (59-32), and Pennsylvania (63-32).

October 17, 2008

Hispanic Protestants Move Towards Obama

President Bush won the majority of Hispanic Protestants in 2004, but a new survey shows that Hispanic Protestants are moving away from the Republican Party.

October 15, 2008

The Surge of the Whitebread Protestants to Obama

With all the attention showered on evangelical Christians and Catholics, we've neglected the religious group partly driving Barack Obama's recent surge in the polls: mainline Protestants.

This bucket includes the historic American churches that once dominated the spiritual landscape but have been losing members in recent years: United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church in the USA, American Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ. Their members represent 18% of the population.

This used to be a solidly Republican group. In 2004, they went for President George W. Bush 54%-46%. This summer, John McCain was leading Sen. Obama among these voters 43% to 40%, according to a study by John Green of the University of Akron.

But an ABCNews/Washington Post poll released Monday showed Sen. Obama now leading among Mainliners 53%-44%, indicating that the undecided voters are breaking heavily for the Democratic candidate.

Why? The superficial answer is, as with so many other questions, the economy. In Beliefnet's Twelve Tribes study, 68% of centrist Mainliners (what we called "White Bread Protestants") said the economy was the No. 1 issue compared with just 4% who said social issues.

Growing More Conservative

But that only gets at part of the riddle.


For one thing, Mainliners are traditionally conservative on economics - and surveys indicate that if anything they've become more skeptical of big government since 2004. Slightly more than four in 10 "white bread Protestants" call themselves conservative compared with 16% who say they're liberal. In some ways, Sen. McCain is actually an ideal candidate to appeal to this group - a mainline Christian himself (raised Episcopalian), he talks about fiscal discipline and earmarks.

The Mainline shift to Sen. Obama may be partly an unintended consequence of Sen. McCain's efforts to energize evangelical Christians, including through the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Though fiscally conservative, mainline Protestants are socially liberal - so they would be unimpressed by the Republican Party adopting the most antiabortion platform ever. Mainliners may be irritated or scared by Gov. Palin's religious language and beliefs - including her attendance at a Pentecostal church espousing "End Times" theology (that we're approaching the end of the world and Christ's return).

In general, Mainliners have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the role the "religious right" has played in the Republican Party. According to a new survey by a progressive group called Faith in Public Life, Mainliners - by a margin of two to one -- believe public officials are too close to religious leaders. Evangelicals, by a two to one margin, think politicians should pay more attention to religion.

If you view the campaign as a chess game, Sen. McCain made a bold and successful gambit to shore up evangelicals by picking Gov. Palin - but thereby left several other pieces on the board vulnerable.

Targeting Mainliners, Moderate Evangelicals

Sen. Obama has skillfully capitalized on this. The campaign's religious outreach arm has initiated 950 "American values" house parties, about 65% of which have been among mainline Protestants. His campaign recently sent out a massive faith mailing targeted at mainline Protestants and moderate evangelicals.

The electoral map makers have insured that these groups get special attention. A list of states with higher-than-average concentrations of Mainliners is also a list of the key electoral battlegrounds: Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

There's the simple fact that Sen. Obama himself is a Midwestern mainline Protestant. Though thought of as a "black liberation" enclave, Sen. Obama's church in Chicago was part of the United Church of Christ, a mostly white mainline denomination - and Sen. Obama's faith rhetoric is more traditional Protestant than Black liberationist.

Sen. Obama's frequent discussion of his personal faith seemed targeted at evangelicals but may have given comfort instead to traditional Mainliners. "Obama planting seeds in the evangelical garden has borne fruit in the mainline garden," says Mara Vanderslice, founder of a progressive religious group Matthew25 and religious outreach director for John Kerry's 2004 campaign.

All in all, the economy is still the driving force in the mainline shift. But these other noneconomic factors help explain why the campaign has seen -- as of now -- more improvement with mainline Protestants than with other groups.

Reprinted from Steven Waldman's Political Perceptions column at WSJ.com (Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

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October 14, 2008

Obama widens lead over McCain

John McCain's support from evangelicals fell 12 percent from last week, a new
The CBS News/New York Times
poll shows.

McCain still leads Obama 63 to 27 percent among evangelicals, but Obama gained seven percentage points from last week. A September 25 CBS poll showed McCain leading 69 to 20 percent.

Overall, the poll shows Obama with a 14-point lead over McCain: 53 percent to 39 percent.

ABC News polling director Gary Langer wrote yesterday that no presidential candidate has come back from an October 10-point deficit in pre-election polls since 1936.

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October 14, 2008

Bye Bye Reagan Dems, etc.

Quinnipiac's latest on CO, MI, MN, and WI disclose a few salient points on religious voting blocs.
1. In Michigan, where all Catholics barely split for Kerry 50-49, white Catholics are now backing Obama 55-37. Meanwhile, white evangelicals have gone from supporting Bush 2004 76-24, to preferring McCain 58-32. No wonder McCain kissed the state goodbye.
2. White evangelicals in Dobsonland are hard core. In Colorado they went 74-26 for Bush in 2004. Now they back McCain 78-18.
3. White evangelicals in MN and WI go for McCain 65-29 and 57-38 respectively. All told, Midwestern evangelicals do seem to be softening up for the GOP.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

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October 14, 2008

Rasmussen Shifts

I've been looking at the crosstabs (premium access, I'm afraid) for yesterday's Rasmussen polls of five battleground states won by Bush in 2004 (VA, FL, OH, MO, and NC), and the news about religious blocs is this. Catholics in the South have shifted significantly toward Obama, most importantly in Florida, where Obama has turned what was a three-point deficit for Kerry into a 15-point advantage. And white evangelicals in Ohio, who backed Bush in 2004 by 75-25, now prefer McCain by only 65-33. If they had voted that way four years ago, Kerry would have carried Ohio by over 100,000 votes and been president for the past four years. Likewise with the Catholics in Florida, by a few hundred thousand votes.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

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October 13, 2008

Iowans, the Presidential, and Abortion

Iowans definitely seem to be in Barack Obama's camp--by 54-41, according to the latest SUSA poll. On abortion, Iowans split 53 percent pro-choice versus 45 percent pro-life. But whereas one-third of the pro-lifers prefer Obama, less than one-quarter of pro-choicers prefer McCain.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 8, 2008

Young evangelicals plan to go against the flow

Most young evangelicals will not vote for Barack Obama with their peers and will not support John McCain as strongly as their parents next month, a survey released this morning suggests.

Most young adults overwhelmingly support Obama (59 percent) while 35 percent plan to vote for McCain. On the other hand, 29 percent of young evangelicals plan to vote for Obama and 65 percent support McCain. Nearly 70 percent of older evangelicals plan to vote for McCain while 25 percent plan to vote for Obama.

Faith in Public Life released a new survey today called "The Young and the Faithful" conducted by Public Religion Research from August 28 to September 19.

The generation gap in this survey is closer than the results found in the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly survey, which found that older evangelicals support McCain nine more percentage points than younger evangelicals.

The survey also found an interesting comparison between what issues evangelicals find important in the 2008 election and what evangelicals are hearing about in church.

October 6, 2008

Ohiobama

As Michigan goes, so goes Ohio? The big (2,262 likely voters) Columbus Dispatch Ohio poll, showing Obama up 49-42, has Buckeye Catholics flipping from 55-44 for Bush in 2004 to 49-44 for Obama. Protestants are just about where they were four years ago; unfortunately, the poll does not break out evangelicals. Jews prefer Obama 66-31--within hailing distance of the 70 percent mark I'm predicting. And note this. Among the 10 percent of Ohio voters who profess no religion, Bush dropped nine percentage points from 2000 to 2004, to 29 percent. McCain now stands 15 points below that. Other than African Americans (also 10 percent of the voting population), no voting bloc is more pro-Obama.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 3, 2008

NH religious

A new Saint Anselm College New Hampshire poll, showing Obama up by 12 points, has him leading among Protestants by seven and among Catholics by four. No white Catholic problem for him there. The poll turned up 70 born-again/evangelical Christians, who broke 54-29 for McCain--providing some more confirmation for my hypothesis that evangelicals in the North are significantly more likely to prefer Obama than their co-religionists in Dixie.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

October 2, 2008

Poll: 4 in 10 evangelicals say Palin not experienced

About four in 10 white evangelical Protestants say Sarah Palin does not have the necessary experience to be an effective president, according to a recent poll conducted by Washington Post-ABC News.

Last weekend, two in 10 evangelicals planned to vote Barack Obama, according to survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

October 2, 2008

Poll: Young evangelicals less enthusiastic about McCain

WASHINGTON - Parents may know best, but when it comes to this year's election, fewer young evangelical voters are taking Mom's and Dad's advice into the voting booth, according to a new survey.

While Sen. John McCain maintains a winning margin among white evangelical Christians of all ages, young white evangelical voters are less supportive of McCain than evangelical voters over the age of 30, according to the poll conducted for the PBS program "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc.

McCain has the support of 71 percent of white evangelicals, but only 62 percent of white evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29.

"Evangelical voters have been so solidly Republican in the last 20 years, so if this signals a shift, it could have wide-ranging political implications," said Kim Lawton, the managing editor of "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly."

Some differences on social issues also were highlighted in the survey. A majority of younger white evangelicals support some form of legal recognition for civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples. Older evangelicals are strongly opposed.

Both age groups remain solidly opposed to abortion.

"There's been so much discussion about evangelical voters but there's been very little research," said Lawton. "This is the first to confirm there are some generational differences."
Jeff Fralick, a student at Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist university, may be even more confirmation of a shift.

"I believe that Barack Obama is the best choice for president," Fralick said. "For my parents, however, it is a different story."

Fralick has been actively involved in campaigning for the Democratic nominee on the Christian campus in Waco, Texas.

"In the past I feel that they (older evangelicals) have been swayed by the thought that a responsible and religious person voted one way, conservative," Fralick said of his parents. "They may not agree with it, but they can accept that I am following a good path, though it is different than theirs."

The nationwide survey included 1,400 adults, including 400 young evangelical Christians, and was conducted Sept. 4-21. The margin of error ranged from plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the overall survey to plus or minus 5.5 percentage points for younger evangelicals.

October 1, 2008

Quinnipiac Swings

Today's Quinnipiac polls of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania show big margins for Obama: 51-43 in Florida, 50-42 in Ohio, and 54-39 in Pennsylvania. He trails by five points among white voters in both Florida and Ohio, but is up by four in Pennsylvania. White Catholics split for McCain 51-44 in Florida, 48-47 and 47-45 in Ohio and Pennsylvania respectively. Nothing much of note there.

But the difference between the South and the North when it comes to white evangelicals is striking. McCain leads among them in Florida by the normal (for Republican candidates nationwide) 3-1 margin of 71-24. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, however, it's 2-1: 62-30 and 62-35 respectively.

This provides some more evidence that, in contrast to the last few election cycles, the white evangelical vote is going to bifurcate--to the benefit of Obama in the swing states north of the Mason-Dixon line.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

September 30, 2008

Bush approval ratings dip to a new low

A majority of white evangelical Protestants rated President Bush's performance negatively in a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Jon Cohen writes for The Washington Post.

Fifty-two percent of evangelicals rated the president's performance negative, and Cohen says that higher numbers disapprove of how Bush is handling the economy.

This summer, 47 percent of evangelicals approved of Bush’s performance in office, while 48 percent disapproved, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from July 31 to August 10.

The survey showed that evangelicals were more supportive of Bush than any other major religious group. Those who disapproved of his performance were 61 percent of white mainline Protestants, 67 of Catholics, and 88 percent of black Protestants.

September 24, 2008

When the Irreligious Come to Shove

The latest SUSA poll of Washington State serves as an excellent example of how having a big religiously indifferent population works for Obama. Regular worship attenders constitute 37 percent of the population and so do those who attend almost never. Occasional attenders weigh in at 25 percent. The latter divide evenly, 48-48, between McCain and Obama. The regulars break for McCain 54-43, while the almost-nevers break for Obama 68-28. Result: Obama leads in Washington State 54-43.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

September 18, 2008

Pew Premie?

Here's what Pew has to say about religion in reporting its latest poll on the presidential race:

McCain's support among white evangelical Protestants, a key Republican voter group, has inched up to 71% (Obama is supported by 21% of evangelicals). Based only on voters who express a preference between the two candidates, McCain's lead among evangelicals (77%-23%) is comparable to Bush's final margin among this group (78%-21%). McCain has a small edge among white Catholic voters, 48% to 41%. He also holds a clear lead among white Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly (52% McCain vs. 36% Obama). Four years ago, Bush beat Kerry 61% to 39% among this group.

It sure looks as though this race is reverting to type--i.e. to the 2000 and 2004 pattern--when it comes to religion. Thank Sarah Palin for that.

Specifically, the religion (or God) gap is back to previous levels. Among those who say they attended worship weekly or more, the Republican margin has risen from 10 points in August to 18 points in September. Meanwhile, among those who seldom or never attend, the Democratic margin jumped from 19 to 30. Not surprisingly, the Palin choice pulled all evangelicals toward McCain, and a few white Catholics; while the unaffiliated have shifted even more toward Obama. As in the past, frequent-attending white Mainline Protestants showed themselves less inclined to support GOP candidates who cozy up to evangelicals. Between August and September, McCain's margin among this group was cut nearly in half, from 25 points (57-32) to 14 (53-39).

One caveat, however. Pew's polling took place September 9-14--at the height of the GOP convention (or Palin) bounce. Since then, the polls are showing a reversion to the August status quo ante. In other words, this snapshot may be more of a retrospective than a portrait of what's in store.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

September 15, 2008

The fundamental things apply

In the new Newsweek poll, which has Obama and McCain in a dead heat at 46-46, McCain wins white evangelicals by 69-22--still short of Bush's 2004 margin (77-23) but heading in that direction. McCain wins white Catholics by 59-33, a margin 13 points larger than Bush's in 2004 (56-43). Whites as a whole split 55-37 for the Republican ticket, an 18-point difference virtually identical to Bush's 58-41 margin over Kerry. Non-whites back the Democratic ticket 75-17--a differential 14 points greater than the Democratic margin in 2004. The non-white electorate and the white Catholic electorate are roughly the same in size. My guess is that it will be harder for McCain to pick up non-white votes than for Obama to pick up white Catholic ones.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

September 11, 2008

Significant?

Christianity Today's Ted Olsen asks whether six points' worth of evangelicals should be considered a significant pickup for Obama, given the amount of outreach he's lavished on them. I guess it depends on what you mean by significant. In 2004, George W. Bush improved his performance among Jews by that amount and the general sense was that it wasn't much to show for his administration's record of devotion to Israel. On the other hand, swings of that magnitude in large voting blocs like white evangelicals can make a big difference in states like Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, etc.

I guess the better way to put it is to note, as pastordan does, how far McCain's numbers fall short of Bush's--16 points. In recent elections, white evangelicals have tended to vote Republican 75 percent to 25 percent. Obama appears to have his quarter locked up. McCain has at this point failed to seal the deal with his entire three-quarters. The battle would appear to be for the 15 percent still undecided.

One final point. Just as the Palin "female" appeal appears to be not to Hillary voters but to Independent Walmart moms, so the Obama religious appeal seems to have made the biggest difference with semi-frequent worship attenders. White evangelicals, like Jews, are not a swing group; so peeling off five or six percentage points is, I would say, significant.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

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September 10, 2008

Obama's white evangelicals

Today's Fox poll has McCain leading Obama among white evangelicals by 61 percent to 25 percent. Bush beat Kerry among white evangelicals by 77 percent to 23 percent. So in spite of Sarah Palin's selection, Obama remains ahead of Kerry's pace in this demographic. Should he win his share of the undecideds, he'd reach 29 percent--not as good as Bill Clinton but a significant pickup nonetheless.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

September 8, 2008

Why Not to Trust Online Polls

If you're surprised that two-thirds of people taking the CT poll are supporting Barack Obama, please note that a number of folks are coming from Democratic Underground. There may be Republican sites trying to game the results on the other end of the spectrum, I don't know.

But this is part of the reason why online polls should be viewed as for entertainment purposes only. Actually, while many people enjoy taking these online polls knowing they're not actually involved in research, ultimately they're not for entertainment purposes. Websites use them basically because they increase site traffic, which adds a bit of revenue. Hmmm. Never mind. Online polls are really, really important! McCain supporters unite! Go tell all your friends about the poll and get your side to win! And Obama supporters: Keep up the pressure! Tell all your friends to click on Obama!

This is entertaining after all.

September 5, 2008

The Gap, The Gap

Gallup has a terrific new survey out on the religious attendance gap--God Gap if you will--among non-Hispanic white registered voters in re: presidential preference. In a nutshell, McCain is rocking along at a better than 2-1 clip among those who say they attend worship at least weekly (33 percent), while Obama enjoys a 12 percentage point lead among those who attend seldom or never (47 percent). These margins are almost identical to the margins between Bush and Kerry in 2004. But there's a shift in the swing group of those who say they attend monthly or nearly weekly (19 percent). Where Bush led Kerry among them by 62 percent to 36 percent, Obama has cut the gap down by two-thirds, pulling to within 9 points of McCain, 41-50. That's where Obama's religious outreach is making its mark, for a pickup of 5 points in the entire non-Hispanic white electorate.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

September 4, 2008

Surprised?

Sixty-six percent of white evangelicals are now backing McCain, up from 57 percent this weekend, according to a new CBS poll.

Cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

August 21, 2008

Americans: churches should stay out of politics

Many Americans wanted religious institutions involved in politics over the past decade, but a recent study shows that a the majority (52 percent) say churches should keep out.

Among evangelicals, 36 percent say that churches should keep out of politics, a hike from 20 percent who said the same thing in 2004, a study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows.

The study also shows that 68 percent of evangelicals said they support Sen. John McCain, which is down slightly from the 71 percent of evangelicals that supported President Bush in August 2004.

There has been a lot of talk about the broadening of the "evangelical agenda" since 2004 because evangelicals care about the environment and poverty. The study shows abortion and gay marriage rank fairly low on the "very important" list, but so does the environment, and poverty isn't listed.

The chart below shows the list of what evangelicals consider "very important" from top to bottom.

August 14, 2008

The National Storyline

The latest Pew poll, showing a three-point lead for Obama (down from five points in June), has McCain increasing his margin among Protestants from one point to seven--entirely from evangelicals, since he's lost three points off his margin among mainliners. Obama, meanwhile, has gained ground among Catholics, increasing his margin from two points to five. That's thanks to a shift among white Catholics who in June were supporting McCain by six points and now just by one. Nationwide, white evangelicals support McCain 68-24 (hello, Barna?) and white mainliners 50-39. In 2004, John Kerry lost the Protestant vote to George Bush by 19 points and the Catholic vote by five. So Obama is currently running ahead of Kerry in both cases by the nearly identical margins of 12 and 10 points respectively. White mainline Protestants are moving away from McCain and white Catholics are headed in Obama's direction. I'd say it's time to start writing stories about McCain's Catholic problem.

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

August 13, 2008

CT Readers Flip Flop

Christianity Today online readers declared more support for Sen. John McCain than Sen. Barack Obama in our poll this week, flip flopping from their support of Obama last month.

The Barna Group's most recent survey found that McCain holds a narrow lead among evangelicals of 39 percent to Obama's 37 percent. Twenty-third percent of evangelicals are still undecided about who they will vote for, Barna says.

In this month's CT online poll, McCain pulled ahead of Obama (44%) with 48 percent, while Obama drew 51 percent to McCain's 41 percent last month.

Last month, 3,189 readers voted compared to this month's 2,532 votes. The polls are conducted online and are usually left up for about three days.

August 11, 2008

Obama Making No Progress Among Evangelicals?

A new CBS poll has McCain winning among white evangelicals 58% to 24%. Mark Silk notes that if undecideds broke 50-50, Obama would end up with almost one third of the white evangelical vote, a hefty jump over Kerry's 22%. True enough.

But there's another way of looking at it: despite the months worth of outreach to evangelicals, the speeches, the Very Christian campaign literature, the interviews with Relevant and Christianity Today and Christian Broadcasting Network, the Newsweek cover story, etc -- Obama is still not doing any better than Kerry did. (And Kerry did worse among evangelicals than any Democrat since Mike Dukakis).

Perhaps that's just the nature of the moment. For some evangelicals, shifting from voting Republican to Democrat is a big deal. Maybe they need to pause for a few months in Undecided Land. But it's clear that Obama has not come close to reeling in those fish. And I think it's time for them to be asking whether their approach so far is sufficient.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 11, 2008

Undecided evangelicals

The latest CBS poll has white evangelicals choosing McCain over Obama 58 percent to 24 percent, with 15 percent undecided. If the undecided break 50-50, that would give Obama nearly one-third of the white evangelical vote--a big improvement over Kerry's performance in 2004. For him, opportunity knocks. McCain, by contrast, has got to ratchet up his evangelical outreach. By the Republican Convention he should have locked up this part of the GOP base, and as of now he hasn't.

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

July 24, 2008

Evangelicals by Region

The latest Quinnipiac poll on the presidential race in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin suggests that there may be a regional aspect to the evangelical vote worth keeping an eye on. In Colorado, evangelicals are backing McCain over Obama by a whopping 78 percent to 16 percent. That's substantially better than the 74-24 margin by which Bush beat Kerry in 2004. But in the Upper Midwest, McCain's margin is much lower: 60-27 in Michigan, 62-30 in Minnesota, and just 54-34 in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the 2004 exit polls failed to ask the evangelical question in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but in Michigan Bush's margin was 76-24--which means that Obama is running well ahead of Kerry there at this point. The hypothesis, then, is that Obama the Born Again Midwesterner has a greater appeal to Midwestern evangelicals than he does to evangelicals in other parts of the country--or at least than to the Dobsonian evangelicals of the Mountain West. Let's see whether future polls bear this out?

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

July 11, 2008

Gallup: God Gap Still Wide. GOP Still Benefits.

Another day, another reminder that the God gap in the electorate heavily favors John McCain, even as Barack Obama screams his faith from the rooftops and McCain wears his close to his vest. A new Gallup poll analysis shows that Americans who say faith is important to their lives--about two thirds of the country--favor McCain over Obama 50-percent to 40-percent.

Among white Protestants who say religion is important in their daily lives--Gallup doesn't say how much of the electorate this represents, but it's a huge block--the Gap grows even wider: McCain enjoys a 36-point lead there.

These are pretty stark stats, but it would be helpful to have some historical comparison. After all, the strongly religious have been the GOP's base now for decades. God-o-Meter will follow up with Gallup and report back.

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.

July 10, 2008

CT Readers Moving Towards Obama

Well, according to our online poll.

Christianity Today online readers showed more support for Sen. Barack Obama than Sen. John McCain in our poll this week for the first time since January.

Obama passed McCain (41%) by garnering 51 percent of the vote during our poll that closed yesterday. In June, McCain led Obama 50 to 33 percent. The two were tied in March at 26 percent.

Here's a rundown of results from Jan. 4 (1,613 votes), March 3 (1964 votes), April 1 (2,668 votes), June 9 (3,007 votes), and July 10 (3,189 votes). Be sure to take the polls with a grain of salt - they are conducted online and are usually left up for about three days.

This graph is also cross-posted at Christianity Today's liveblog.

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