Poll Shows 60% of Religious Americans Support Obama; Evangelicals Back McCain

October 9, 2008 at 2:55 am Leave a comment

In a significant
shift in party support from four years ago, monthly churchgoers are
backing Democrat Barack Obama in this year’s presidential race,
according to a new poll.


Mr. Obama, who
has tried to tap faith-based voters, has the support 60 percent of
Americans who attend religious services once or twice a month,
according to the survey for the nonpartisan group Faith in Public Life.

Democrat John Kerry lost that group in 2004.

At the same time, Mr. Obama has made little headway among the most
active churchgoers, especially white evangelical Protestants who were
key to President Bush’s re-election four years ago.

The
survey found examples of a generational divide between younger and
older evangelicals — but not on their presidential pick.

According the poll, 68 percent of white evangelicals support the
Arizona Republican and 25 percent back Mr. Obama. Among those between
the ages of 18 and 35, Mr. McCain has 65 percent and Mr. Obama 29
percent.

On a broader range of issues from gay marriage
to the role of government at home and abroad, the survey suggests that
the contours of the culture war are fading.

“Younger
Americans, including younger Americans of faith, are not the culture
war generation,” said Robert Jones, who conducted the survey. “Young
Catholics, Protestants and evangelicals are really bridging the divides
that have really entrenched the older generation.”

For
example, white evangelicals between 18 and 35 strongly oppose abortion
rights but are less conservative than older evangelicals about same-sex
marriage and more supportive of active government providing services at
home and engaged in diplomacy abroad.

Michael Lindsay, a
sociology professor at Rice University, said evangelicals of all ages
reflect the population as a whole this year in naming the economy and
the war in Iraq as top issues in the presidential contest.

“They are more concerned about peace and prosperity than they are about
abortion or same-sex marriage,” he said. “This is why things are
different in 2008 than they were in 2004.”

Among the study’s other major findings:

More Americans think Mr. Obama is friendly to religion than Mr. McCain,
49 percent to 45 percent. And 71 percdent say it is important for
public officials to be comfortable talking about religious values.

Young first-time voters are heavily supporting Mr. Obama. Among those
voting for the first time, 71 percent favor the Illinois senator.

Younger Catholics more strongly support Mr. Obama, abortion rights and
more active government than their elders. While older Catholics are
split between the presidential candidates, those 18-35 favor Mr. Obama
by 15 points (55 percent to 40 percent).

Support for
same-sex marriage is significant among young religious Americans. Among
young white mainline Protestants and Catholics, close to half (48
percent and 44 percent respectively) support same-sex marriage. And
Young white evangelicals are twice as likely as older evangelicals to
say that gay couples should be allowed to marry.

Latinos
are driving the young Catholic vote. Four in 10 young Catholics are
Latinos. Mr. Lindsay cites Texas as an example where many young
Hispanics are mobilizing for the election, motivated in part by
Catholic social teaching to encourage a bigger role for government in
solving society’s ills.

The survey of 2,000 adults,
conducted Aug. 28-Sept. 19, has an error margin of plus or minus 2.5
percentage points, meaning results can vary by that much in either
direction. For results among young adults, the error margin is 3
percentage points.

Source: Dallas Morning News

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