Monday, November 10, 2008

How People of Faith Voted in the Election

George Barna, the well-known Christian pollster, recently did a study on how the various religious subsets of Americans voted in the presidential election last week. You can read the full report here, but here are some highlights:
Evangelicals are a small proportion of the national population - just 7% of all adults. But they tend to capture the imagination and attention of the national media and political pundits. The survey data consistently show that evangelical Christians have among the highest rates of voting turnout among all voter groups and are, in fact, strikingly different from the rest of the population - even from other born again Christians who are not evangelical.
As was true in the past two presidential elections, two-thirds of all evangelicals who were registered to vote (65%) were aligned with the Republican Party. One out of five (21%) was Democrats and just one out of ten (10%) was registered independent of a party. That puts evangelicals at odds with the national voter profile, which shows a plurality of Democrats (42%), one-third Republican (34%) and two out of ten (20%) independent of a party affiliation.
Most remarkably, however, was the overwhelming support registered among evangelicals for Republican candidate John McCain. In total, 88% voted for Sen. McCain, compared to just 11% for Sen. Obama. The 88% is statistically identical to the 85% of evangelicals who backed George W. Bush in 2004. Surveys conducted by Barna throughout the campaign season showed that evangelicals were not enthusiastic about either candidate, but on Election Day evangelicals came through in a big way for the most conservative major candidate on the ballot.

Born Again Christians

Evangelicals represent just one out of every six born again adults. The survey data among all born again adults found that they were much more likely to vote for Sen. McCain (57% did so) than for Sen. Obama (42%). As substantial as that margin is, the 15-point gap was considerably less than the 24-point margin accorded to George W. Bush in his 2004 campaign against Sen. John Kerry.
However, it is identical to the 15-point spread they gave to Mr. Bush in 2000, and more than double the 6-point margin they gave Sen. Bob Dole in his 1996 loss to Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton. However, born again Christians in general chose their candidate based on different criteria than did evangelicals. The major motivations among born again Christians who are not evangelical were political experience (20%), ideas about the country’s future (18%), character (17%), and economic policies (17%). To highlight the contrast in priorities, note that just 7% of evangelicals identified economic policy as a motivator, and only 8% of the non-evangelical born again Christians listed the candidate’s positions on moral issues.

Racial Identity
Among non-white voters, racial identity played a larger role in influencing their vote than did their religious beliefs and affiliations. Assessing the voting outcomes by race and faith, the survey showed that there were no statistically significant differences between black born again voters and black non-born again voters. Similarly, there were no meaningful distinctions in candidate preference between Hispanic born agains and Hispanic non-born again voters. Overall, Sen. Obama claimed more than 90% of the African-American vote and three-quarters of the Hispanic vote. He won just 41% of the white vote.
Among white voters, faith had a significant correlation with their candidate selection. White born again voters chose Sen. McCain by a 73% to 26% outcome. Whites who were not born again chose Sen. Obama by a 56% to 39% margin. White voters were also more affected by their understanding the candidates’ moral positions and political experience than were other voters.
Very interesting findings, indeed.

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