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Survey: Culture War Truce On the Horizon

October 8, 2008, 4:01 pm | Posted by ehouser
Washington Post, The Trail
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Whither the culture wars?

A group of progressive pollsters and activists today released a new survey about religion and the upcoming election that suggests they may be on the wane.

The poll, commissioned by the group Faith in Public Life and conducted by the firm Public Religion Research, concluded that attitudes about hot-button issues such as abortion, legal recognition of same-sex relationships and the size of government are changing among young people — possibly shifting or weakening the culture wars.

“What we see is younger Americans, including younger Americans of faith — they are not the culture war generation,” said Robert P. Jones, president of Public Religion Research. “They are bridging the divides that have entrenched the older generation.”

A majority of white evangelicals, ages 18-34, favor either same-sex marriage or civil unions, compared with a majority of older evangelicals who favor no legal recognition, the poll found. Six in 10 young Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with half of older Catholics. Young Catholics are more pro-government than any other faith group.

Younger evangelicals are less likely to identify as Republicans, or as “conservatives,” though they are not signing up to vote for Obama, the poll showed, mirroring other previous research on that subject.

Other changes, according to the poll:

# While those who attend worship services most and least regularly haven’t changed their political leanings from Republican and Democratic, respectively, voters who attend services once or twice a month — 16 percent of the population — are swinging toward Obama. Sen. John Kerry lost this group in 2004, 49 percent to 51 percent. Today six in 10 of those voters are for Obama.

# Obama leads among Catholic voters of all ages, 51 percent to 40 percent. In 2004 Kerry lost this group to George W. Bush, 52 to 47 percent. However, white Catholics, who have voted with the winner in every presidential election since 1972, are evenly split between McCain and Obama, according to Washington Post-ABC polling. That is a decrease for the Republicans.

Other major barometers were unchanged, including among the most churchgoing Americans and white evangelicals in general; both groups go for McCain.

It’s not clear yet how these attitude changes will affect the upcoming presidential election, or if it will take another election or more to see it all shake out — and how.

“The poll’s findings indicate broader seismic shifts occurring that are probably too nascent to be dramatically reflected at the polls on Nov. 4,” said Katie Paris, a spokeswoman for Faith in Public Life.

The survey was conducted from Aug. 28 to Sept. 19 and included 2,000 adults and an oversample of 974 people ages 18 to 34. The margin of error for the national sample is +/- 2.5 percent and +/- 3 percent for respondents 18 to 34.

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