Letter asks ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and the AP to stop stereotyping people of faith by asking all voters — Republicans and Democrats — the same religion questions on the exit poll surveys
This afternoon, FaithfulAmerica.org, sent a letter individually signed by 9,000 people of faith to the polling directors at the media organizations that sponsor the presidential primary exit polls. The letter asks ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and the AP to stop stereotyping people of faith by asking all voters — Republicans and Democrats — the same religion questions on the exit poll surveys. We expressed particular concern that Republican voters in every state have been asked if they are evangelical, while Democrats have not been asked if they are evangelical in a single state. Signatures are still streaming in at FaithfulAmerica.org.
Hereâ€™s a link to the letter sent to the polling directors, signed by 9,000 Faithful America members:
Faith in Public Lifeâ€™s poll in Tennessee and Missouri, released earlier this month, demonstrated the political diversity of evangelical Christian primary voters. Millions more voters head to the polls this Tuesday. Itâ€™s time for the exit pollsters to finally ask all voters the â€œevangelical question.â€
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It is crucial that civility and truth-telling reign this evening in Cleveland.
(Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio) â€“ Last fall, We Believe Ohio launched a Political Sleaze-Free Zone campaign calling on all candidates to positively promote what they stand for, focus on common good issues critical to Ohioans, and refrain from divisive, misleading and inflammatory attacks. Ohioans want to know where the candidates stand on the issues and where they would lead our country if elected.
Tonightâ€™s debate may well be the pivotal event of the Democratic primary season. It is crucial that civility and truth-telling reign this evening in Cleveland. We call on Senators Obama and Clinton to engage in an issue-focused debate and refrain from personal attacks and misrepresentations of their opponent’s positions. Such tactics corrupt the political process, alienate voters, exacerbate social divisions, and provide a poor example for our children.
We Believe Ohio calls on both candidates to treat each other in a manner consistent with their religious traditions tonight and for the duration of the campaign.
Governor Ted Strickland and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and more than 1,000 Ohioans have already endorsed We Believe Ohioâ€™s â€œPolitical Sleaze-Free Zoneâ€ campaign. We Believe invites all citizens, including Senators Clinton and Obama, to join in this campaign.
We Believe leaders are actively meeting with officeholders, candidates, and campaigns to discuss the principles put forth in â€œPolitical Sleaze-Free Zoneâ€™â€™ declaration — including a public meeting in Columbus on February 28 at 9:00 am at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, with at least eight candidates and campaigns.
The We Believe Ohio Political Sleaze-Free Zone petition is available at www.webelieveohio.org.
We Believe Ohio is an interfaith coalition of clergy and lay leaders dedicated to uniting diverse religious voices to achieve social justice.
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Click through for polling memo and teleconference audio.
Polling Memo: New Post-Election Poll Demonstrates Political Diversity of Evangelical Christians
Press Conference Audio here.
In the 2008 election, media organizations and pollsters are treating evangelicals as an ideologically monolithic voting bloc. As evidence, exit polls sponsored by the major networks, CNN, Fox, and the Associated Press, which provide the basis for dozens of hours and thousands of inches of election analysis, have only asked one party’s primary voters whether they considered themselves â€œborn-again or evangelical Christian.â€
Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress Action Fund conducted a post-election poll in two Super Tuesday states, Missouri and Tennessee, to test this assumption â€“ to find out whether self-described evangelicals are an ideologically monolithic voting bloc, or if they are more diverse in their views than the media assumes.
WHEN: Monday, February 11, 2008 at 11:00 AM EDT
WHERE: By telephone 1-866-682-6100, ID: Evangelical Poll
WHO: Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland A Church Distributed and Former President, Christian Coalition
Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder, Sojourners
Dr. Robert P. Jones, expert and consultant on religion and politics
The poll conducted for Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress Action Fund by Zogby International on February 5-6 found:
â€¢ Large numbers of evangelicals participated in the Missouri and Tennessee Republican and Democratic primaries. While exit polls in both states identified all Republican white evangelical voters, the Missouri exit polls failed to identify 160,000 white evangelical Democratic voters â€“ a figure greater than all voters under 30, equal to all voters over age 65, and equal to all voters who said the Iraq war is the most important issue facing the country, according to the Missouri Democratic exit polls. The Tennessee exit polls failed to identify 182,000 white evangelical Democratic voters â€“ a figure equal to all African-American voters, greater than all voters over 60, and greater than all voters who said the Iraq war is the most important issue facing the country, according to the Tennessee Democratic exit polls.
â€¢ Majorities of both Democratic and Republicans evangelical voters want a broader agenda that goes beyond abortion and same-sex marriage to include ending poverty, protecting the environment, and tackling HIV/AIDS. Sixty-two percent of white evangelical voters in Missouri embrace a broader agenda (75 percent of Democratic voters and 56 percent of Republican voters). In Tennessee, 56 percent of white evangelical voters embrace a broader agenda (60 percent of Democratic voters and 54 percent of Republican voters).
â€¢ In both Missouri and Tennessee, white evangelicals who ranked jobs and economy as the most important issue area in deciding how to vote far outnumbered those who considered abortion and same-sex marriage most important.
In failing to ask both Republicans and Democrats if they are evangelicals, the media pollsters reinforce the false and outdated stereotype that evangelicals are only concerned with one set of issues and ignore the increasing ideological diversity of the evangelical movement. It’s time for the media to update their script and provide balanced coverage of the role of religion in public life.
Faith in Public Life is a communications and organizing resource center dedicated to helping faith leaders reclaim the values debate in America for justice, compassion, and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a nonpartisan 501(c) (3) organization. For more information, visit www.faithinpubliclife.org.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund is the sister advocacy organization of the Center for American Progress . The Action Fund transforms progressive ideas into policy through rapid response communications, legislative action, grassroots organizing and advocacy, and partnerships with other progressive leaders throughout the country and the world. The Action Fund is also the home of the Progress Report.
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Exit polls in every single Super Tuesday state yet again only asked Republican voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians — continuing to reinforce the false and outdated presumption that evangelicals only vote one way.
The exit polls in every single state failed to ask Democratic primary voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians. This morning’s newspapers and cable news shows contain plenty of analysis about how evangelicals voted in the Republican primaries and none about Democrats — because no one has the data. This imbalance continues to reinforce the false and outdated presumption that evangelicals only vote for candidates from one party.
The National Election Poolâ€™s only response to this (now widespread) complaint is that there is â€œlimited real estateâ€ on the questionnaires. Others have claimed that asking Democratic primary voters would not yield valuable or interesting data. Polling information to which we do have access casts doubt on this claim.
In early January, Christianity Today found that readers preferred Obama (who came in second only to Huckabee) to Clinton by a margin of 10 percentage points in an online poll. When Relevant Magazine, the flagship publication for young evangelicals, asked readers who Jesus would vote for, they gave Obama, who bested all Republican and Democratic candidates in this poll, a 27-point edge over Clinton. Are young evangelicals in fact flocking to Obama? How does his vote count among evangelicals compare not only to Clintonâ€™s, but to Huckabeeâ€™s, and the other Republican candidatesâ€™? It would be interesting to know, but we donâ€™t. Because the exit polls did not collect the data.
The findings of a recent Barna study raise further intrigue. (Note that Barna measures born-again Christians differently than other pollsters. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as “born again”, but rather if they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven.) Barna found that if the election were held today, and all of the remaining candidates from both parties were on the ballot, 20% of born-again Christian voters would vote for Clinton, 18% for Obama and 12% for Huckabee. No other candidate reached double figures, and 30% said they were still undecided.
Moreover, exit poll questions that have asked about the religiosity of Democrats have yielded valuable and interesting data so far. We have learned that Clinton has consistently done well among Catholics, while Obama has done well with those who attend religious services most frequently. This data helps us measure the effectiveness of each candidateâ€™s message and outreach to different faith communities, but without knowing how the candidates are faring with evangelicals, any analysis will be incomplete.
One positive sign: Unlike in several previous primary states, on Super Tuesday the exit pollsters asked both Republican Democratic primary participants in every state their religious affiliation (Protestant/Catholic/Mormon/Jewish/Muslim/etc) and how frequently they attended religious services. Thatâ€™s progress. We hope for more.
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South Carolina exit polls only asked Republican voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians.
Saturdayâ€™s SC exit polls failed to ask Democratic primary voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians â€“ even though Republicans were asked that question in South Carolina last week. Republican SC primary voters were asked if they were Protestant, Catholic, LDS, Jewish, Muslim, etc., how often they attend religious services, if they would describe themselves as born-again of evangelical Christians, and how much it matters to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs. Dem primary voters were asked only about frequency of religious service attendance.
Based on the limited SC exit poll data we do have, it is informative to learn that 31% of SC Republican primary voters, versus 25% of Democrats, attend religious services more than weekly â€“ just a 6% gap. It is informative to learn that Obama won 64% of Democrats who attend services more than weekly, compared to Huckabee who won 52% of Republicans.
It would have been informative to know what percentage of SC Democratic primary voters consider themselves born-again or evangelical Christian, as compared to 60% of SC Republican primary voters who consider themselves such. Unfortunately, we canâ€™t make that comparison, because the exit poll pollsters did not collect that data or any other religious identification information about SC Democratic primary voters.
The only response we have received to the letter from prominent evangelical leaders, including David Neff, editor of Christianity Today and Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, to the polling directors of ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the AP (members of the National Election Pool consortium) asking for this problem to be corrected, was insufficient: â€œWe have limited real estate on our questionnaires,â€ it read. â€œWe choose the questions based on our internal editorial discussions. To protect the integrity of the process, we routinely do not talk publicly about what questions are on our surveys.â€
Just as in earlier primary states, the SC exit polls once again disregarded the increasing ideological diversity of evangelicals and other religious groups, and failed to assess the effectiveness of now-bipartisan faith outreach strategies.
In a heavily religious state such as SC, this is more inexcusable than ever.
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