Evangelical, Catholic Voters Want Broad Moral Agenda
Results of a new post-election poll released today provide an in-depth look at the shift in priorities and moral agenda for Catholic and evangelical voters. Sponsored by Faith in Public Life, in partnership with Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and conducted by Public Religion Research, the pollâ€™s findings indicate a new faith constituency with a broader moral agenda that will have a significant impact upon the next presidential administration and Congress.
A comprehensive poll report is available online; key findings are outlined below.
“People of faith are tired of the culture wars and hungry for common ground. Evangelical and Catholic voters are rejecting a narrow agenda and embracing the conviction that we must all work together â€“ an approach that will enable the faith community to effect real progress on difficult issues in the days to come,” said Katie Paris, Director of Communications Strategy at Faith in Public Life.
â€œA new faith coalition including Christians of color, younger white Christians, â€˜new evangelicalâ€™ pastors and leaders, and progressive Catholics and Protestants from many denominations are reaching across barriers to change the face of Christianity in this country; judging candidates based on who best addresses all the threats to human life and dignity,â€ said Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners and author of The Great Awakening. â€œThis poll shows that large majorities of Catholics and white evangelicals say people of faith should focus on all issues that are central to their values rather than focusing on one or two issues.â€
â€œThis poll offers compelling evidence that Catholics support a broad social justice agenda that reflects a consistent life ethic and a concern for the common good,â€ said Alexia Kelley, Executive Director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. â€œItâ€™s clear that Catholics responded to the message — echoed so often in church teaching– that we are indeed our brothersâ€™ and sistersâ€™ keepers, and that we rise and fall together. Even with the difficult issue of abortion, Catholics and other people of faith want our elected officials to unite in support of robust public policies that research tells us help prevent the tragedy of abortion.â€
Dr. Robert P. Jones, President of Public Religion Research, who conducted the poll, described this election as a â€œrebalancing of political alignmentsâ€ and a â€œreclaiming of a broader agenda.â€
A comprehensive poll report is available online. Here are the pollâ€™s key findings:
â€¢ Almost twice the number of white evangelicals who voted for Obama say he â€œshares their values,â€ is â€œfriendlyâ€ to religion.
â€¢ Obama significantly improves upon perceptions of Democratic Partyâ€™s â€œfriendlinessâ€ to religion. Fifty-four percent of voters see Obama as friendly to religion, a 16-point improvement over his partyâ€™s numbers (38%, Pew, August 2008).
â€¢ Palin nomination resulted in net loss for GOP ticket. Palinâ€™s nomination increased support among fewer than one-third of white evangelicals (30%), and decreased support among every other religious group and political independents.
â€¢ Religious voters want a broad agenda. While 1-in-5 evangelicals and 1-in-8 Catholics say an agenda focused primarily on abortion and same-sex marriage best reflects their values, majorities of evangelical and Catholic voters want a broad agenda.
â€¢ Evangelical, Catholic voters reject narrow political focus, embrace the common good. Large majorities of Catholics (72%) and white evangelicals (81%) say people of faith should focus on all issues that are central to their values even if it makes them less effective in politics, rather than focusing on one or two issues in order to be more politically effective. Strong majorities of both groups also believe people of faith should advocate for policies that â€œprotect the interests of all and promote the common good,â€ rather than policies that â€œprotect their values and way of life.â€
â€¢ Common ground approach to reducing abortion is overwhelmingly popular. The vast majority (83%) of voters, including white evangelicals (86%) and Catholics (81%), believe elected leaders should work together to find ways to reduce abortions by helping prevent unwanted pregnancies, expanding adoption, and increasing economic support for women who want to carry their pregnancies to term.
â€¢ All religious groups rank economy as top issue, blame institutions rather than individuals for economic crisis. Asked who they think is responsible for the current economic crisis, a plurality of voters (38%) say corporations who were greedy, nearly one-third (31%) say negligent government, and one-quarter (25%) say individuals who were careless.
â€¢ Twice as many Catholics believe diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace; evangelicals are split.
The national survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,277 people who voted early or on Election Day in the 2008 election. The study was conducted from November 5-7, 2008 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.
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Religious Trends Indicate New Faith Constituency & Agenda for Next Administration
*TELEPHONE NEWS CONFERENCE FRIDAY AT 11 AM EST*
WHAT: Results of a new post-election poll providing an in-depth look at the shift in priorities and moral agenda for Catholics, evangelicals, and religious voters overall in the 2008 election will be released this Friday, November 14th during a teleconference for journalists. Topics explored in the new survey include:
–Candidate “friendliness” to religion;
–The impact of Sarah Palinâ€™s nomination on evangelical voters;
–Support for a broader values agenda;
–Attitudes toward a common ground approach on abortion;
–Voting issue priorities;
–Beliefs about causes of the economic crisis.
Sponsored by Faith in Public Life, in partnership with Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and conducted by Public Religion Research, the national survey is based on interviews with 1,277 people who voted early or on Election Day in the 2008 election. The study was conducted from November 5-7, 2008 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.
WHY: To date, post-election polls have revealed changes in voting patterns among religious groups but have not helped explain why these shifts occurred. The study will add valuable context to exit polls and other recent polls, including the Faith and American Politics Survey. Religious leaders and polling experts will analyze the data from this new poll to outline key shifts in religious votersâ€™ political and moral agenda and explain the factors that caused these changes. These unique trends indicate a new faith constituency with a broader moral agenda that will have a significant impact upon the next presidential administration and Congress.
WHO: Dr. Robert P. Jones, President, Public Religion Research
Rev. Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners
Alexia Kelley, Executive Director, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Katie Paris, Director of Communications Strategy, Faith in Public Life
WHEN: Friday, November 14, 2008, 11:00 a.m. EST
DIAL-IN: 888.674.0222, Call ID: “Post-election Poll”
RSVP: Email or call Kristin Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.459.8625 to reserve your place.
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*For RealAbortionSolutions.org, FPL built a coalition of religious leaders who were already dedicated to common ground solutions to reduce abortions to support an ad campaign to raise awareness about this approach. So far, ads have run in 11 states and during the March for Life in Washington, DC.
I… believe that it should be possible to reduce the number of abortions occurring in this country. There are many reasons to do so, including the sense of pain and loss that abortion almost inevitably creates.
But abortion has been seen by many people as a starkly black and white issue. On the far edge of one side are people who view it as immoral under any circumstances, while on the far edge of the other side are people who would raise up to the level of idolatry a woman’s right to choose and see abortion as just one more method of birth control.
Most of the country is in between those extremes.
So it pleased me to learn about a new effort called Real Abortion Solutions. A wide range of clergy and others have joined together to see if they can work toward reducing the number of abortions now taking place in the U.S.
They’re planning an ad campaign in a number of media markets to try to convince people that it’s possible to find common ground among people who hold various positions on abortion.
Just for the record, I am one who believes that the choice about abortion should be made by the pregnant woman, her partner and her physician, perhaps with counseling from clergy or others. I believe that in some cases abortion is the least evil of a series of evil choices, so it must remain legal. I certainly don’t want the government making that decision for anyone. But I believe it’s possible through education and sound moral teaching to reduce the number of abortions significantly.
Take a look at this new effort to reduce the number of abortions and see if it’s something you support.
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Pointing to his spiritually-laced campaign rhetoric and outreach to religious groups, liberal faith-based organizations have high expectations that President-elect Barack Obama will increase funding for their activities and warmly welcome their lobbying on poverty, climate change and other issues.
But analysts across the ideological spectrum said that much of what the Obama administration might propose for faith-based organizations is unclear and that the new president could face legal challenges about whether religious groups can discriminate against gay people and those of religions other than their own in hiring.
Liberal faith groups among Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants and progressive evangelicals have felt left out of efforts by President Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives over the past eight years and are looking forward to more attention from Obama.
Still, some activists close to Obama say they expect him to seek cooperation from conservative Christian groups, some of which were highly critical of him during the campaign.
“The question is whether white evangelicals, 70 million of them, three-quarters of whom voted for McCain, whether a significant percentage will be willing to cooperate with him on anything,” said David Gushee, a well-known evangelical Christian ethicist who heads the group Evangelicals for Human Rights.
Those who do, some analysts said, might risk being tagged as too willing to compromise their beliefs.
Obama raised concerns among some of his supporters this summer when he announced that he would expand Bush’s faith-based initiative. That effort helped religious groups compete for federal grants for social service work, but some critics have said it allows government sponsorship of religion. Other critics accused Bush of using the initiative to reward his conservative religious supporters.
Bush issued an executive order allowing groups to receive federal funding even if they hired only people of their own religion. Critics of that move said it allows groups to discriminate and still be rewarded with taxpayers’ money.
Obama said this summer that he would not allow religious groups to get federal funding if they discriminate in hiring. But evangelicals close to the Obama team say they are getting signals that the door might still be open to changes. Being required to hire non-Christians would be a deal-breaker even for progressive evangelicals, they say.
“Christian influence is felt not only in direct proselytizing, but in strategies and characters and values of people implementing them,” Gushee said. “We think the identity of Christian institutions must be protected, and the main way you do that is by who you hire. So if a condition for getting money is limits on who you hire, most organizations won’t play ball.”
Beyond hiring is the much larger issue of how engaged Obama will be on faith-based programs. Activists are eager to find out who might lead the administration’s efforts and whether funding will expand or even continue at current levels given the economy.
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Data Signals Potential Long-Term Shift; Young Evangelicals are Less Conservative, More Pluralistic
New exit poll data, revealing a doubling in young evangelical support for Barack Obama compared to John Kerry, is consistent with recent survey findings that young evangelicals are more pluralistic, less conservative and more supportive of an active government at home and abroad than their elders. Together, these findings signal a potential long-term shift among a new generation of evangelical voters.
â€œYoung evangelicals embrace a broad range of moral concerns — they want to see government power used responsibly to address key national problems, and their heart breaks for those who suffer the most both here and around the world,â€ said Dr. David Gushee, professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and author of The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center. â€œThey disdain ideology, partisanship, polemics, and religious pandering. They want to be known for what they are for and not what they are against.â€
â€œYounger evangelicals’ votes in this election were deposits in an investment account of hope. If President Obama delivers on his promisesâ€”such as seeking real solutions on abortions, abolishing nuclear weapons, ending torture, caring for the poor, and stewardship of creationâ€”then the myth that Christians are a reliable partisan base will vanish in our generation,â€ said Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Director of the Two Futures Project, a nuclear disarmament initiative centered around young evangelicals. â€œThat would reshape American politics.â€
Released last month by Faith in Public Life, The Faith and American Politics Survey of 2,000 Americans and an over-sample of 1,250 Americans ages 18-34, included both land line and cell phone interviews. The pollâ€™s results, which were analyzed in the report, â€œThe Young and the Faithfulâ€ found:
â€¢ Less than a majority (49%) of younger white evangelicals identify as conservative, compared to nearly two-thirds (65%) of older evangelicals.
â€¢ A majority (56%) of younger white evangelicals believe diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace, compared to only 44% of older white evangelicals.
â€¢ Younger white evangelicals are also more likely than older white evangelicals to favor a bigger government offering more services, by a margin of 21 points (44% and 23% respectively).
â€¢ Younger white evangelicals are strongly opposed to abortion rights, with two-thirds saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Yet only 32% said they would not vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on the issue.
â€¢ A majority of younger white evangelicals favor either same-sex marriage (24%) or civil unions (28%), compared to 61% of older evangelicals who favor no legal recognition of same-sex relationships. They are 2.5 times more likely than older evangelicals to say that gay couples should be allowed to marry (25% to 9%).
â€¢ While less than one-third (30%) of older white evangelicals say a person can be moral without believing in God, 44% of younger evangelicals affirm this idea, a 14-point gap.
Faith in Public Lifeâ€™s Faith and American Politics Survey was conducted by Public Religion Research with interviews performed under the supervision of Opinion Access Corp August 28 – September 19, 2008.
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