Religion and the Vote

October 8, 2008, 3:59 pm | Posted by

Survey Shows Obama Leading Among Catholics

A group of progressive pollsters and activists Wednesday released a new survey about religion and the election that suggests the culture wars 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 abortion, legal recognition of same-sex relationships and the size of government are changing among young people.

A majority of white evangelicals, ages 18 to 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 Barack Obama, the poll showed, mirroring other previous research on that subject.

“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.”

The poll also found that Obama leads among Catholic voters of all ages, 51 percent to 40 percent. In 2004, Democrat John F. Kerry (47 percent) lost this group to President Bush (52 percent).

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Attrition Hits the Culture Warriors

October 8, 2008, 3:30 pm | Posted by

When the flag-pin smear wouldn’t stick, they should have tried something with more shine.

When they ran “he’s not one of us” up the flag pole and too few saluted, they should have taken a cue.

When tried-and-true hot buttons like abortion and gay rights gained little traction among the voters needed to swing a close election, they should have pushed other buttons.

Instead, at the most decisive moment in the quest to hold the White House, what did the occupying party do? Once again, it pushed the “culture war” button.

That was manifest when Sarah Palin was teleported from obscure governor to purported Republican savior. She needed little resume, and almost no nationwide reputation. Her evangelical leanings and opposition to abortion in any and all cases made her an instant hit with social conservatives.

Apparently John McCain thought those were the votes he needed.

Last week as he campaigned desperately in Pennsylvania, McCain might have wondered why he didn’t choose as his running mate the moderate, pro-choice former governor of that state: Tom Ridge.

McCain might have made a “game changer” by choosing Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s running mate.

Instead, he listened to Rush Limbaugh. He chose someone certain to stir the hard right into song, yet to turn off many moderates and independents.

Not only that: When you look at what younger voters — even young evangelicals — think about those same-old, same-old culture-war issues, the Palin choice looks even more problematic.

A poll for the group Faith in Public Life concludes that the issues that made Palin a hit with the hard right connect with surprisingly few young Americans, even those who call themselves evangelical or conservative.

A majority of white evangelicals, for instance, favors either same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Six in 10 say abortion should be legal in most cases. Yes, the religious right of tomorrow.

“What we see is younger Americans, including Americans of faith — they are not of the culture war generation,” said Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research, which did the study.

In the 2006 election we saw that the wedge issues so heavily employed in the Bush years no longer were cutting it.

Flag burning? Gay rights? Weeks before the U,S. House and Senate changed hands that year, a poll in Texas’ most competitive House races found that GOP appeals about these issues were turning off a majority of voters. Yes, Texas — central front and proving ground in the culture wars.

Widespread support for embryonic stem cell research was and is emblematic of voters’ interest in pursuing matters of public welfare rather than stopping everything for theological arm wrestling.

Most Americans don’t think that putting the “rights” of a frozen, discarded pre-embryo over the fates of people dying of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s fits within a “culture of life.”

All of the above makes most fascinating the choice of Palin by McCain, the one-time favorite of independents.

A maverick would have followed his own playbook, not Rove’s, not Rush’s.

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New Poll: Faith and Politics of Young Adults in the 2008 Election

October 8, 2008, 1:44 pm | Posted by

Study details views and issue priorities of young Evangelicals and Catholics

WASHINGTON — Results of a new poll released today provide a groundbreaking look at the faith and political views of young people in the 2008 election cycle. Sponsored by Faith in Public Life and conducted by Public Religion Research, The Faith and American Politics Survey is a large national survey with an unprecedented over sample of Americans ages 18-34.

The poll’s results are analyzed in a new report, “The Young and the Faithful,” available online here: Findings include:

• Monthly worship attenders swing to Obama in 2008. The greatest shift in candidate preference between 2004 and 2008 has occurred among voters who attend religious services once or twice a month, moving from 49% support for Kerry in 2004 to 60% support for Obama in 2008.

• More Americans think Obama is friendly to religion than McCain. Forty-nine percent of Americans say Obama is friendly to religion, while 45% say McCain is friendly to religion. More than seven-in-ten (71%) say it is important for public officials to be comfortable talking about religious values.

• Young first-time voters are heavily supporting Obama. Among young first-time voters, who make up close to one-third of this age group (ages 18-34), more than seven-in-ten (71%) support Obama, compared to slightly more than half (53%) of young voters who have voted in previous elections.

• Younger Catholics more strongly support Obama, abortion rights, and more active government than older Catholics. While older Catholics (age 35 and older) are split between the candidates (46% for McCain and 44% for Obama), among younger Catholics Obama leads McCain by 15 points (55% to 40%). Six-in-ten younger Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to half of older Catholics. Younger Catholics are more pro-government than any other religious group, with two-thirds preferring bigger government with more services, compared to 41% support among older Catholics.

• Younger white evangelicals strongly oppose abortion rights but are less conservative and more supportive of same-sex marriage than older evangelicals. Young white evangelicals are strongly opposed to abortion rights, with two-thirds saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Yet, less than a majority (49%) of younger evangelicals identify as conservative, compared to nearly two-thirds (65%) of older evangelicals. Among young evangelicals, a majority favor either same-sex marriage (24%) or civil unions (28%), compared to a majority (61%) of older evangelicals who favor no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.

• Younger white evangelicals are more pluralistic and more supportive of active government at home and of diplomacy abroad. While less than one-third (30%) of older evangelicals say a person can be moral without believing in God, 44% of younger evangelicals affirm this idea, a 14-point gap. A majority (56%) of younger evangelicals believe diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace, compared to only 44% of older white evangelicals. 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).

• Americans say economy, energy and gas prices, and health care are the most important issues in 2008. Americans rank the economy (83%) and energy/gas prices (76%), and health care (71%) as the most important issues in the 2008 election. Economic issues topped the list of most important issues among all religious groups.

• Americans rank abortion and same-sex marriage as the least important issues in 2008. Only 43% and 28% respectively say these issues are very important issues to their vote in 2008. White evangelicals do not rank abortion or same-sex marriage in their top five most important voting issues.

• Americans see room for common ground in abortion debate. A majority (53%) of Americans believe political leaders can work to find common ground on abortion while staying true to their core beliefs, including majorities of white mainline Protestants (59%), Catholics (55%), and the unaffiliated (52%).

• Generation gap on same-sex marriage is large and increasing. Nearly half (46%) of young adults say gay couples should be allowed to marry, compared to only 29% of Americans overall. Over the last two years, support for same-sex marriage among young adults has jumped 9 points (from 37% to 46%), and the generation gap has nearly doubled.

• Support for same-sex marriage is significant among young religious Americans. Among young white mainline Protestants and Catholics, close to half (48% and 44% respectively) support same-sex marriage. Young white evangelicals are 2.5 times as likely as older evangelicals to say that gay couples should be allowed to marry (25% to 9%).

• Addressing religious liberty concerns strongly increases support for same-sex marriage. When respondents were provided with an assurance that “no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples,” support for same-sex marriage increased by 14 points in the general population and among younger adults.

• Young adults prefer larger government that provides increased services. Nearly six-in-ten (57%) young adults say they prefer a larger government providing more services rather than a smaller government providing fewer services. Among Americans as a whole, less than half (45%) want bigger government. The generation gap is evident among every religious tradition. Two-thirds (67%) of younger Catholics say they prefer bigger government, and younger white evangelicals are 21 points more likely than older evangelicals to support larger government (44% to 23% respectively).

The results of the survey are based on telephone interviews with a representative sample of 2,000 American adults and an over sample of 1,250 younger adults (18-34), including both land line and cell phone interviews. The survey was conducted under the supervision of Opinion Access Corp August 28 – September 19, 2008.

The survey’s findings were announced on a conference call with journalists this morning.

“Younger Americans, including younger Americans of faith, are not the culture war generation. On issues from gay and lesbian rights to the role of government at home and around the world, young Catholics, mainline protestants and evangelicals are bridging the divides that entrenched their elders and ushering in an era of consensus in which the common good trumps the clash of ideologies,” said Dr. Robert Jones, President of Public Religion Research and lead analyst of the poll.

“As we go forward, expect to see young people across faiths focusing more and more on issues that reflect a concern for America’s image in the world and how our government treats the least of these at home and abroad. Expect to see the dividing lines of the culture wars continue to fade,” said Katie Paris, Director of Communications Strategy at Faith in Public Life.

D. Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University and author of Faith In The Halls of Power and Amy Sullivan, author of The Party Faithful provided expert analysis of the poll on this morning’s conference call.

“Younger believers—including Catholics and white evangelicals—are significantly more supportive of bigger government and expanding diplomatic efforts abroad. It’s not surprising, therefore, that they are supporting some of the ideas put forward by the Democrats in 2008. It may very well be that in this election, the conventional wisdom about the ‘values voters’—who they are and what they want—gets turned on its head,” said Lindsay.

“A lot of us have found that there is a change going on within religious communities and younger members of these religious traditions have been even more pronounced in this broadening agenda. This is the first poll to provide the data to show this,” said Sullivan.

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Radio Ads Urge Candidates Not to Bear False Witness in Presidential Debate

September 24, 2008, 10:07 am | Posted by

Listen to Ad Here


CONTACT: Katie Paris or Kristin Williams at 202.459.8625

September 24, 2008 is flooding the Mississippi airwaves this week with radio ads demanding accountability and honesty from the candidates at Friday’s presidential debate because, as the ad states, “the Ninth Commandment wasn’t just a suggestion.”

“In Mississippi, we teach our kids to let their ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and their ‘No’ be ‘No,’” the ad begins, echoing the Sermon on the Mount. “Unfortunately, politicians are often more interested in scoring political points and attacking each other than in telling us the whole truth about how they’re going to lead our nation.”

The ads encourage voters to contact debate moderator Jim Lehrer to request that he “hold both candidates accountable when they bear false witness about themselves or their opponent.” Faithful America members nationwide are joining in this call to action as well. is an online community of more than 80,000 of people of faith. Members made contributions to run the ads in response to an email alert sent Monday. “[This Friday’s] debate is on foreign policy, but the issues won’t matter if the candidates aren’t honest with us,” the email stated.

The ads are running on Christian and Country radio stations throughout Northern Mississippi and Western Tennessee. You can listen to it here.


In Mississippi, we teach our kids to let their ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and their ‘No’ be ‘No.’ These age-old values are the foundation of a strong and trusting community and are vital to our democracy…because to make the right decisions, we need to know the facts.

Unfortunately, politicians are often more interested in scoring political points and attacking each other than in telling us the whole truth about how they’re going to lead our nation.

But this Friday, Mississippians have a chance to make sure that doesn’t happen at the Presidential debate at Ole Miss.

We are asking voters to flood debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, with requests that he hold both candidates accountable when they bear false witness about themselves or their opponent. You can email Jim Lehrer at, or get his phone number and find out more at WWW.FAITHFULAMERICA.ORG.

FAITHFULAMERICA.ORG sponsored this ad without approval from a candidate or campaign because our politicians need to understand that the Ninth Commandment wasn’t just a suggestion.

# # #

Faithful America, sponsored by Faith in Public Life, is an online community of tens of thousands of citizens motivated by faith to take action on the pressing moral issues of our time. Faithful America is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization.

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Poll shows support for torture among Southern evangelicals

September 16, 2008, 10:40 pm | Posted by

A new poll finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified, but their views can shift when they consider the Christian principle of the golden rule.

The poll released Thursday, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57% of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.

But when asked if they agree that “the U.S. government should not use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers,” the percentage who said torture was rarely or never justified rose to 52%.

“Presenting people with this argument and identifying with the golden rule really does engage a different part of people’s psyche and a part of their heart, their soul, and really does shift their views on torture,” said Robert Jones, president of Public Religion Research, which was commissioned to conduct the poll.

The findings of this poll, which did not define torture, compared to a Pew Research Center poll from February that found that 48% of the general public think torture can be justified.

The new poll found that 44% of white Southern evangelicals rely on life experiences and common sense to determine their views about torture. A lower percentage, 28%, said they relied on Christian teachings or beliefs.

The poll was released on the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and comes after several religious groups have joined a public campaign to oppose the use of torture in interrogating suspected terrorists.

Results were unveiled during the National Summit on Torture at Mercer in Atlanta, which was co-sponsored by Evangelicals for Human Rights.

David Gushee, a Christian ethics professor at Mercer and the president of the evangelical group, said the poll numbers should tell leaders, including presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain, who oppose torture that people can change their minds about this issue if it is discussed from a moral standpoint.

“Opinion on this question is movable,” he said.

Pollsters also found that 53% of white Southern evangelicals believe the government uses torture in its anti-terrorism campaign, despite claims by government officials to the contrary. About one-third, or 32%, said the government does not use torture as a matter of policy.

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