New Post-Election Poll Demonstrates Political Diversity of Evangelical Christians

February 11, 2008, 10:04 am | Posted by

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 “born-again or evangelical Christian.”

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 – 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:

• 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 – 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 – 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.

• 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).

• 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.

add a comment »

Super-Stereotyping in Tuesday’s Exits

February 6, 2008, 12:32 pm | Posted by

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 Pool’s only response to this (now widespread) complaint is that there is “limited real estate” 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 Clinton’s, but to Huckabee’s, and the other Republican candidates’? It would be interesting to know, but we don’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 candidate’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. That’s progress. We hope for more.

add a comment »

In South Carolina, Exit Polls Fail Again

January 28, 2008, 2:47 pm | Posted by

South Carolina exit polls only asked Republican voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians.

Saturday’s SC exit polls failed to ask Democratic primary voters if they were born-again or evangelical Christians – 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 – 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 can’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: “We have limited real estate on our questionnaires,” it read. “We 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.”

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.

add a comment »

Christian Leaders to President: Your Moral Legacy Is at Stake

January 24, 2008, 12:29 pm | Posted by

President Asked to Salvage Moral Legacy on War, Torture, Poverty and Climate

STATE OF THE UNION PRESS TELECONFERENCE AT 10 AM

Audio of the press teleconference available here (recording begins about 30 seconds in).

As the president prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address on Monday, Catholic and Evangelical Christian leaders are urging President Bush to salvage his moral legacy. On a press teleconference tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern, Catholic and Evangelical leaders will call on the president to change course on the most pressing moral issues of our time — war, torture, climate, and U.S. and international poverty.

WHO: Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, which is actively engaged in a campaign to reduce U.S poverty by 50% by 2020, will encourage President Bush in his last year in office to provide leadership in reducing poverty, rather that weakening protections for millions of our nation’s poor.

Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, will evaluate of how President Bush has responded to the call issued three years ago by 76 evangelical leaders asking the President to invest in improving economic conditions for the poor worldwide.

Rev. Dr. David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights and author of the anti-torture statement recently endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals, will explain how the president’s failure to ban torture without exception is a blatant violation of the rule of law and biblical doctrines, and how reversing course can help restore America’s standing in the world.

Rev. Dr. Paul de Vries, Board Member of the National Association of Evangelicals and original signer of the Evangelical Climate Initiative statement will discuss the damaging global implications of the Bush administration’s failure to act on climate change and how the president can salvage his moral legacy on climate by strengthening regulations and investing in sustainable energy sources.

Sister Anne Curtis, Leadership Team, Institute of the Sisters of Mercy, who just returned from visiting Iraqi refugees in the Middle East, where present during the bombing of a U. S. embassy car, which killed three people, will discuss the impact of war as seen through the eyes of those who live with it everyday.

WHEN: Thursday, January 24, 2008, at 10 a.m. Eastern

DIAL-IN NUMBER: 1-866-682-6100

add a comment »

Faith Transcends Primary Politics: Believers Ask Candidates to Respect Religion’s Role

January 15, 2008, 10:52 am | Posted by

Catholic, Evangelical, and Mainline Leaders Identify Three Principles to Protect Religion on the Trail

Christian pastors, priests, theologians and leaders of faith-based organizations today warned that divisive religious rhetoric from presidential candidates and relentless scrutiny of candidates’ faith undermines the vital role of religion in public life.

“We are troubled to see candidates pressed to pronounce the nature of their religious beliefs, asked if they believe every word of the Bible, forced to fend off warnings by a few religious authorities about reception of sacraments, compelled to confront derogatory and false allegations of radical Muslim childhood education, and faced with prejudicial analyses of their denominational doctrines,” leaders wrote in the statement, Keeping Faith: Principles to Protect Religion on the Campaign Trail.

More than two dozen Catholic, Evangelical, and mainline Protestant leaders signed the statement calling on candidates to affirm three principles to protect religion on the campaign trail: 1) avoid using religious or doctrinal differences to marginalize or disparage each other; 2) acknowledge that no single faith has an exclusive claim to moral values; and 3) recognize that policy positions should reflect the best interests of all citizens regardless of religious belief.

Democratic and Republican candidates have courted religious voters with extensive faith-based outreach efforts, and people of faith will be a critical factor in the South Carolina primaries held on Jan. 19 and Jan. 26.

The text of the statement and complete list of signatories, also available here (PDF), follows:

Keeping Faith: Principles to Protect Religion on the Campaign Trail

The role of religion in public life is a pivotal and contested question this election year. Republican and Democratic candidates alike have drawn on Biblical language and highlighted the importance of faith to articulate their personal and political values. As believers, we will always stand up for religious expression and the importance of religion for America, but we are troubled by some current trends in political campaigns.

Religion forms virtues vital to democratic citizenship. Religion calls citizens to transcend self-interest in service to others—to those in need, to neighbor, to community, to country and to the world. Religion promotes fundamental moral values necessary for civilized public life—honor and honesty, charity and justice. Religion has brought hope and liberty to America’s powerless and disenfranchised, and its teachings have inspired our country’s most admirable achievements.

Yet in this year’s presidential campaign, we are troubled to see candidates pressed to pronounce the nature of their religious beliefs, asked if they believe every word of the Bible, forced to fend off warnings by a few religious authorities about reception of sacraments, compelled to confront derogatory and false allegations of radical Muslim childhood education, and faced with prejudicial analyses of their denominational doctrines.

Exclusionary religious rhetoric by candidates and constant scrutiny of the minutiae of their faiths undermine religion’s valuable role in public life. It also runs contrary to the unique American commitment to both religious freedom and non-establishment of religion. History is replete with examples of religion compromised by its collusion with power, and the role of religion in the current campaign raises concern that it is once again being misused.

As citizens of faith united in efforts to reinvigorate religion’s role in the public square, we are convinced that the greatest protection for that role is clear and unambiguous support for both religious expression and non-establishment of religion. Following Article VI of the U. S. Constitution and the First Amendment, we identify three basic principles.

* No person should be expected to leave their faith at the door when operating in the public square. But it is inappropriate to use religious or doctrinal differences to marginalize or disparage candidates, by either comparison or assertion. No religious test may be applied to candidates for public office – not by the law, not by candidates, not by campaigns.

*Candidates for public office should welcome the contributions that religion brings to society. But just as government may not endorse or favor a religious faith, candidates for public office are obliged, in their official capacity, to acknowledge that no faith can lay exclusive claim to the moral values that enrich our public life.

*Just as government policies must be in service to the nation and not to any religious faith, the same holds true for candidates’ positions on policies. While it is appropriate for candidates to connect their faith to their policy positions, their positions on policy must respect all citizens regardless of religious belief.

As the 2008 campaign charges forward, we call upon all candidates, regardless of whether or not or how often they choose to talk about religion, to protect it. We call upon all candidates to join us in affirming these principles.

Stephen Schneck

Director, Life Cycle Institute

Catholic University of America

Lisa Sowell Cahill

J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology

Boston College

Rev. Les Schmidt

U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Liaison

Catholic Committee of the South

Dr. Randall Balmer

Professor of American Religious History

Barnard College, Columbia University

Brian McLaren

Author and Founding Pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church

Spencerville, MD.

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS

Executive Director

NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Rev. Joseph Darby

Senior Pastor

Morris Brown AME Church

Charleston, SC

Rev. Don Flowers

Senior Pastor

Providence Baptist Church

Charleston, SC

Dr. Baxter M. Wynn

Minister of Pastoral Care

First Baptist Church

Greenville, SC

Rev. Jennifer Butler

Executive Director

Faith in Public Life

Richard Gaillardetz

Professor of Catholic Studies

The University of Toledo

Rev. Jennifer Kottler

Executive Director

Let Justice Roll

Alexia Kelley

Executive Director

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Chris Korzen

Executive Director

Catholics United

Rev. Dr. Paul de Vries

President

NY Divinity School

Board Member, National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Fred L. Thelen

Pastor

Christo Rey Church

Lansing, MI

Rev. Tim Ahrens

Senior Pastor

First Congregational Church

Columbus, OH

Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J.

Center for Human Rights and International Justice

Theology Department

Boston College

J. Brent Walker

Executive Director

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Sr. Sharon Dillon, SSJ-TOSF

Executive Director

Franciscan Mission Service of North American

Rev. Derrick Harkins

Senior Pastor, Nineteenth St. Baptist Church

Washington, DC

Board of Directors, World Relief

Dr. Glen Stassen

Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics

Fuller Theological Seminary

Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

President

Chicago Theological Seminary

Marie Dennis

Director

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Rev. Stephen Copley

Senior Pastor

First United Methodist Church

North Little Rock, Ark.

Sr. Mary Waskowiak, RSM

President

The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Dr. Ken Brooker Langston

Director, Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ)

Coordinator, Disciples Center for Public Witness

Diana Butler Bass

Author, speaker on American Religion

add a comment »