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Exit Polls Confirm Trends among Young Evangelicals

November 7, 2008, 12:15 pm | Posted by katie

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.

“Young 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,” 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. “They disdain ideology, partisanship, polemics, and religious pandering. They want to be known for what they are for and not what they are against.”

“Younger evangelicals’ votes in this election were deposits in an investment account of hope. If President Obama delivers on his promises—such as seeking real solutions on abortions, abolishing nuclear weapons, ending torture, caring for the poor, and stewardship of creation—then the myth that Christians are a reliable partisan base will vanish in our generation,” said Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Director of the Two Futures Project, a nuclear disarmament initiative centered around young evangelicals. “That would reshape American politics.”

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 poll’s results, which were analyzed in the report, “The Young and the Faithful” found:

• Less than a majority (49%) of younger white evangelicals identify as conservative, compared to nearly two-thirds (65%) of older evangelicals.

• 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.

• 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).

• 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.

• 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%).

• 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 Life’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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