When President Bush steps up to deliver his sixth State of the Union address, he will find a clear majority of evangelicals still support him, but their fervor has been weakening.
In the 2004 election, white evangelicals gave the President 76 percent of their votes. The strength of white evangelical support for Bush is similar to that of Jewish and African American support for Democrats. The big difference is that white evangelicals are a larger constituency, representing more than 25 percent of the U.S. voting population.
In recent months, evangelical support for the President and the Iraq war has drifted downward. In December 2002, a Pew Center poll found that 77 percent of white evangelicals approved of Bush's job performance. By October 2003, that approval rating had drifted down to 68 percent. In October 2005, it was 64 percent.
In addition, backers of Bush are less intense in their support. Previous Pew polls found that most evangelical supporters gave Bush an "excellent" rating as President. Now, most give a "good" rating.
Still, evangelical support is relatively strong. By way of contrast, non-evangelical job approval of Bush has fallen much farther. In December 2002, 61 percent of all Americans approved of Bush's job performance. Within a year, the President's approval rating had dropped to 50 percent. This fall, it bottomed out at 37 percent, the lowest level in his presidency.
To get a better handle on shifting evangelical reactions, Christianity Today interviewed a broad cross-section of evangelical leaders throughout 2005 on their evolving views of Bush. CT also spoke in greater depth with core supporters of the President at four churches: Folsom Community Bible Church in California; Christ Presbyterian in Victoria, ...