Faith in Public Life has been complaining that exit polls have asked only Republicans whether they're evangelical or born again. Last week, they decided to do something about it, and surveyed voters in Missouri and Tennessee to see how evangelicals were really voting.
In both states, one-third of voters who identified as evangelical or born again voted in the Democratic primaries.
"Comparatively, only one in four white evangelical voters in Missouri and Tennessee supported Senator John Kerry in the 2004 general election," the organization noted in its press release. In a press conference announcing its poll data, Faith in Public Life's panelists similarly suggested that the number reflects something new.
"The presumed lock on evangelical voters by the Republican Party is breaking down," Robert P. Jones said.
Sojourners head Jim Wallis likewise proclaimed, "The media is operating with an outdated script. … Things are changing. Evangelicals are leaving the religious right in droves."
But many political scientists have noted that evangelical support for Bush, particularly in the 2004 election, was probably an anomaly. Evangelicals have for the past several decades largely split two-thirds for Republicans, one-third for Democrats. Bill Clinton did particularly well among evangelicals, especially in 1992, drawing between 35 percent and 40 percent of the evangelical vote. If the evangelical vote is shifting, it's probably more accurate to say it's shifting back to pre-Bush levels.
(The good stuff after the jump...)
When asked about this, Jones insisted that the numbers do not represent a return to form, and said that young evangelicals in particular are less likely to identify with the Republican Party. He pointed to a recent survey he co-authored from Third Way, which showed one-fifth of evangelicals are progressives (i.e. liberal), one-third are moderates, and one-half are conservatives.
Evangelicals made up a sizable block in the Democratic primaries surveyed: 19 percent in Missouri (where 55 percent of the Republican primary voters were evangelical) and 29 percent in Tennessee (where 73 percent of the Republican voters were evangelical).
In Tennessee, the evangelical percentage in the Democratic primary was the same as white men and all black voters, and nearly three times that of union members. In Missouri, the evangelical vote for Democrats was the same as the senior citizen vote and larger than the black vote and union-member vote. (I'm comparing the FPL numbers on evangelicals with exit poll data for the other groups, which is not quite apples and oranges but a bit like comparing Fujis and Granny Smiths.)
Hillary Clinton triumphed in both states among evangelical Democrats. That's a bit of a surprise, especially since CT's informal online polling showed Obama way ahead among our readers. But in both states surveyed, the numbers for white evangelicals look an awful lot like the white vote in general. In Tennessee, Obama actually did worse among white evangelicals (12%) than among all whites (20%; the exit poll data had Obama's white support at 26%).
In Missouri, Obama's support was the same among white evangelicals and all whites, but Clinton's support was slightly lower among evangelicals than with all whites. Still, the 54 percent of the evangelical vote that Clinton won in that state is considerably more than the support she got from all Democratic voters. Obama won the state by about 10,000 votes of more than 820,000 cast, but he and Clinton received the same number of convention delegates.
Zogby International conducted the survey, which has a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points. Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress Action Fund paid for the survey.
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