Can Democrats hold gains they made with faith voters?

November 6, 2008

DALLAS – In a country where religion plays a big role in politics, U.S. Democrats have made some big gains with voters of faith.

A number of exit polls have shown that President-elect Barack Obama narrowed the “God gap” that existed when President George W. Bush, a Republican, defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry in 2004.

According to Faith in Public Life, a non-partisan resource center, and Public Religion Research, Obama increased the Democratic share of the tally among all groups categorized by how often they attend church.

The groups noted that he made his biggest gains among voters who attend church more than once a week, “narrowing a 29-point Republican advantage (64 percent – 35 percent) to a 12-point Republican advantage (55 percent – 43 percent). This represents an 8-point increase among a strongly Republican group.”

Other highlights it noted included:

– Obama won monthly attenders 53 percent to 46 percent, while Kerry lost them 49 percent to 51 percent, a 4-point pickup.

– Obama beat Republican rival John McCain soundly among Catholics (55 percent to 44 percent), performing better than Kerry in 2004 and Democrat Al Gore in 2000.
– Among white Catholics, Obama narrowed the Republican advantage from Bush’s 13-
point advantage (56 percent to 43 percent), with McCain holding only a 5-point advantage (52 percent to 47 percent).

– White evangelical Protestants remained the most reliable base for the Republican Party with McCain beating Obama among them 75 percent to 24 percent — falling only slightly short of Bush’s standing with them in 2004. This finding was similar to other exit polls such as CNN’s.

All of this is interesting stuff and highlights, among other things, Obama’s success in wooing religious voters through an outreach program and his own overt gestures of faith.

His small inroads with evangelical voters show that some in this diversifying movement hope he will support their efforts as they broaden their biblical agenda to include the fight against climate change.

His gains elsewhere, such as among Catholics, probably stem from many factors including voter concerns about the economy, which overshadowed almost everything else in the last few weeks of the election.

Going foward it raises a big question: can the Democrats hold their gains among voters of faith and even narrow the “God gap” further? What do you think?


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[…] Can Democrats hold gains they made with faith voters? – White evangelical Protestants remained the most reliable base for the Republican Party with McCain beating Obama among them 75 percent to… […]

Posted by Can Democrats hold gains they made with faith voters? | Report as abusive

Barack Obama will gain as time moves forward with religious sect. As more of us get to know who and what he really stands for he will not only gain our support he will gain our respect. I am a christian man who worked hard in his local office. As i found out i was not alone in this office. We as people of this great nation must open our eyes and our hearts to many more issuses than just those at chruch. We are a nation of many people and we must not be selfish… Remember in GOD WE TRUST…

Posted by we will | Report as abusive

I hope Obama becomes the next Kennedy

Posted by Suzi | Report as abusive

as a committed christian not an nominal christian i will never vote for a candidate who advocates abortion,full stop.any one whether republican or democrate who professes to be a christian and who is ok with the murder of babies i question their faith.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

I spent some time this week trying to understand these US election exit polls. According to those polls White Evangelical/Born-Again Christians make up just more than a quarter of the electorate.

Again, according to those exit polls 74% of those white evangelicals voted for McCain. That means that white evangelicals made up over 40% of McCain’s support – that is a sizeable percentage.

Those same exit polls show that those who supported McCain are much less concerned about health care (they can afford private), are far less affected by the economic downturn (they are more economically secure), are more inclined to be racist (and think that race relations will get more strained), are gun owners (over 60%), are much more concerned about security and terror, are very supportive of the war in Iraq (over 90%) and strongly approve of Bush policy (90%).

Since almost half of McCain’s support came from white evangelicals does this mean that they too are pro-guns, pro-war, racist and unconcerned with the poor? I certainly hope not.

I know that some white evangelicals voted for Obama (about 1/4 did) and that many evangelicals who voted McCain did so based primarily on their pro-life views. What I find strange however, is that abortion does not feature as an issue in the exit poll research and I am unsure what that tells us. In fact fear of terror was the primary issue for McCain support according to the polls.

By contrast according to the research, Obama supporters were concerned with access to medical care for all, ending the war in Iraq, dealing with the economy (to help the poor) and addressing environmental issues (energy policy, global warming, climate change).

I just have one question: What does this research say about us evangelicals and about our faith?

Posted by Sean Callaghan | Report as abusive

Well to me(Atheist) it says that the majority of Evangelicals are hypocrites.
Often times I’ll get into discussions about gays, abortion, religion, etc. with evangelicals and am just appalled at their views.

I was always taught when I was younger that we should treat everyone with respect even if we have fundamental difference in opinions and that the ONLY person that should be judging is God.

Seeing as that’s the exact opposite of most the “religious” folks I have met, it instantly turned me off religion in general.

I also have issues with religious people telling me I will go to hell for my disbelief even if I lived a peaceful and helpful life, whereas a serial killer would go to heaven so long as he accepted God.

Bunch of hypocrisy and bigotry in religion.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

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Posted by Free Religion News and Blogs » Religion, faith and ethics | Report as abusive

“as a committed christian not an nominal christian i will never vote for a candidate who advocates abortion,full stop.any one whether republican or democrate who professes to be a christian and who is ok with the murder of babies i question their faith.”

To Brian Lee,

I question the faith of any christian who judges others. Jesus loved everyone.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

Sean Callaghan, that’s nonsense that McCain supporters are much less concerned about health care. Most of the poor and low middle class white people in America voted McCain, and most college-educated people voted Obama – just because poor whites are less concerned about health care doesn’t mean they are wealthy, don’t need health care, or that they are less affected by the economy!! It means that other issues are more important to them. What, pray tell, is wrong with being concerned with security and terror? Isn’t “life” a fundamental human right? Remember “life, liberty and the pursuit”?

People like you always want to paint Republicans as evil and racist. Has it occured to your bigoted head that maybe conservatives have a fundamentally different perspective on life? That they are less interested in fixing the economy via political means because they don’t want big government and they think the economy improves in private hands? No, you’d rather believe they’re a bunch of evil white men who want to oppress everyone else.

As for your question on evangelicals, please tell me what is the Christian basis for big govt and government sponsored health care.

Posted by AJ | Report as abusive

In agreement with post by Brian, I would never vote for anyone who agrees with the wholesale and especially late term murder of babies. Some Obama campaign people came to my door, (twice) and I sent them away with a stern rebuke if they professed to be Christians.
People relate “liberal” to Democrat and “conservative” to Republican. THIS IS NOT TRUE!
Do you know what a conservative is?
Be all this as it may, Obama is the President Elect, IF he is a Christian pray that God The Holy Spirit will “light up his life.”

Posted by Lester Koch | Report as abusive

[…] Their choice is to stay the course with the Religious Right to increased sectarian tension, or to moderate more with socially liberal faith voters and more moderate evangelicals thus rejecting the Religious Right trajectory which has been their base for many years […]

Posted by What Happens to the Religious Right? · Notes From Off-Center | Report as abusive

To brian lee —

As a committed Christian and molecular biologist, if you really think first and second term abortions are ”murder of babies”, then I question your sanity. You can’t kill a person that doesn’t exist. Get real. As I see it, Obama has finally injected a much needed combination of faith *and* rationality into American politics, one that is resonating with those of us who value both. Finally, a politician, and now a president, who has real values, who cares for all people, and whose values and ideals are no longer rooted in ignorance.

Posted by Douglas | Report as abusive

I’m a white, male evangelical who has never before voted for a Democrat president. That said, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and praying as well, I just couldn’t vote for McCain. There’s the verse “by their fruits you will know them”. I watched him during the debates. He (and Palin) misrepresented his opponents beliefs (remember the command about bearing false witness?), he was snide and condescending, he talked down to questioners and over them,… No matter what he did 40 years ago, during his campaign he was an embarrassment to me as a Christian.

The abortion issue was a big sticking point for me, I’ll admit, but again, Obama offered some hope of reducing abortions; McCain offers none, unless you believe that he’s going to get a Supreme Court appointment through Congress that overturns Roe v. Wade.

There’s two verses about homosexuality in the Bible and none about abortion (the OT laws do not treat death of a fetus the same as death of a born person, and certainly don’t treat it as a murder, even if intentional), yet there are thousands about taking care of the poor and immigrants.

In my case, at least, a thoughtful look at the candidates left me no choice. And I’ve actually switched from Republican to “Decline to State”. As a Christian, I can’t support a party anymore that tries to tie tax policy and other issues to the name of Christ. Jesus didn’t die to save you taxes.

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

Remember George Carlin’s take on the hero who buckles in the face of hardship? “Do what you want to the girl, but leave me alone.” For Christian voters to have cited the economy as a reason to vote for a pro-choice candidate demonstrates a willingness to vote their personal interest over what is right, and that’s to be regretted.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

It’s not the things you outlaw, it is the things you do that should matter to all Christians. I am amazed at those who claim to follow Christ yet turn a blind eye to those who torture and promote “pre-emptive” war (in other words, uprovoked war). Passing laws against abortion will not end it. Removing the causes of it will. Obama has pledged to reduce abortion, not simply outlaw it, and promotes a full Christian approach to government. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.

Posted by Luke Jackson | Report as abusive

I think that anyone, what ever your religious belief, that votes on one single issue (abortion, taxes, health care, etc.) is being irresponsible. That being said, as a Christian, I really struggled with Obama’s Pro-life stance. Then, I realized that abortion cannot really be legislated anymore. It is a moral or belief issue, and as such, change needs to be affected at a personal level. Whether that change comes through better education, better adoption support, or by other means, we should not count on government. Government should, however, be counted on to wisely spend our taxes, regulate business, assist with health care and protect us from foreign threat. That is why I voted for Obama.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Despite various Catholic Bishops telling Catholics to NOT vote for Obama based on his stance on Abortion, I applaud all those that did. Let women decide on their own choices because all pain, responsibility and guilt, let alone any ”sin” is never borne or resolved by the Bishops or the Church. It is so easy to ”speak” for God, but coming from a Church with it’s own sexual misconducts, more and more Catholics will be ”Cafeteria Catholics”, picking and choosing what is attractive or ”on sale”. May God be our judge and may He be merciful on all of us.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive


I respect your feelings regarding abortion, though I do not agree with or endorse them. However, it occurs to me that such narrow-minded focus is what many find so very distateful about the Evangelical movement as a whole.

Is abortion important? Yes. Is it the only thing that is important? Clearly not. Education, health care for all, pollution control and global climate change, religious fundamentalist-driven terrorism, economic reform and the mortgage crisis are all extremely important as well. And yet many Evangelicals will completely reject an otherwise manifestly qualified candidate based on his views on one single issue. This, to me, shows a lack of intellectual depth and a willingness to damage the entire nation in pursuit of a single goal.

Posted by Becky | Report as abusive

I think the GOP has consistently failed to bring about the planks and promises made for social conservatives and we all went shopping as a result. Actually, I think the Gordon Gecko’s of the GOP see all the “churchy” people as rubes that will snap at any baitthey dangle or tirelessly stick with it while they never plan on delivery. Just think about a few issues and see if my hypothesis is correct: Flag burning, Roe v. Wade, school prayer, wars that are won, small government, lower middle class taxes, balanced budgets, deficit reduction, any solution, shall I go on? Instead, congress works on DOA impeachments, home-run baseball drugs, sheesh! I vote for a “People’s Tribune” in Senate and House to stop foolishness and force the important work on the nations problems.

Posted by Matt Farrer | Report as abusive

Can someone explain to me how a person who describes themselves as Christian can vote for a person who is nominated by a party that supports abortion & homosexuality? If you plan on answering that there were more important issues surrounding this election then what you are really saying is that they are not the true essence of Christ. Anyone can call themselves Christian but to truely believe in Christ means to try as hard as you can to BE like Christ. Although none of us will ever be like Christ this one is a no brainer. You vote for the person/party that supports the ideals of our God.

Posted by Netman995 | Report as abusive


There is a world of difference between having a right and being right. I believe people have the right to be wrong. You don’t. That’s the simple difference.

Posted by Douglas | Report as abusive

Abortion as a form of murder of babies should stop. We can more successfully control population by denying health care and starting new wars in the name of freedom.

Posted by ira waxmann | Report as abusive

messege to tim you are right.jesus loves everybody,so do i including unborn babies.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Enough of the religion nonsense! Hasn’t America suffered enough with the “values” nut cases shoving their beliefs down the throats of folks just trying to make ends meet? The problem with the Evangelical Christian movement is that they manipulated the facts on issues like abortion, stem cell research, guns and gays and made them “God issues” when, in fact, they are “people, human issues” and involve choices that are “personal and altogether private”! Then the Republican Party figured out that they had a significant voting block and incorporated the Evangelical Christian movement into their party philosophy. As recent and past history demonstrates, that kind of insane misuse of religion is corrupt and results in dangerous trends that move a Democracy where is should not go.

Posted by Sheldon Kaye | Report as abusive

As a Christian, the beliefs of Alan Keyes and his convictions are the unwavering. Keyes is a black Republican who is ultra-conservative. He is a Harvard man who has been fighting for rights and trying to gain enough votes to run for president. He has debated Obama on several occasions and says that Obama speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Why would a non-black person be labeled a racist if they didn’t vote for Obama, but were a Alan Keyes supporter? That makes no sense. It is about what is right and wrong. “Obama Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions.” “Keyes was with Black ministers in D.C., and stated his support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would ban same-sex marriages. Keyes said Obama wants it both ways as he seeks the gay vote while stating he opposes marriage.
Obama does back civil unions for gays.” Obama is also biracial, 1/2 white, 1/2 black. Keyes is 100% black. For many people of all races,the issue at hand is not the color of the skin, but what is right and wrong in the eyes of the Lord.

Posted by Beth | Report as abusive


If you ‘ban’ faith from decision making, you force people of faith to accept humanistic values, which is really just someone else’s ‘faith’. Why are you so narrow minded? Why do you demand everything be your way? Why do you want to force your position on everyone of faith? You are a hypocrite.

Posted by Rich | Report as abusive

“Many will say to me on that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matt 7: 22-23 NIV

I think the point here is that not all who claim to be a Christian are a genuine child of God. Christianity is not an activity, or a belief system. To be a Christian is a lifestyle, a world view. Therefore, as a Christian there are principals that cannot be negotiated. There is absolute truth. The world sees truth as relative. What is good for you is ok, and what is good for me is ok. Everything is relative. In a biblical world view there are absolutes. The world calls absolutes “Narrow minded” too “exclusive” or the buzz word of the day “Intolerant”. At the end of the day the nature of a Christian is not the same as the natural or carnal man. The Christian has the nature of God. Given this reality, it is no wonder that those who do not know Christ cannot understand the nature of Christ…or the Christian. The truth of God’s word is intolerant. Intolerant of sin. It is also exclusive, to those who believe on the Lord. This is why issues such as abortion, or same sex marriage are not negotiable in the truth. Those who claim to be a Christian in one breath and then tolerate that which is detestable to the Lord are not in fellowship with the Lord…and are lost, likely never saved because one could not accept that which is not the nature of God if they were also of the nature of God.

Most of the issues in politics today are a narrative of differing secular opinions, Economic policy, foreign policy, taxes, regulation etc. There are however at least two issues that are a nonstarter for a true believer. Abortion and same sex marriage.

Posted by Dean in Orlando | Report as abusive

to dougles molecular biologist ,did you divulge this information to impress?i hope it s try and validate your opinion.i am a blue collar guy and i have not got “the inteligence of men’i come before the lord with the faith of a child,and i know the lord knew me before i was in my mothers womb not the first or second term,i walk by faith and not by sight,and i know my redeemer lives, god bless,

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

[…] Can Democrats hold gains they made with faith voters? Obama beat Republican rival John McCain soundly among Catholics (55 percent to 44 percent), performing better than Kerry in 2004 and Democrat Al Gore in 2000. – Among white Catholics, Obama narrowed the Republican advantage from Bush’s … […]

Posted by Can Democrats hold gains they made with faith voters? at Republicans On Best Political Blogs | Report as abusive

Politics and religion mixed can be a dangerous concoction, we don’t live in a bipolar world and as such I keep faith and “worldly” politics well separated. Will Obama succeed in the next election? It all depends on his politics that impact believers (of all faiths) and nonbelievers alike, not on what fate he has (or indeed if he has faith at all).

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

hi nick i take on board what say ,the category of these blogs are faith based so the drift should be from a spiritual point of view.i am a believer and my faith transends everything .i have heard so many distortions from people who profess to be believers to advance the suitability of their candidate it,s remarkable one poster suggested that if jesus was here today he would support abortion,i did not vote for obama but he is now my president and god bless him .but i hope he sticks to his principles better than some of his supporters

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

No he can’t. His election was for economic reasons and flies in teh face of a contrary movement – i.e. away from Democratic positions – on non-economic issues. Votes on key moral issues in states like California show the US moving in a more conservative direction. If moves to liberalise policy in non-economic areas before sorting out the economy first, he may encounter a significant backlash.

Posted by Marc Coleman | Report as abusive

If Obama embarks upon his promised program of liberal social values and thereby embarks upon policies that spurn the Christian Values that have made the USA and flouts the truth and wisdom of the Bible; he will further destroy families. In these circumstances it is probable that those professing Christians who have been taken in with the electioneering hype and casual overt gestures of faith will identify the sham and leave Obama out in the cold. It is absolute hypocrisy to say you are a friend of the Lord Jesus the author of life and at the same time condone the killing of aborted babies.

Posted by Ken Savemoa | Report as abusive

To Dean in Orlando.

“The truth of God’s word is intolerant.” As a minister for the past 31 years, I respectfully disagree. My God is loving and forgiving. There is not a soul on this earth that hasn’t or won’t sin. We aren’t a perfect people. But scripture does say that we can be forgiven. And that we must forgive others as well. No where does it say we must be intolerant of others.

Abortion is a topic that certainly evokes emotion, but doesn’t have any basis in scripture. I do know when a fetus is able to survive on it’s own that it should be protected, nurtured, etc. Until then, it’s part of the women. And as a man, I’m not sure I am qualified to tell a women what to do in that situation. I can’t experience a pregnancy. And only God can judge others – and I don’t ever want to try.

Posted by steve in Chicago | Report as abusive

Republicans will never ban abortion as long as they are getting all the single-issue voters “for free”. Those who vote pro-life without considering anything else are giving the Republicans a pass to do whatever they want without holding them accountable. They would be politically foolish to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Posted by Patty P | Report as abusive

Brian Lee,

As minister Steve says, the abortion topic certainly evokes emotion. But your beliefs on this matter are not Christian, simply because the Bible says nothing about abortion. I know that God knew me before I was in my mother’s womb too — but that’s just as true whether a person begins at conception or if a person begins at birth (or at 13 years old, for that matter). I’ll say it again — murder is wrong, and killing babies is obviously wrong, but you can’t kill a person that doesn’t exist. Before viability, a fetus can’t think, can’t feel pain, has no memories, in short can’t do anything that a conscious person can do. Why is that? Because it is *not a person*. Forcing a woman to keep an unwanted pregnancy is immoral. And finally, we have a president who knows that supporting such intolerance and irrationality is immoral.

Posted by Douglas | Report as abusive

douglas yes i listened to your argument but my believes are not tainted by a political undertone.a past paster of mine who was also a professor of theology ,he taught that the souls under the alter,in revelation ,asking when will we be revenged are the souls of the i believe steves is not motivated by a political bias ,i don,t know?.but the mention of his years as a minister ,what church?our group started a ministry into a school and we asked a vicar of a failing church to join us, as an encouragement to him .when asked if he would like to address the students at there graduation, he agreed and his opening statement was “children don,t believe every thing you read in the bible’.you and steve are like many who believe in gray areas ,my faiths reality is, even the thought of excepting abortion is immoral.sorry.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive