Research Impacts - Polls

Evangelicals Remain Loyal to Republican Party

Release Date: 8/5/2008
 

By Seth Brohinsky and Mark Schulman, Abt SRBI

Republican John McCain holds a substantial 51-point lead over Barack Obama, 70% to 19%, with just 7% undecided among likely White Protestant Evangelical voters, according to the latest national Time Magazine Poll, conducted July 31 - August 4, 2008.

McCain's support is just slightly off Bush's 78% Evangelical support in 2004, but on par with Bush's 70% in 2000, according to exit polls.

With "leaners" excluded, McCain still leads by a large 49-point margin, 66% to 17% with 14% undecided.


And what if the candidates in the November election were Barack Obama and John McCain, and you had to choose, for which of these candidates would you vote?

Base: White Protestant Evangelical
Likely Voters
     
 

Firm
Support (%)

"Leaning
Support" (%)

(Base: Undecided
/ Unsure White
Protestant
Evangelical likely
voters)

Total Support
Including "Leaners"
(%)

Barack Obama

17

19

19

John McCain

66

29

70

Other Candidate

3

1

3

Undecided/Don't know

14

52

7


Evangelicals Loyal, But Some Not Enthusiastic

Evangelicals, a mainstay of the Republican Party, continue to be a loyal voting block for Republicans. Evangelical voters, while overwhelmingly in favor of McCain, are not enthusiastic about his candidacy. The large number of unenthusiastic Evangelical supporters, McCain may have difficulty turning out this entire voter block because many are not enthusiastic about his candidacy:

  • Nearly three in ten (27%) McCain supporters are not enthusiastic about his candidacy.
  • Interestingly, while a much smaller group, a higher percentage of Evangelical Obama supporters are enthusiastic about his candidacy (82%) compared to McCain supporters (71%).

Are you very enthusiastic about the candidate you're supporting, somewhat enthusiastic, not very enthusiastic, or not at all enthusiastic?

Base: White Protestant Evangelical Likely Voters      
 

Total
Evangelical
(%)

Obama
Supporters
(%)

McCain
Supporters
(%)

Enthusiastic

71

82

71

Not Enthusiastic

27

18

27

No Answer/Don't know

2

-

1


McCain Viewed as Stronger Candidate

The three most important issues to Evangelicals in this year's Presidential election are terrorism (45% "extremely" important), the nation's economy (45%), and gas prices at the pump (42%). McCain tops Obama in two of these areas:

  • Best protect the U.S. from terrorism: McCain over Obama, 80% - 10%
  • Best handle the nation's economy: McCain over Obama, 64% - 19%

Evangelicals view Obama as just another politician; 53% say he is the candidate who switches his positions for political reasons, compared to just 14% who say McCain. In a contradiction; Evangelicals also view Obama as the more likeable of the two candidates (48% to 36%).

Which candidate would best be described by each of the following statements...

Base: White Protestant Evangelical Likely Voters      
 

Barack
Obama
(%)

John
McCain
(%)

Not Sure /
Don't
know (%)

Is the most likeable

48

36

5

Best understands the concerns of people like
myself

21

62

4

Would best protect the U.S. against terrorism

10

80

5

Best be able to handle the economy

19

64

7

Would best handle the situation in Iraq

13

78

4

Would best be able to restore America's image
in the world

26

56

7

Who shares your values

16

62

5

Is most guided by his religious beliefs

17

42

22

Is the candidate who switches his positions for
political reasons

53

14

13

Is the real candidate of change

39

29

11


"Values Issues"

Evangelical voters' opinions on "values issues" differ significantly depending on how often they attend religious service. Evangelicals are split on these issues.

  • Abortion: Only 18% of Evangelicals overall would ban abortion under any circumstances. However, 23% of those who attend religious services at least once a week, say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. By contrast, just 6% of those who attend services less regularly agree.

Which of these positions best represents your views about abortion

Base: White Protestant Evangelical
Likely Voters
         
 

Total
Evangelical
(%)

Total
Non-Evangelical
(%)

Attend
Church
More
than
Once
per
Week
(%)

Attend
Church
Once a
Month to
a Few
Times a
Year (%)

Attend
Church
Seldom
or
Never
(%)

A woman should be able to
get an abortion if she
wants one in the first three
months of pregnancy, no
matter what the reason.

19

51

12

35

39

Abortion should be legal
only in certain
circumstances, such as
when a woman's health is
endangered or when the
pregnancy results from
rape or incest

59

36

61

55

50

Abortion should be illegal
in all circumstances even if
the mother's life is in
danger

18

9

23

8

2

Not Sure / Don't Know

3

5

3

2

10


  • Gay Marriage: Evangelicals agree (81%) believe that gay couples should not be allowed to marry, just 14% say they should be allowed. Almost 9 in 10 (88%) Evangelicals who attend religious service at least once a week feel gay marriage should not be allowed. However 30% of those who attend religious service less regularly feel same-sex marriages should be permitted.

Should gay and lesbian couples be allowed to marry, giving them full legal rights of
married couples, or not?

Base: White Protestant Evangelical
Likely Voters
         
 

Total
Evangelical
(%)

Total
Non-Evangelical

(Base: Non-
White
Protestant
Evangelical
likely voters)
(%)

Attend
Church
More
than
Once
per
Week
(%)

Attend
Church
Once a
Month to
a Few
Times a
Year (%)

Attend
Church
Seldom
or
Never
(%)

Should be allowed

14

52

8

31

25

Should not

81

41

88

65

69

Not Sure / Don't Know

4

7

4

4

6


Single Issue Constituency?

Three in ten (30%) Evangelical voters would not vote for a candidate based solely on his position on abortion or Iraq (20%). Views are more hardened on gay marriage, where 38% would not vote for a candidate based solely on his position on gay marriage.

  • Almost half (44%) of weekly church-goers would not vote for a candidate who favored gay marriage.
  • 35% of those who attend church weekly would not vote for a candidate who supported abortion rights.

What if a Presidential candidate took a position on the following issue
that was different from your own, would you still consider voting for him
because of his position on other issues, or would you not vote for him
under any circumstances?

Base: White Protestant Evangelical
Likely Voters
     
 

Still Consider
Voting for
Him
(%)

Would Not
Vote for Him
Under Any
Circumstances
(%)

No
Answer
/ Don't
Know

Abortion

63

30

7

Gay Marriage

55

38

7

U.S. Policy Toward Iraq

72

20

8


Bush Viewed Favorability

President Bush is still viewed in a favorable light by a majority (56%) of Evangelical voters.

  • Two-thirds (65%) approve of his handling of the situation in Iraq.
  • A slight minority (46%) approve of his handling of the economy. 

Methodology

This Time Magazine poll was conducted by telephone July 31 - August 4, 2008 among a national random sample of 606 White Protestant Evangelical likely voters, age 18 and older throughout America. White Protestant Evangelicals were identified both in a fresh cross-section sample and in other previous Time random-digit dial samples.

The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/-4.3 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error, and respondent error.

Abt SRBI Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing.

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