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obamafaithbutton.jpgThis is from a new polling memo that The Barna Group, the country’s preeminent Christian pollster, just sent out:

One of the surprising insights of the research is the significant inroads Sen. Obama has made among the Christian community, particularly compared to 2004. In fact, among born again voters there is a statistical dead-heat: 45% plan to vote for Sen. McCain, while 43% expect to cast a ballot for Sen. Obama. Even if Sen. McCain were to sweep the 10% who are undecided born again voters, he would fail to reach the 62% who rallied for President Bush in 2004.

Breaking Down the Christian Vote

The born again segment is large and diverse. This November, born again voters figure to represent nearly one out of every two votes (48%), but they are far from a monolithic voting bloc. Barna Group surveys differentiate between two segments within the born again population – evangelicals and non-evangelical born again Christians. [Note: Most media polls use a simplistic approach to define evangelical, asking survey respondents if they consider themselves to be evangelical. Barna Group studies, on the other hand, ask a series of nine questions about a person’s religious beliefs in order to determine if they are an evangelical.]

The larger of the two groups, non-evangelical voters, represent 39% of likely voters. Currently, a plurality support Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain (48% to 41%). Nine percent of these voters are undecided, theoretically giving either candidate a chance to win this segment of voters. However, if voter preference sustains through Election Day, John McCain will not duplicate the significant margin enjoyed by George Bush over John Kerry four years ago among non-evangelical born again Christians (56% to 44%).

Evangelicals Waver

An equally surprising insight from the research is the fact that Obama has cut into the advantage Republicans enjoyed among the smaller, more conservative segment of evangelicals. Although evangelicals will represent about 9% of likely voters this November, they have been a critical base of solidly Republican voting for several decades. In 2004, for instance, 85% of these voters selected George Bush.

However, with two weeks to go before the election just 63% said they are supporting the Arizona Senator, compared with 23% who opted for the candidate from Illinois. With 12% of the evangelical vote undecided, there is still a chance for McCain to expand his advantage with this group. Nevertheless, support for Obama has steadily increased over the summer months, moving from 9% of evangelicals who supported Obama in May to 17% in late July to the current level of 23%.

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