Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Obama Religious Voters vs. McCain Religious Voters: A Fascinating New Survey

Beliefnet has just released a fascinating survey of 4,400 of its users.  It’s not a random sample but the size of the group enabled us to do some fascinating slicing and dicing — in particular getting a glimpse at the differences between Obama’s most religious voters and the McCain religious voters. Here are a few highlights. .

Interpretation of the Bible. Religious Obama voters and religious McCain voters worship and pray at similar rates – but interpret the Bible in dramatically different ways.  Among those who attend church weekly, 81% of Obama supporters pray daily compared to 93% of McCain’s supporters. But when asked how they interpret the Bible, only 17% of Obama’s most religious voters said they view “The Bible is the literal word of God,” compared to 58% of McCain’s religious voters.” (Full chart here)

Obama’s Muslim Ties. Half of McCain voters believe Obama is or was a Muslim, with 31.7% saying “He used to be Muslim and still has too many connections to Islam.” (Full chart here)

McCain’s Top Character Flaws vs. Obama’s. While McCain voters listed Jeremiah Wright as Obama’s top character issue, Obama voters said the tone of McCain’s campaign was his top character issue.

Perceived faithyness. Supporters of each candidate doubt the religious sincerity of their opponents.  68% of McCain voters think he was somewhat or very religious  but only 32% of them thought that of Obama.  84% of Obama voters believed their candidate was somewhat or very religious, while only 32% of them thought that of McCain.

Abortion: education vs. legal restrictions. Among the most religious voters, Obama supporters believe that education and aid to pregnant mothers is the best way to reduce abortion, while McCain supporters prefer bans and restrictions on abortion (though even here, a third of pro-lifers who supported McCain believed the “Best way to reduce abortion is by preventing unintended pregnancy (through education and birth control), or providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers.”

Most important issues. Obama’s most religious supporters care much less about the traditionally-defined “values” issues than McCain do. 65% of McCain’s evangelicals said abortion was “most important” compared to just 10% of Obama evangelicals who did. On the other hand, Obama’s evangelicals were twice as likely to list “reducing poverty” as a top priority. (Full chart here)

Obamagelicals vs. McCain Evangelicals: Prayer LIfe. Although politically more liberal, Obama’s evangelicals pray and go to church about as much as McCain’s evangelicals supporters.

“Unchristian campaign.” More Obama voters believe McCain ran an “unchristian” campaign than vice versa. 57% of Obama voters said McCain ran a “more unchristian campaign” than Obama. 30% of McCain voter said that about Obama. (Full chart here)

Praying about the election.  83% of McCain voters prayed about the election. 54% of Obama voters did. Among the most religious (those who attend church weekly or more) 92% of McCain voters prayed about the election, 75% of Obama voters did.

For the full poll results click here.

Comments read comments(13)
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posted November 7, 2008 at 4:36 pm

As a religious supporter of Obama, it is my opinion that McCain supporters were not dealing with reality. Republicans have clearly demonstrated that they have no intention of making abortion illegal.
It seems like the abortion debate only occurs every four years during the presidential election
When did anyone hold Bush 2 or Reagan responsible for keeping their promise of a Constitutional Ammendment? How about James Dobson? When did he ever call out his buddy Bush for doing nothing to end abortion.
McCain never vowed to stop abortions. Toward the end of the campaign both McCain and Palin were hedging their words – make it a state decision. If McCain and the other Republicans really wanted to stop abortion they would use a federal law.
Reagan and Bush had a Republican controlled Congress, yet no action.
Republicans are not going to fight for an end of abortions. 60+ percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal. People cannot get elected to Congress with 40 percent of the votes.
McCain was correct in 1999 that overturning Roe v Wade would result in women having unsafe abortions. Statistics show that the majority of abortions are performed on low income women, which would continue the pattern of unsafe abortions before they were legal, while women with body purchased safe illegal abortions.
McCain and other Republicans voted against bills that would have provide education and health care to prevent unwanted babies.
Now it is time to hold Republicans accountable for supporting bills to reduce unwanted babies and education, especially for low income women.
Democrats support projects that help the least of these. Hold Republicans responsible for not regulating the financial markets and helping the wealthy that has not resulted in a trickle down of wealth. The gap between those with and without has continued to increase.

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posted November 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm

“Abortion: education vs. legal restrictions. Among the most religious voters, Obama supporters believe that education and aid to pregnant mothers is the best way to reduce abortion, while McCain supporters prefer bans and restrictions on abortion (though even here, a third of pro-lifers who supported McCain believed the “Best way to reduce abortion is by preventing unintended pregnancy (through education and birth control), or providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers.”
What Obama completely missed is that TRUE pro-life advocates want BOTH education and legislation. They go hand in hand to protect the unborn and provide real options for women. Obama claims he wants education, but really opposes both.

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non-metaphysical stephen

posted November 7, 2008 at 4:44 pm

I’m glad to see that the survey shows Obama supporters are also actively involved in church and in praying for the government. Perhaps if more people understood this, we could move beyond seeing the two parties in terms of religious/non-religious and start looking for the common ground where both sets of believers can work together to reveal the presence of the kingdom of God in our midst.

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posted November 7, 2008 at 5:11 pm

I would like to know what the difference is between Obama’s “most” religious voters and other Obama “religious” voters. In other words, what makes an Obama voter “more” religious than other Obama voters? (Is it those who attend church weekly, as noted in the post? This is not clear to me.)
Also, why has this distinction not been applied to McCain voters in this post? Are McCain’s “religious” voters seen as monolithically religious to the same degree?

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posted November 7, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Respected Christian preacher Billy Graham has been an advisor and spiritual helper to presidents dating back to President Eisenhower. But that relationship with presidents will end in part because incoming president Barack Obama takes such a profoundly pro-abortion position.

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posted November 8, 2008 at 1:11 am

Nice try, but the concern is for Graham’s health…exactly as it says in the article.
“To be sure, Graham’s health is the main reason for the decision, his son Franklin Graham told the Associated Press.
“My father feels like his time and day for that is over,” Franklin Graham said. “But he would certainly like to meet (Obama) and pray with him.”
But Franklin expressed concerns about Obama’s abortion position — something he mentioned to the senator during the campaign as a problem.”
FRANKLIN Graham expressed the concern, but said the health of his father is the main reason.
Spinning takes more talent than that. Nice try though. I’d give it a 75, even though you can’t dance to it.

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posted November 8, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Your post is as subtle as a brick to the head. You must have flunked “Reading for Nuance” in high school.
The article says-
“President-elect Obama heard our position,” Franklin Graham told the news service. “And I told him that this was very difficult for us and hard for us. It’s a moral issue that we just can’t back down on.”
“But he’s our president-elect, and those positions that he holds that are contrary to Biblical teaching, I hope that God will change his heart,” Graham added.”
Billy Graham will pray for Obama. He will NOT advise or help Obama in spiritual matters.
And as for your concern over my ability to spin the article- my post consisted only of the first paragraph of the article- word for word.
I’d say “nice try” but it wasn’t.

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posted November 8, 2008 at 5:35 pm

I am not so sure Franklin Graham speaks for Billy Graham. It is my opinion that Franklin Graham is power hungry. He could use some if his father’s humility.
If Billy Graham advised every previous President, how is Obama different from other Presidents? There have been pro-choice Presidents: George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton. The born alive/infanticide smear has been debunked by several independent sources.
George W Bush said before the 2004 election that he believed people that do not believe in Jesus go the heaven, including Muslims.
Billy Graham’s beliefs changed considerably as he aged.
When Obama had a meeting of religious leaders Franklin Graham ask Obama if he thought Jesus was the only way to salvation. Obama’s answer mirrored a response to a similar question put to Franklin’s father. During an interview with the elder Graham, he was asked him, “Do you believe that a person can be saved even if he doesn’t accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior?” His response was, “It is not my job to decide who is to be saved and who is not. That’s God’s job.””
Watch Robert Schuller interview with Billy Graham – Franklin Graham would never provide the same answer.
Schuller: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?
Billy Graham: Well, Christianity and being a true believer—you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival, that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven”

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posted November 8, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Billy Graham is still giving spiritual help:
Q: I’m single and pregnant and don’t know what to do. My boyfriend abandoned me when he found out I was pregnant, and I’ve never gotten along very well with my parents. I’ll probably get an abortion, although I don’t want to. Pray I’ll do the right thing. — J.B.
Two wrongs don’t make a right (as the old saying goes), and I pray you won’t compound your problems by making another wrong decision about your future.
Yes, it was wrong for you to get pregnant—but it also would be wrong for you to end the life of the little child who is growing inside you. I know it’s common today to think of abortion as a simple answer to an inconvenient problem—but it is actually a far more serious issue. Your child isn’t simply a mass of tissue; he or she is a human being in God’s eyes. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5).
What should you do? First, you need wise counsel from someone older than you—someone who can talk with you about your options (including placing your child for adoption). Ask God to lead you to the right person or agency (your pastor may be able to help you).
Then I urge you to turn to God—not just to put this problem into His hands, but to give your whole life to Him. God loves you, and no matter what you’ve done He wants to forgive your past and guide your future. Make your commitment to Christ, and then ask Him to help you do what is right—including mending your relationship with your parents.

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posted November 8, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Hmmm…perhaps you should check it out. Those Q&A sessions are reprints of the past 30 years of Graham’s newspaper articles. They are not current material. The current material is linked by the statement “Read our answer.”
Billy Graham has advanced Parkinson’s Disease, and according to many news articles has been in quite frail health for some time. He was recently hospitalized for falling over his dog. He has macular degeneration and cannot read easily. While he still writes most of his work apparently focuses on what will likely be his last book, this one on aging.
Interestingly it is his son, Franklin, who has aligned the ministry more with the religious right. Billy Graham was, and remains a registered Democrat, but has always stated that politics should not get in the way of the gospel. This allowed him to advise all Presidents, including those who were not pro-life (Nixon and Clinton, for example). Franklin has taken the ministry a different direction that is more partisan than when his father was in charge.
Because of this I remain convinced that it is his son, Franklin, who spoke about Obama’s pro-choice position being an obstacle, not Billy.

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posted November 8, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Lest there be any doubt as to where Billy Graham stood on such issues:
“I’m for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future.”
Graham spoke this when he refused to join Rev. Falwell’s “Moral Majority” in 1979. From what I have seen, I believe he followed this advice for the remainder of his career.

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posted November 8, 2008 at 9:05 pm

“From what I have seen, I believe he followed this advice for the remainder of his career.”
I agree. Billy Graham remains unchanged.
Please note: Before the first presidential debate, President-elect Barack Obama was scheduled to meet with Billy Graham, but the meeting was canceled due to health concerns that week.
Billy was able to meet and pray with John McCain. McCain said after their meeting:
“We had a very excellent conversation, I appreciated the opportunity to visit with him. Rev. Billy Graham recalled that during the Vietnam War when I was in prison, he visited my parents in Hawaii twice, and he and my father and mother prayed together for me, and I expressed my appreciation for that a long time ago.”
Maybe Obama will be able to meet with Billy Graham sometime in the future. Like so many other things concerning Obama- we will have to wait, watch, and see.

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posted November 8, 2008 at 9:13 pm

I believe Billy Graham, his son Franklin, and their greater family are close knit.
From today-
“Graham’s family and associates say that his mind is sharp despite his age and that for a man who is 90, he’s in good physical shape.
“The lion still has a roar,” said Graham’s spokesman, Larry Ross.
Graham exercises with a physical therapist on a regular basis and still swims and takes walks when he can. However, the fragilities of old age are also a reality.
In October, Graham spent a night in the hospital after tripping over his golden retriever, Sam. A nurse stays with him around the clock. Graham uses a walker to get around. His hearing is failing. Macular degeneration is stealing his eyesight.
Yet despite these obstacles, Graham continues his ministry. With the help of an assistant, Graham is writing another book about growing older.
“I have discovered that just because we grow weaker physically as we age, it doesn’t mean that we must grow weaker spiritually,” Graham said in a statement this week.
“In fact, we ought to be growing stronger spiritually, because our eyes ought to be on eternity and Heaven — on the things that really matter.”
In many ways, these days Graham is making up for the years he spent on the road.
“He really tried to stay in touch with us and be the kind of father that he wanted to be,” his daughter Ruth said. “He has said that he’s frustrated that he wasn’t home for us when we were little.”
His daughter Anne, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based evangelist, often stops by to read from the Bible and preach. Graham has often said she is the best preacher in the family.
Every Sunday when he is in town, Franklin has lunch with his father. They talk about the ministry and world events. Graham stays connected to the world by watching the news. CNN’s “Larry King Live” is part of his nightly ritual, Ross says.
Graham often prays for the people he sees in the news. After a church shooting in December in Colorado left five people dead, Franklin says, his father was heartbroken. “He said, ‘Franklin, let’s pray for those families’ … so I turned the television off, and Daddy prayed for those victims, and that’s the side of Billy Graham I don’t think people realize.”

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