With Election Day finally having come and gone, God-o-Meter is closing up shop till 2012–or at least 2010. Till then, get your faith and politics fix over at Beliefnet editor-in-chief Steve Waldman’s blog.
Yesterday, The Barna Group–the nation’s premiere Christian polling firm–released a survey showing Barack Obama making significant inroads among evangelical and born again voters.
This is a group that Bush won by 62% in 2004, according to Barna.
The poll found Obama making smaller but significant gains among evangelicals, which Barna sees a much smaller and more theologically orthodox group than born agains. The poll had Obama with 23% support among evangelicals, with 63% expressing support for McCain and 12% undecided. In 2004, George W. Bush won 85% of that vote.
God-o-Meter called Barna Group president David Kinnaman (pictured) to ask what stood out to him in the numbers. Turns out that Kinnamin is wondering about a possible “Christian Bradley effect,” a variation on the phenomonon by which voters tell pollsters they’ll support a black candidate but wind up pulling the lever for a white alternative in the voting booth.
It will be interesting to see whether there’s something similar… where Christian voters would say they’d vote for someone like Obama but when they go to the polls they’re not comfortable because he doesn’t stand for the same religious perspective or moral views that they hold. We’re going to do another poll right before or after the election and it will be interesting to see what shakes out.
Can evangelicals in fact change the hierarchy of their issues? Because abortion is still a very important issue to them. Whether they’re going to be willing to make those changes and support Obama remains to be seen.
Kinnaman is also struck by the absence of a born again or evangelical McCain bounce after picking Sarah Palin as a running mate:
Palin has not solidified McCain’s support [among born again Christians or evangelicals]. Back in May, it was 78-percent of evangelicals for McCain and 9-percent for Obama. In July, evangelicals were 17-percent for Obama and 61-percent for McCain. They’re currently 23-percent for Obama and 63-percent for McCain. While Obama has had slow but steady in support among evangelicals, McCain has at best plateaued and at worse has lost some support.
Kinnaman can’t explain Obama’s improvement among evangelicals and born agains from his polling, but he has his theories:
There’s only so much space in the poll for questions. I want to include a question next time around about why [evangelicals and born again Christians support Obama]. We don’t know whether it’s a combination of the economy, outreach on Obama’s part, ineffective outreach on McCain’s part, backlash from Palin…
As a human being that’s out traveling around and working on this stuff, you hear a lot of comments at a lot of different levels suggesting that it’s al those factors–Obama’s effectiveness, that this is a moment to do something different, people are concerned about America’s reputation, the idea that there’s deep and holistic changes about the way we think about the world and engage with it. As a researcher, it’s hard to know which of those has the most weight, what’s making this election different.