Open talk about their personal faith by leading presidential hopefuls is
prompted by their awareness of the crucial part Christians will play in the
upcoming election, according to a survey that reveals some surprising truths
about believers and the ballot box.
Though "born-again" voters would send George W. Bush to the White House in a
51 percent to 31 percent margin over Al Gore if the election were held
today, they do not fit the profile typically sketched of Christians by the
mainstream media as overwhelmingly Republican.
The "Faith Factor" study by the California-based Barna Research Group (BRG)
reports that "born-again" adults who are registered are split evenly between
the Republican and Democratic parties--35 percent each. But they are more
likely to be registered to vote than non-Christians, making them a key
The Barna researchers found that without the vote of those considering
themselves "born again," Bush would probably fall short of the numbers
needed to win the election. He draws 55 percent of his support from the
group, while Gore finds only 37 percent of them backing him.
But Bush's greater support was "lukewarm and susceptible to change," said
BRG president George Barna. "The candidates are well aware of the high level
of interest in spiritual matters and personal faith...Currently the
born-again group looks like it might cast about 45 percent of the votes.
That's a market share that no candidate can afford to ignore or lose," he
The survey of 1,002 adults found that around 57 million of the country's 80
million "born- again" adults were registered to vote--making them one of the
largest proportions among all demographic groups. Almost a fifth of those
registered--12 million--were evangelicals. One-in-8 born-again voters was
Catholic, and the number of "born-again" voters was double the total number
of black and Hispanic voters combined.
"The portrait often painted by the media of born-again Christians is
inaccurate," Barna said. "That group is not overwhelmingly conservative or
Republican, or unified in its views...The born- again segment is more
demographically diverse than many realize...There are millions of born-again
adults who have yet to make up their minds about whom to vote for, and many
who will switch from their current choice to an alternative before election
day rolls round."
Voters who are not born again would prefer Gore for president, according to
the BRG study, by a 43 percent to 34 percent margin. Limited to registered
voters only, Gore's lead among those who are not born again remains about
the same, at 44 percent to 36 percent, while Bush's lead in the born-again
group stretches to 56 percent over 30 percent.
The survey also pointed to John McCain's surging candidacy as "a substantial
challenge" to Bush. Among Republican born-again voters, Bush's lead over the
Arizona senator had fallen from 48 points almost a year ago to 37 points
Meanwhile, former Republican candidate Gary Bauer--who dropped out of the
race earlier this month--has been criticized by two top Christian leaders
for his endorsement of McCain on Wednesday. The ex-leader of the Family
Research Council came under fire from Focus on the Family's James Dobson and
preacher Jerry Falwell.
Dobson said that McCain had made no assurances about selecting a pro-life
running mate, the Associated Press reported. Falwell said McCain had "sold
out" to the liberal element of the Republican Party and that he "simply
cannot understand" Bauer's endorsement.