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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Faith & Politics of Young Adults in 2008 Election

Faith in Public Life has released the findings from a new poll on the faith and politics of young adults (ages 18-34) in the 2008 election. The poll's results are analyzed in the report "The Young and the Faithful" available online. Here are a few findings of interest from the poll:

Monthly worship attenders swing to Obama in 2008. The greatest shift in candidate preference between 2004 and 2008 has occurred among all voters who attend religious services once or twice a month, moving from 49% support for Kerry in 2004 to 60% support for Obama in 2008.

More Americans think Obama is friendly to religion than McCain. Forty-nine percent of Americans say Obama is friendly to religion, while 45% say McCain is friendly to religion. More than seven-in-ten (71%) say it is important for public officials to be comfortable talking about religious values.

These are two very interesting stats. In a recent article over at Religion Dispatches titled "No God But Country," Kathryn Lofton argues that John McCain "may not believe in God." Unlike many of the conservatives (being charitable here) that I have encountered who regularly question the faith and salvation of Barack Obama, I will not question the faith of John McCain. McCain says he believes in the divine and I take him at his word. However, it seems that Lofton has tapped into a perception about John McCain that obviously many others share. By being unable or unwilling to make his private faith public on the campaign trail, John McCain has created the perception in many voters' minds that he is not overly faith-friendly.

Young first-time voters are heavily supporting Obama. Among young first-time voters, who make up close to one-third of this age group (ages 18-34), more than seven-in-ten (71%) support Obama, compared to slightly more than half (53%) of young voters who have voted in previous elections.

Younger white evangelicals are more pluralistic and more supportive of active government at home and of diplomacy abroad. While less than one-third (30%) of older evangelicals say a person can be moral without believing in God, 44% of younger evangelicals affirm this idea, a 14-point gap. A majority (56%) of younger evangelicals believe diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace, compared to only 44% of older white evangelicals. Younger white evangelicals are also more likely than older white evangelicals to favor a bigger government offering more services, by a margin of 21 points (44% and 23% respectively).

I think all peace-loving people should be encouraged by this stat. Older evangelicals don't have a good track record when it comes to the reality of pluralism. The Culture Wars of the 80s and 90s are a product of older evangelicals refusal and inability to deal with and adapt to our increasingly pluralistic society.

Americans say economy, energy and gas prices, and health care are the most important issues in 2008. Americans rank the economy (83%) and energy/gas prices (76%), and health care (71%) as the most important issues in the 2008 election. Economic issues topped the list of most important issues among all religious groups.

Americans rank abortion and same-sex marriage as the least important issues in 2008. Only 43% and 28% respectively say these issues are very important issues to their vote in 2008. White evangelicals do not rank abortion or same-sex marriage in their top five most important voting issues.

Americans see room for common ground in abortion debate. A majority (53%) of Americans believe political leaders can work to find common ground on abortion while staying true to their core beliefs, including majorities of white mainline Protestants (59%), Catholics (55%), and the unaffiliated (52%).

It's indeed a good thing that a majority of Americans, both Protestant and Catholic, are willing to work together to find common ground on divisive social issues like abortion rights while also pledging to hold firm to their convictions. Can't go wrong with a common ground approach. The political arena needs more politicians and activist organizations that are fully committed to finding common ground on a host of issues.


Blogger Georgia Mountain Man said...

This is extremely encouraging and makes me feel better about the young voting public. It certainly is much more positive than the "religious values" emails I have been receiving, which question the values and faith of Obama and his supporters. Most of these very un-Christian emails question the faith of those who are calling Obama their candidate, which would include, these young evangelicals. It makes me feel good to know that young Christians are more Christ-like than those who are trying to control politics and the direction of the country these days.

6:39 PM

Anonymous Karen G said...

Forty four percent of young evangelicals say a person can be moral without believing in God? I'm not sure what the question means. Is it encouraging?

10:51 PM


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