The Common Good

New Post-Election Poll: Evangelical, Catholic Voters Want Broad Moral Agenda

Source: Sojourners
Date: November 14, 2008

New Post-Election Poll: Evangelical, Catholic Voters Want Broad Moral Agenda

WASHINGTON - Results of a new post-election poll released today provide an in-depth look at the shift in priorities and moral agenda for Catholic and evangelical voters. Sponsored by Faith in Public Life, in partnership with Sojourners and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and conducted by Public Religion Research, the poll's findings indicate a new faith constituency with a broader moral agenda that will have a significant impact upon the next presidential administration and Congress.

A comprehensive poll report is available online; key findings are outlined below.

"People of faith are tired of the culture wars and hungry for common ground. Evangelical and Catholic voters are rejecting a narrow agenda and embracing the conviction that we must all work together - an approach that will enable the faith community to effect real progress on difficult issues in the days to come," said Katie Paris, Director of Communications Strategy at Faith in Public Life.

"A new faith coalition including Christians of color, younger white Christians, 'new evangelical' pastors and leaders, and progressive Catholics and Protestants from many denominations are reaching across barriers to change the face of Christianity in this country; judging candidates based on who best addresses all the threats to human life and dignity,” said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners and author of The Great Awakening. "This poll shows that large majorities of Catholics and white evangelicals say people of faith should focus on all issues that are central to their values rather than focusing on one or two issues.”

"This poll offers compelling evidence that Catholics support a broad social justice agenda that reflects a consistent life ethic and a concern for the common good,” said Alexia Kelley, Executive Director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. "It's clear that Catholics responded to the message -- echoed so often in church teaching-- that we are indeed our brothers' and sisters' keepers, and that we rise and fall together. Even with the difficult issue of abortion, Catholics and other people of faith want our elected officials to unite in support of robust public policies that research tells us help prevent the tragedy of abortion.”

Dr. Robert P. Jones, President of Public Religion Research, who conducted the poll, described this election as a "rebalancing of political alignments” and a "reclaiming of a broader agenda.”

A comprehensive poll report is available online. Here are the poll's key findings:

--  Almost twice the number of white evangelicals who voted for Obama say he "shares their values,” is "friendly” to religion.

--  Obama significantly improves upon perceptions of Democratic Party's "friendliness” to religion. Fifty-four percent of voters see Obama as friendly to religion, a 16-point improvement over his party's numbers (38%, Pew, August 2008).

--  Palin nomination resulted in net loss for GOP ticket. Palin's nomination increased support among fewer than one-third of white evangelicals (30%), and decreased support among every other religious group and political independents.

--  Religious voters want a broad agenda. While 1-in-5 evangelicals and 1-in-8 Catholics say an agenda focused primarily on abortion and same-sex marriage best reflects their values, majorities of evangelical and Catholic voters want a broad agenda.

--  Evangelical, Catholic voters reject narrow political focus, embrace the common good. Large majorities of Catholics (72%) and white evangelicals (81%) say people of faith should focus on all issues that are central to their values even if it makes them less effective in politics, rather than focusing on one or two issues in order to be more politically effective. Strong majorities of both groups also believe people of faith should advocate for policies that "protect the interests of all and promote the common good,” rather than policies that "protect their values and way of life.”

--  Common ground approach to reducing abortion is overwhelmingly popular. The vast majority (83%) of voters, including white evangelicals (86%) and Catholics (81%), believe elected leaders should work together to find ways to reduce abortions by helping prevent unwanted pregnancies, expanding adoption, and increasing economic support for women who want to carry their pregnancies to term.

--  All religious groups rank economy as top issue, blame institutions rather than individuals for economic crisis. Asked who they think is responsible for the current economic crisis, a plurality of voters (38%) say corporations who were greedy, nearly one-third (31%) say negligent government, and one-quarter (25%) say individuals who were careless.

--  Twice as many Catholics believe diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace; evangelicals are split.

The national survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,277 people who voted early or on Election Day in the 2008 election. The study was conducted from November 5-7, 2008 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

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