A new survey by the Paul Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College shows continuing divisions within as well as between faith traditions on political preferences.
The survey, based on a sample of 3,002 respondents and funded by the Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, found that evangelical Protestants continue to be the most Republican in their voting preferences. Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants trail Evangelicals in their support for Republican candidate John McCain, but they are the only other religious traditions that give McCain a plurality of their support.
Both mainline Protestants and non-Hispanic Roman Catholics are rather evenly divided in their level of support for McCain, while black Protestants, Latino Protestants, Latino Catholics, other Christians, Jews, other faiths, and the religiously unaffiliated express overwhelming support for the Democratic candidate [Barak Obama had not yet become the Democratic candidate at the time the survey was conducted] over McCain. However, there are significant differences in candidate preferences within the major religious traditions. Traditionalists, regardless of their particular religious tradition, are the most supportive of McCain, while modernists, regardless of religious tradition, are the most supportive of the Democratic candidate.
Differences in candidate preferences are actually greater within the same major religious traditions (when comparing their traditionalist and modernists segments) than across the major Christian traditions when they are compared to their traditionalist, centrist, and modernist counterparts in other traditions. Evangelicals hardly appear to be abandoning McCain, but their support for him does not fully match their support for George W. Bush at the same point in the 2004 campaign. Traditionalist evangelicals exhibit a higher level of “undecided” voters in 2008, while centrist and modernist evangelicals express higher levels of support for the Democratic presidential candidate than were evident in support for the 2004 Democratic candidate.
Overall, mainline Protestants appear to be somewhat more supportive of the Democratic candidate in 2008 than in 2004. However, this marginal increase in the Democratic direction conceals the fact that traditionalist mainliners are actually somewhat more supportive of McCain in 2008 than of Bush in 2004, while centrist mainliners now support the Democratic nominee at the level they previously supported Bush in 2004. Traditionalist Catholics are more supportive of McCain in 2008 than they were of Bush in 2004, but the reverse is true with regard to centrist and modernist Catholics.
– By Corwin Smidt, director of the Paul Henry Institute
For a full report of the survey results, see http://www.calvin.edu/henry