Evangelicals Actually Lean More Republican Than in 2004

This morning’s Washington Post will have another long piece about how Obama is reaching out across traditional political boundaries (he’s so brave!) in an attempt to snag conservative evangelicals, particularly young ones, many of whom still fall in the idjit voter demographic.

Of course, any close inspection of the actual facts on hand – as opposed to just the lovely sight of sparkling anecdotes, so fresh and new in the morning dew – reveals that while evangelicals are generally as unenthused about John McCain as any average user on Redstate, if anything, Barack Obama is underperforming among them.

All you have to do is go to the pros: The Barna Group’s latest report has all the detail on evangelicals you could ever use or hope for. And here’s what they’ve found:

Using the common approach of allowing people to self-identify as evangelicals, 40% of adults classify themselves as such. Among them, 83% are likely to vote in November. Among the self-reported evangelicals who are likely to vote, John McCain holds a narrow 39% to 37% lead over Sen. Obama. Nearly one-quarter of this segment (23%) is still undecided about who they will vote for.

Using the Barna approach of studying people’s core religious beliefs produces a very different outcome. Just 8% of the adult population qualifies as evangelical based on their answers to the nine belief questions. Among that segment, a significantly higher proportion (90%) is likely to vote in November, and Sen. McCain holds a huge lead (61%-17%) over the Democratic nominee. Overall, just 14% of this group remains undecided regarding their candidate of choice.

Emphasis mine. In case you were wondering, John Kerry won 22%. And that was without, of course, actually being the new Messiah.Part of this is a difference of definition: when the Post article refers to “evangelicals,” it’s clearly lumping in a lot of faith groupings under the Christian label, with people who simply don’t behave like evangelicals at all historically or share their beliefs. But there’s something else going on here: while Obama has a plurality of support from many faith demographics, in several areas, his support is actually eroding, not increasing. It seems his message is starting to lose its strength.

For the most part, the various faith communities of the U.S. currently support Sen. Obama for the presidency. Among the 19 faith segments that The Barna Group tracks, evangelicals were the only segment to throw its support to Sen. McCain. Among the larger faith niches to support Sen. Obama are non-evangelical born again Christians (43% to 31%); notional Christians (44% to 28%); people aligned with faiths other than Christianity (56% to 24%); atheists and agnostics (55% to 17%); Catholics (39% vs. 29%); and Protestants (43% to 34%). In fact, if the current preferences stand pat, this would mark the first time in more than two decades that the born again vote has swung toward the Democratic candidate.

However, while there has been little movement since the beginning of June among most voting segments (such as ethnic groups, age groups, or geographic slices), there has been substantial churn among religious segments. During the past two months, Sen. Obama’s lead has eroded substantially among non-evangelical born again Christians (a decline of nine points); active Christians (a 20-point drop); Protestants (down 13 points); and Catholics (down 11 points).

The whole situation has attracted the attention of others, including those who support Obama and want him to win a larger chunk of the evangelical vote if only to send a message to the Republican Party about not being taken for granted (don’t get me started, idjit voters do silly things).

Do Republicans need to do more to reach out to the Huckabee voters and young people who care more about international issues and AIDS in Africa, and less about pork or big government? Of course. But Christianity Today rightly notes the truth about the current situation:

[D]espite the months worth of outreach to evangelicals, the speeches, the Very Christian campaign literature, the interviews with Relevant and Christianity Today and Christian Broadcasting Network, the Newsweek cover story, etc — Obama is still not doing any better than Kerry did. (And Kerry did worse among evangelicals than any Democrat since Mike Dukakis).

The whole thing would be a lot easier, of course, if they hadn’t decided to do a full on embrace of the pro-abortion label in Denver. But you have to understand, they’re new to this whole “winning over people who actually go to church on Sunday for reasons other than local politics” thing.

It’s a new idea, but they’re really trying to learn.