Religious Voters Agree on the Importance of Jobs/Unemployment
BUT Disagree about the Importance of the Growing Gap between the Rich, Poor
Washington, DC— On the same day President Obama addresses his faith before Members of Congress and national faith leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast, a new survey finds religious Americans are united in their concern that jobs and unemployment are a critical issue in this election; however, they remain deeply divided on the importance of the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
With regard to the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service, finds that white mainline Protestants (48%) and Catholics (47%) are far more likely than white evangelical Protestants (33%) to cite the gap between the rich and the poor as a critical issue.
“Despite many evangelical leaders’ emphasis on the values of compassion and caring for the needy, the growing gap between the rich and the poor is not likely to be an issue driving white evangelicals to the polls this election season,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “While President Obama’s emphasis on a populist agenda going into the general election is appealing to other key religious groups, he’s likely to have a hard time reaching many white evangelicals with a message emphasizing economic inequality.”
Compared to other religious groups, social issues are more important for white evangelical Protestants. Evangelicals are roughly twice as likely as unaffiliated voters and white mainline Protestants to say that abortion (38%) and same-sex marriage (38%) are critical issues; however, even among evangelicals, these issues rank fairly low compared to others on their priority list.
“As we move toward the general election, we’re likely to hear more about the economy and less about social issues,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. “Same-sex marriage and abortion matter far less, overall, than issues like jobs, and the federal deficit.”
Among the findings:
There is strong cross-party agreement that the federal deficit is a critical issue, although Democrats (61%) are less likely than Republicans (81%) and Independents (70%) to classify this as a critical issue.
Democratic voters are more than twice as likely as Republican voters to say that the growing gap between the rich and the poor is a critical issue (63% vs. 30%).
Younger voters (age 18-34) are also more likely than senior voters to prioritize the gap between the rich and the poor (51% vs. 44%).
- In national matchups, Gingrich trails Obama by 19 points (33% to 52%) among all voters, while Romney trails Obama by a smaller but still significant 11-point margin (37% to 48%).
- Nearly half (48%) of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that Romney has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama in the general election, twice as many as those who say that Gingrich has the best chance (24%).
- In a Romney-Obama matchup, less than half (49%) of Romney voters report that they would be excited about voting for Romney. In contrast, two-thirds of Obama voters say they would be excited to vote for him.
- Romney performs better among Catholics than Gingrich, pointing to a potential strength if Romney becomes the nominee. Among this crucial swing group, Obama leads Romney by only 8 points (48% vs. 40%).
The survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between January 25, 2012 and January 29, 2012 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,005 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (302 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.
Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.