Wednesday the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released an report, entitled Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election, that looks Kerry and Obama voters’ religious beliefs as reported in the 2004 and 2008 election exit polls. Their findings show that President Obama garnered more support among some religiously affiliated Americans than John Kerry did in 2004, especially growing support among white evangelicals, black Protestants, other minority Protestants and those who attend services more than once a week.
These findings mirror the pre- and post-election polling done by Public Religion Research, which showed a 12 point difference between Obama (60%) and Kerry (48%) among those who attend services once or twice a month. In addition, the PRR post-election survey revealed that American voters believed that Obama was more friendly to religion than the Democratic party in general (54% versus 38%).
Other highlights from the PRR 2008 Election Surveys:
• More than seven-in-ten (71%) say it is important for public officials to be comfortable talking about religious values.
• Although only 21% of white evangelicals surveyed voted for Obama, nearly double that number say he is “friendly” to religion (39%) and shares their values (39%).
• Young white evangelicals are strongly opposed to abortion rights, with two-thirds saying abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Yet, less than a majority (49%) of younger evangelicals identify as conservative, compared to nearly two-thirds (65%) of older evangelicals.
• Some things didn’t change. Voters who attend services more than once per week supported Obama at 35% and Kerry at 35%. Among voters who attend church weekly, Obama’s support mirrored Kerry’s levels at about 4 in 10.
Religion continues to be a major predictor of how people will vote, and it will no doubt be prominent in the upcoming mid-term elections. Unfortunately, many exit polls are lacking in detailed religious data, leaving a large gap in our understanding of how religion affects decisions about public life. This year as in years past, Public Religion Research Institute will conduct an pre- and post-election to measure how religion and politics intersect at the ballot box in 2010.