NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A new survey shows that a “faith gap” exists between the two major presidential candidates, with 86 percent of Christian evangelicals saying they plan to vote for President Bush this fall.
The survey of 1,618 adults by The Barna Group tallied 8 percent who say they’ll vote for Democratic candidate John Kerry.
By contrast, people of non-Christian faiths prefer Kerry by a margin of 55 percent to 22 percent, while agnostics and atheists favor Kerry by a 53-35 percent margin.
The data, researcher George Barna said, reveals that Bush is receiving more support from evangelicals than he did in 2000.
“Although voters from non-Christian faiths are a small slice of the electorate — just one out of every eight are aligned with non-Christian faiths and one in 10 are atheist or agnostic — they overwhelmingly side with Mr. Kerry,” Barna said in a statement. “From that perspective, then, Mr. Bush’s chances of re-election hinge squarely on the choices of the Christian body.”
In the horserace, Bush leads Kerry among likely voters by a margin of 49-44 percent. Among registered voters, it’s tied, 43-43 percent.
The data on evangelicals differs somewhat from a March survey that showed Bush leading Kerry among evangelicals, 62-31 percent. That survey, conducted for U.S. News & World Report and PBS’ “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” was criticized by some because it left the term “evangelical” undefined. While that survey relied on answers from self-identified evangelicals, the Barna survey asked people specific questions to determine their beliefs.
In the Barna survey, evangelicals were identified as those who said they had made a personal commitment to Christ, believed they were going to heaven because they had confessed their sins and also believed:
— that they had a responsibility to share their faith.
— in a real Satan.
— that the Bible is accurate “in all that it teaches.”
— in salvation by grace alone.
— that Jesus lived a sinless life.
— that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect and still rules today.
Evangelicals comprised 7 percent of the population in the survey. Sixty-two percent of evangelicals consider themselves Republicans and 75 percent call themselves conservative. Eighty-four percent of them are registered to vote, and 89 percent of them give Bush favorable ratings.
Barna also identified a segment labeled “non-evangelical, born-again” Christians — those that say they’ve accepted Christ and confessed their sins but who don’t meet all the criteria of evangelicals. Among non-evangelical, born-again Christians, 53 percent say they favor Bush and 35 percent Kerry.
Thirty-nine percent of the population consider themselves Christian but don’t meet the criteria for being either evangelical or born-again. This group prefers Kerry by a margin of 52-32 percent.
Among all Kerry supporters, 44 percent say they are voting for the Massachusetts’ senator because “he’s not George Bush.”
The top reason for support among all Bush supporters is his job performance (25 percent). Following that are his character (18 percent), his foreign policy and performance with the war (14 percent) and his faith and moral beliefs (12 percent).
“Getting his supporters to actually turn out on Election Day will be critical for Mr. Bush,” Barna said. “Currently, there is the danger of his most ardent supporters — the evangelicals — failing to show up because they are so firmly convinced he will win. Eighty-one percent say the President will win in November; only 6 percent predict a victory by Mr. Kerry.
“Non-evangelical born-agains are not quite as confident, but they are twice as likely to believe victory will go to Mr. Bush as to expect Mr. Kerry to win. Should that confidence deflate turnout among the Bush support base, a close election could swing to a different outcome.”
The survey was conducted the last week of May through both telephone and online surveys.