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Survey: Evangelical Support for McCain Increasing, Not Decreasing

( [email protected] ) Oct 31, 2008 02:50 PM EDT
Christian evangelicals and conservatives are not only largely supporting Republican candidate John McCain, but their support has actually increased, according to a newly released survey.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., greets supporters along a rope line at the conclusion of a campaign rally in Miami, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008. (Photo: AP Images / Stephan Savoia)

Christian evangelicals and conservatives are not only largely supporting Republican candidate John McCain, but their support has actually increased, according to a newly released survey.

Crosswalk.com, the largely popular Christian web portal affiliated with faith-based media giant Salem Communications, polled its email subscribers this week and found a three-point increase (from 80 to 83) in support for McCain over the past month and a one-point decrease (from 13 to 12) in support for Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

The 979 users who responded to the survey were also found to be largely supportive of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who had electrified the conservative base after being tapped for the spot in August. While two percent said they no longer supported the Alaska governor as a candidate, about 20 percent said they favored her more as a candidate than they did a month ago.

“Although Sen. Barack Obama’s lead over Republican candidate John McCain has reached double-digits in some states, the Democratic candidate has yet to convince Christian conservatives,” Crosswalk noted.

The latest poll paints a picture different from that of the Pew Research survey released earlier in the week, which showed support for McCain slipping among Christian evangelicals.

According to Pew, the percentage of evangelicals supporting McCain dropped from 74 to 65 in the last three weeks, while Obama gained four percentage points to move up to 22 percent.

Overall, Pew found that the 48 percent of Protestants in general that had supported McCain earlier in the month dropped to 43 percent as of last week, while support for Obama went from 43 to 47.

“Currently, McCain holds a statistically significant advantage only among white evangelical Protestants (aside from Republicans),” Pew stated in its report Tuesday.

Another faith-based survey released this week that illustrated the drastic difference between the voting preferences of evangelicals versus other Protestants was that conducted this month by LifeWay Research.

According to results of the LifeWay survey released Thursday, 36 percent of mainline pastors plan to vote for McCain, 37 percent support Obama, and 24 percent are undecided. Meanwhile, out of self-identified evangelicals, 66 percent said they plan to vote for McCain, 13 percent said they are for Obama, and 19 percent were undecided.

"Mainline pastors reflect the American setting – they are split between Obama and McCain,” observed Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

Self-identified evangelical pastors, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly for McCain, he added, drawing a conclusion similar to that of Crosswalk’s general Christian survey.

A very noticeable difference, however, between LifeWay’s findings and that of other faith-based polls was in the data from Protestants in general.

LifeWay found that 55 percent of Protestant pastors had said they plan to vote for McCain. Notably, however, only 20 percent said they planned to vote for Obama. A full 22 percent remain undecided.

"Protestant pastors are strongly for McCain," observed Stetzer. But the number of undecideds given the late date in the campaign is “suprising,” he added.

“The undecided bloc appears to consist largely of pastors identifying themselves as ‘moderate’ or ‘conservative,’” LifeWay observed.

The LifeWay survey also found that more than half (53 percent) of Protestant pastors had personally endorsed candidates for public office this year – outside of their church roles. And less than 3 percent agree that they have publicly endorsed candidates for public office during a church service this year.