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Evangelicals still aren't finding their way to Obama, study finds

July 17, 2008 |  8:13 pm

Democrats like to say that, this year, they finally will dig into the Republicans’ traditional advantage among evangelical voters. After all, social conservatives are skeptical of John McCain, and Barack Obama seems so comfortable talking about his faith (at least when his former pastor isn’t involved).

But a new analysis from the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that Obama is doing just as badly among white evangelical voters as his party’s 2004 nominee was at this point.

The report, based on a national Pew poll conducted last month, found that just 25% of white evangelicals support Obama, compared to the 26% who said they backed John F. Kerry’s candidacy in the summer of 2004. (Kerry wound up winning just 21% of that group, according to exit polls.)

The Pew analysis found McCain winning 61% of white evangelicals, and most of the remaining 14% of those polled said they did not know what candidate they would support. McCain’s big margin was not necessarily good news for the presumptive GOP candidate, since President Bush at this point four years ago was winning 69% (and, according to exit polls, took 78% in the end).

The bottom line is that neither Obama nor McCain is where they'd hope to be among this important voting bloc. And both are courting it heavily –- Obama with his recent speech endorsing government funding for faith-based social service agencies and McCain through his support for a California measure to ban same-sex marriage.

-- Peter Wallsten

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