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From left to right Doug Koopman, Calvin; Kevin denDulk, Grand Valley; Corwin Smidt, Calvin; and James Penning, Calvin, present findings on religious voters and politics at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

News & Stories: 2007-08

Results released from survey of religious voters
updated June 11, 2008


Check Google News for complete coverage of the survey results.

Important changes are happening in the way in which religion relates to American politics according to results from a recent survey commissioned by the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College.

And while some of these changes are likely to be short-term in nature, and unique to the 2008 election, the Calvin researchers behind the survey note that those changes could be politically significant for the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.

Henry Institute director Corwin Smidt, and colleagues from Calvin and Grand Valley, including fellow Calvin professors Jim Penning and Doug Koopman, presented the survey results on June 9, 2008, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., an event that was carried live on C-SPAN. Then on June 10, 2008, Smidt was a guest on Washington Journal on C-SPAN.

The Henry Institute National Survey on Religion and Public Life was conducted April 8 to May 10, 2008 and asked numerous questions addressing aspects of religious beliefs, religious affiliation and religious behavior. It had over 3,000 respondents.

One of the survey's most interesting results, said Smidt, centered on mainline Protestants. In fact, he said, 2008 marks a turning point for mainline Protestants (who make up about 20 percent of the American electorate).

"Historically," Smidt said, "mainline Protestants have been the mainstay of the Republican coalition. Even as late as 1992, they were heavily Republican, about 50 percent Republican and just 32 percent Democratic. But now mainline Protestants are for the first time since at least the beginning of the New Deal, about 70 years ago, more Democratic than Republican in their partisan identifications, about 46 percent Democratic to 37 percent Republican."

Smidt noted too that in 1992, evangelical Protestants trailed mainline Protestants in their level of Republican partisan identifications, but evangelical Protestants today have replaced mainline Protestants as the religious tradition most strongly aligned with the Republican Party.

The party most "up for grabs" in 2008, Smidt said, appears to be non-Hispanic Roman Catholics, whose total numbers are similar to that of mainline Protestants.

The survey asked questions on a wide variety of issues, including abortion, gay marriage, free trade, the environment, Iraq, clergy endorsing political candidates and more. It also asked about support for John McCain versus that for Barack Obama.

"Interestingly," said Smidt, "there is a general decline in the level of support expressed for McCain versus that for Bush. Evangelical Protestants hardly appear to be abandoning John McCain, but their level of support for McCain does not fully match the level of support that they expressed for Bush at roughly the same stage in the 2004 presidential election process."

~By Phil de Haan, Communications and Marketing

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