Thursday, July 17, 2008
Evangelicals taking their time
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a survey on religion and opinion in the presidential race that shows that John McCain has less of a lead among Evangelicals than President Bush did in either of the previous two elections.
But Evangelicals don't appear to be flocking to Senator Obama. Despite being comfortable with the languages of Evangelicalism, Obama is nevertheless a little behind John Kerry and Al Gore's performance with this group.
Why? Is it because of the steadily rising profile of center and left-leaning Evangelicals like those associated with Sojourners? I don't think so, although that may be a factor in allowing Obama to hold a quarter of the group. Is it the fact that McCain has had trouble with Evangelical leaders like James Dobson and the late Jerry Falwell? That is obviously relevant.
But what the results may be showing are the effects of a process of soul searching and identity clarification. In particular, some Evangelicals are increasingly uncomfortable with the movement being popularly identified with politics and the culture wars.
If McCain loses the Evangelicals, Dobson and company won't be able to take all the credit. A growing fatigue with politics might be the silent killer. At this point, it is difficult to imagine John McCain getting 79% of their votes, as President Bush reportedly did in 2004. Bush picked up 10 points among them from June to November. What would it take for John McCain to pick up 18 points to reach that same mark? A miracle.