Exit polls sponsored by the major networks, CNN, Fox, and the Associated Press, which provide the basis for election analysis, continue to ask only Republican primary voters whether they considered themselves “born-again or evangelical Christian.” Faith in Public Life, Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Sojourners conducted a post-election poll in Ohio to demonstrate that self-described evangelicals are not an ideologically monolithic voting bloc, and are more diverse in their views than the media assumes.
More than four in ten (43 percent) white evangelical Ohio primary voters participated in the Democratic primary, and 57percent participated in the Republican primary. Post-election polling following the Missouri and Tennessee primaries on Super Tuesday showed that one-third of white evangelical voters in those states participated in Democratic contests.
While exit polls identified Ohio’s 395,000 Republican white evangelical voters, they failed to identify 300,000 white evangelical Democratic voters. These white evangelical Democratic voters comprised 14 percent of all Democratic voters in Ohio – a figure roughly equivalent to all Ohio primary voters over 65 or under 30.
The majority of white evangelical voters (54 percent) in Ohio support a broader issue agenda that goes beyond abortion and same-sex marriage to include ending poverty, protecting the environment, and tackling HIV/AIDS – 39 percent favor sticking to the more limited agenda of opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. Post-election polling following the Missouri and Tennessee primaries showed similar positions among white evangelicals in those states. Sixty-two percent of white evangelicals in Missouri and 56 percent in Tennessee favored the broader agenda.
The survey also found that three times as many white evangelical voters said jobs and the economy were the most important issues in deciding their vote (42 percent) and said abortion and same-sex marriage were most important (14 percent). Even among Republican white evangelical voters, 29 percent said jobs and the economy were most important issues, while 23 percent said abortion and same-sex marriage weremost important.
It is also notable that in Ohio, nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) of voters who report attending church at least once a week voted in the Democratic primary, while 41 percent voted in the Republican primary. Nearly half (49 percent) of all primary voters reported that they attend religious services at least once a week. In Missouri, where 53 percent of voters reported attending church once a week or more, 53 percent voted in the Republican primary, while 47 percent voted in the Democratic primary. In Tennessee, where 61 percent of voter reported attending church once a week or more, 54 percent voted in the Republican primary, while 46 percent voted in the Democratic primary.
Senator Hillary Clinton’s support from white evangelicals surpassed that of Senator Barack Obama’s in Ohio 57 percent to 35 percent. Senator John McCain and Governor Mike Huckabee ran even among white evangelicals, 41 percent to 42 percent (MOE +/-7.0 points).
Zogby International was commissioned by Faith in Public Life, Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Sojourners to conduct a RDD telephone survey of Democrats and Republicans who had voted in the primary elections on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 in Ohio. Sample sizes: Republican primary (n=400), MOE +/- 5.0; Republic white evangelical over sample (n=196), MOE +/- 7.1. Democratic primary (n=401), MOE +/- 5.0; Democratic white evangelical oversample (n=207), MOE +/- 7.0. White evangelical subsamples combined (n=407), MOE +/- 5.0.