Unpredictable Evangelical Voters Confound Pollsters and Pundits

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, observers of the American political process, who pay particular attention to religious voters, are stymied. Some polls suggest that Evangelical voters are poised to follow recent trends and support the GOP and Senator McCain, while others, including a recent Pew Forum Survey, hint that a new trend toward Democrats may be developing amongst Evangelicals. With only a few days left for voters to make their voices heard and with voters in some states already submitting ballots, both Conservatives and Liberals are eager for news that the “values voters” may be breaking their way.

Perhaps the most interesting development among Evangelicals is the emergence of the Moderates. A recent Christianity Today article argues that, while basic values and theological positions have changed little among white Evangelicals, they are much less willing closely to identify themselves with a particular political party. The Evangelical vote is up for grabs, but this does not mean that Evangelicals are unsure about what they believe. This dynamic among a traditionally dependable Republican demographic has pundits and commentators a bit confused. Does this mean that religion will play less of a role in this election than in elections past? Or, might Evangelicals merely flirt with Senator Obama and the Democrats before pulling the lever for the GOP on November 4? Again there is little consensus among the experts.

When the final vote is cast, the constitution of our next Congress is certain, and our next President has been selected, then the real work of interpreting exit polls will begin and a clearer picture of voting trends among Evangelical voters will emerge. Until then, both parties and national candidates continue to look for signs that the “values voter” is leaning their way.

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