The party of John Kerry and John Edwards is improving its standing with minorities, but losing ground to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney among white evangelicals, a new survey found.
Those findings are bad news for Democrats assembled in Boston for their national convention, because white evangelicals and born-again Christians far outnumber blacks and Hispanic combined.
“White evangelicals and born-again Christians are 26 percent of all registered voters—that’s quite a big chunk—and the survey shows they are quite happy with Republicans,” said Adam Clymer, political director of the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey, which polled 3,715 registered voters nationwide July 1 to 21, with a margin of error of 1 percentage point.
“Whatever percentage the turnout of your voters, if you get another 1 percent of evangelicals and born-agains, that’s a lot more votes,” Mr. Clymer said. “It makes a lot more difference than getting an additional 1 percent of blacks or Hispanics.”
The good news for Mr. Kerry and his party is that the Annenberg survey also shows Republicans are failing to make the big gains they hoped for among minorities, especially Hispanics, in the past four years.
What might be more important to the electoral map, however, is that among registered white Protestants who described themselves as born-again or evangelical, Republicans now enjoy majority status, Mr. Clymer said.
Both political parties have been going all-out to stir their voter base to turn out in record numbers on Nov. 2, but although blacks and Hispanics are key constituencies for the Democrats, together they account for only 17 percent of registered voters. In contrast, white born-again and evangelical Christians are fully 26 percent of all registered voters.
And 51 percent of those white evangelical and born-again Christians now call themselves Republicans, up eight percentage points from four years ago, when 43 percent called themselves Republicans.
Only 22 percent of white evangelicals say they are Democrats, down slightly from four years ago, when 24 percent said they were Democrats.
For registered black voters, it’s a wholly different partisan story, with 66 percent calling themselves Democrats and only 7 percent Republicans. That represents almost no change from the 65 percent to 7 percent ratio the survey reported in 2000. Actual black turnout for Democrat Al Gore in 2000 was higher, with 90 percent of black voters opting for the Democratic ticket, according to exit polls
Among registered Hispanics, the fastest-growing component of the electorate, Democrats outnumber Republicans 45 percent to 24 percent. In 2000, only 39 percent of Hispanics said they were Democrats. The Democratic gain occurred despite Mr. Bush’s proposals earlier this year to accommodate illegal immigrants and the American businesses that hire them.
But although Hispanic Democrats are a critical voter group in about four states, Mr. Clymer said, white Protestants are critical in many more states.
The biggest Hispanic populations are in California and New York, both firmly in the Democratic column, and in solidly Republican Texas. The battleground states where Hispanics can make a difference are Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, he said.
“Born-again and evangelical white Protestants are all over the country, and they matter everywhere,” Mr. Clymer said. “And their attitudes don’t change much regionally. There are more of them in the South than the Northeast, but they are just as much pro-Bush and pro-Republican in general in either place.”
He noted that the more regularly white Protestants attend church, “the more conservative, pro-Republican and pro-Bush they tend to be.”
Annenberg Public Policy Center, Jul. 25
Republicans have failed to make the significant gains they hoped for among minority voters in the last four years, but their core support among evangelical and born-again white Protestants is stronger, the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey shows.
As the Democratic National Convention begins, 66 percent of African-American registered voters called themselves Democrats and just 7 percent say they are Republicans, numbers almost unchanged since 2000, when it was 65 to 7 percent. Among registered Hispanics, Democrats now outnumber Republicans 45 to 24 percent, compared to a 39 to 21 percent margin in 2000. But among registered white Protestants who described themselves as born-again or evangelical—a share of the population bigger than blacks and Hispanics together—Republicans now enjoy majority status. Fifty-one percent of this group called themselves Republicans, while 22 percent said they were Democrats. Four years ago, 43 percent said they were Republicans and 24 percent said they were Democrats. The data, derived from interviews with 3,715 registered voters between July 1 and 21, also showed George W. Bush more popular with evangelical and born-again white Protestants and less popular among blacks and Hispanics than he was among 3,311 registered voters interviewed by the 2000 Annenberg survey from July 1 through 21, 2000.
Seventy-one percent of registered white evangelical and born-again Christians now view Bush favorably and just 19 percent see him unfavorably, up from 63 percent favorable, 19 percent unfavorable in 2000. That ratio is reversed among African-Americans, where 12 percent view Bush favorably and 72 percent unfavorably. In July of 2000, 34 percent had a favorable view and just 40 percent an unfavorable opinion. -More- 1 1 Page 2 3 Annenberg Public Policy Center 2 Despite their Democratic leaning, Hispanics still had a positive balance of opinion on Bush. Forty-eight percent had a favorable view, and 38 percent an unfavorable view. But at this point in 2000, 56 percent of Hispanics had a favorable opinion of Bush and 30 percent an unfavorable opinion.
The data offered mixed messages about the degree of motivation among these groups, all of whom are heavily targeted in get-out-the-vote efforts. Among registered voters, 30 percent of the evangelical and born again white Protestants, 27 percent of the African-Americans and 24 percent of the Hispanics said they were following the presidential campaign very closely.
Another important measure of interest showed a dramatic increase since four years ago for all groups, but most of all for Hispanics. Thirty-two percent of the evangelical and born-again white Protestants said they had discussed politics with family or friends at least four days in the last week, double the 16 percent of four years ago.
For registered Hispanics, the percentage was 31 percent, up from 10 percent in 2000. And for blacks it was 28 percent, up from 11 percent in 2000. For all registered voters, it was 34 percent, up from 15 percent in 2000. Another measurement reflected greater Hispanic interest this time. When all 4,275 citizens in the survey were considered, 76 percent of all Hispanic citizens said they were registered to vote. Four years ago, the comparable percentage was only 60 percent. For blacks, the current percentage was 76 percent, down from 82 percent and for white born-again and evangelical Protestants, it was 88 percent, up from 82 percent. On a range of answers from registered voters, the born-again or evangelical white Protestants were more supportive of Bush and more conservative than other groups. For example, 72 percent of them approved of his handling of the presidency, compared to 53 percent for white Protestants who said they were not born-again or evangelical, 51 percent for white Catholics, 52 percent for Hispanics and 14 percent for African-Americans. Fifty-seven percent of the born-again or evangelical Protestants said they favored a constitutional amendment to prohibit states from having same-sex marriages, compared to 38 percent of other white Protestants, 39 percent of white Catholics, 45 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of blacks.
On Iraq, 63 percent of the born-again or evangelical white Protestants said the war there had been worth it, while 32 percent said it had not. Other white Protestants split evenly, with 49 percent giving each answer. Forty-four percent of white Catholics said the war was worth it while 51 percent said it was not. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanics said it was worth it, while 66 percent said it was not. Among blacks, just 9 percent said the war was worth it while 84 percent said it was not.
On these issues and many others, those who attended church more often tended to be more conservative, more Republican and more pro-Bush. For example, among born-again or evangelical white Protestants, 78 percent of those who attended religious services once a week or more approved of Bush’s handling of the presidency, while only 60 percent of those who attended less often. Among blacks, while the percentage approving was low among both groups, 18 percent of the more frequent church attenders approved and only 9 percent of the less frequent attenders did. Among blacks 37 percent of those who attended church more than once a week favored banning all abortion, a view held by only 17 percent who attended less frequently. Among the born-again or evangelical white Protestants, 61 percent of those who attended weekly or more often favored a ban but just 25 percent of those who came less frequently.
With both campaigns arguing intensely about values, the contrasts between blacks and evangelical or born-again white Protestants were sharp. Forty-seven percent of registered black respondents rated Kerry above Bush on sharing their values, while 10 percent rated Bush higher. Among the evangelical or born-again white Protestants, 63 percent rated Bush higher and 21 percent gave Kerry an edge. The favorable and unfavorable opinions of Kerry, whom the Democrats will nominate for President in Boston this week, were not very different from attitudes toward Al Gore four years ago. Blacks were 65 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable on Kerry, compared to 69 to 13 percent for Gore in 2000. Hispanics were 45 percent favorable, 29 percent unfavorable, compared to 63 percent favorable and 23 percent unfavorable in 2000. But only 25 percent of evangelical or born again-white Protestants viewed Kerry favorably, while 50 percent viewed him unfavorably. Four years ago, 32 percent of them viewed Gore favorably and 49 percent viewed him unfavorably.