WaPo‘s Alan Cooperman story in today’s edition “GOP’s Hold on Evangelicals Weakening: Party’s Showing in Midterm Elections May Be Hurt as Polls Indicate Support Dropping in Base” should give Rove and Co. something new to worry about. According to Cooperman:
A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.
…In 2004, white evangelical or born-again Christians made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted Republican, according to exit polls.
…Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a “favorable” impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent…the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern “in a more honest and ethical way” than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.
The Pew Research Poll, which is not yet posted on their website, was conducted 9/21-10/4. The poll found that the GOP still has a hefty lead among those who attend church more than once a week, while Dems improved their standing with a larger sub-group:
The main shift is among weekly churchgoers, about a quarter of all voters. Two years ago, they favored the GOP by a double-digit margin. But in the new Pew survey, 44 percent leaned toward Republicans and 43 percent toward Democrats, a statistical dead heat.
Cooperman speculates that part of the shift may be attributable to a growing interest among evangelicals in humanitarian concerns, as reflected in the popularity of Rev. Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life,” which urges Christians to embrace issues not often addressed by the most prominent evangelical preachers, including poverty, the environment and torture. He cites another poll by the Center for American Values indicating Republicans have lost 14 percent of their support among frequent churchgoers, but Dems have only added 4 percent.