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Decreasing Evangelical Support for Bush

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    WPO Poll Analysis: American Evangelicals are Divided on International Policy November 02, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4 6:20 AM
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      WPO Poll Analysis:
      American Evangelicals are Divided on International Policy
      November 02, 2006

      Decreasing Support for Bush Administration Positions Mirrors that of

      Evangelical Christians are far from united on foreign policy, an
      analysis of recent polls by WorldPublicOpinion.org shows, and their
      support for the war in Iraq has fallen dramatically.

      President Bush addresses a conference on faith-based initiatives March
      9, 2006, in Washington, D.C. (White House Photo/Kimberlee Hewitt)

      Republicans have come to rely on the support of "value voters" who can
      be counted on to choose candidates based on their opposition to
      abortion or gay marriage. But this year, with Democratic candidates
      focusing on international issues in an attempt to turn the election
      into a referendum on the Iraq war, the unhappiness of many evangelical
      or "born-again" Christians with the Bush administration's handling of
      foreign affairs could prove crucial.

      Many evangelicals who profess no party affiliation—a potentially
      decisive swing vote—agree with Democrats on key issues. Most
      disapprove of how Congress is handling its job (67%) and half (53%)
      say they want a candidate who will pursue a "new approach" to foreign
      policy. Half of these independent evangelicals are also dissatisfied
      with the U.S. position in the world today (52%) and a majority says
      Bush administration policies have increased the likelihood of
      terrorist attacks (64%).

      Evang_Nov06_graph1.jpgMost evangelicals oppose keeping U.S. troops in
      Iraq indefinitely. A March 2006 WPO poll found that sixty percent
      believed U.S. troops should either be decreased (40%) or withdrawn
      completely (20%). In October 2004, only 28 percent of evangelicals
      overall wanted U.S. forces in Iraq to be decreased (14%) or withdrawn
      (14%). Among Americans who do not say they are evangelicals, 70
      percent wanted to bring troops home from Iraq, including 28 percent
      who thought all should leave, according to the March 2006 poll.

      This analysis is based on three surveys of American adults conducted
      by WPO and the Program on International Policy Attitudes. The most
      recent poll covered American views on foreign policy and took place
      Oct. 6-15, 2006 (1,058 respondents). U.S. attitudes on the Iraq war
      were examined in a survey fielded March 1-6, 2006 (851 respondents),
      and a more general poll of voter attitudes was conducted before the
      last national election on Oct. 12-18, 2004 (968 respondents).

      The percentage of all evangelical voters who say they plan to vote for
      Democratic lawmakers this year is significantly greater than it was in
      the 2004 elections, though the number planning to vote Republican is
      roughly the same. Forty-one percent of evangelicals say they intend to
      vote for Democratic congressional candidates while 56 percent plan to
      choose Republicans. Two years ago, only 29 percent of evangelical
      Christians said they would vote for Democratic candidates while 59
      percent favored Republicans.

      Evang_Nov06_graph2.jpgThis year there are fewer undecided evangelical
      voters. Only 4 percent say they do not know which party's candidate
      they will vote for, compared to 12 percent in 2004. Thus it appears
      that Republicans have less hope in this election of winning support
      among undecided evangelical Christians.

      Although a plurality of evangelicals (44%) identify themselves as
      Republican, the remainder are divided evenly between Democrats (29%)
      and independents (27%). But on the eve of the 2006 midterm, those
      evangelicals who do not profess a party affiliation seem to be leaning
      away from many administration positions.

      Another recent poll, conducted by New York Times/CBS News found that
      self-described evangelicals are evenly divided between those who plan
      to vote for Democrats (42%) and Republicans (41%). This poll,
      conducted Oct. 27-31 nationwide, found that 17 percent of evangelical
      Christians were undecided.

      Divisions on Key International Issues

      On foreign policy questions, evangelicals tend to be evenly divided.
      Among the most contentious issues in the 2006 election is whether Bush
      administration policies are increasing or decreasing the likelihood of
      a terrorist attack on the United States. An overwhelming majority of
      Democrats (80%) say the administration's policies have increased the
      danger of such an attack, while most Republicans (69%) say the
      likelihood has gone down.

      Evangelicals are roughly divided on this question: 53 percent say the
      danger of attack has decreased; 45 percent say it has increased. Those
      who identify themselves as Republicans, however, are even more likely
      than Republicans as a whole to say Bush administration policies have
      decreased the danger of terrorism (83%). Evangelicals who say they are
      independents lean with the Democrats on this issue: 64 percent say a
      terrorist attack has become more likely.

      On the question of whether the United States needs to change its
      approach to international relations, evangelicals are again divided.
      Fifty percent of evangelical Christians say they prefer candidates who
      will pursue a "new approach" to foreign policy, while 48 percent
      support the current approach. Overall seven in ten Americans (71%)
      favor changing course, including 91 percent of Democrats and 43
      percent of Republicans.

      Evangelicals are also evenly divided on the question of whether the
      U.S. government "plays on people's fears too much" when it justifies
      its foreign policies to the American people. Forty-nine percent of
      evangelicals agree—and 49 percent disagree—with this statement.
      Democrats are nearly unanimous in their agreement with the statement
      (87%) while a majority of Republicans (61%) disagree. Most independent
      evangelical Christians favor the Democratic position, with 70 percent
      saying the administration is playing too much on Americans' fears.

      Support for Military Methods but also for the U.N.

      Evangelical Christians tend to believe a strong military is important
      in the fight against terrorism. Asked whether the Bush administration
      should put more emphasis on military or diplomatic and economic
      methods, about half of evangelicals (51%) say military methods,
      slightly more than Republicans overall (44%) and much more than
      Democrats (19%). But nearly as many evangelicals (44%) say the
      administration should put greater emphasis on diplomacy, compared to
      52 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats. Americans
      overall favor greater emphasis on diplomatic and economic methods
      rather than military means, 67 percent to 28 percent.

      In contrast to Republicans, who tend to oppose more U.S. cooperation
      with the United Nations, evangelicals are divided on the issue.
      Forty-eight percent say the United States should be willing to make
      decisions within the United Nations "even if this means that the
      United States will sometimes have to go along with a policy that is
      not its first choice," while 46 percent disagree. A majority of
      Republicans (56%) disagree with such an approach, while three in five
      Americans overall support it (61%).

      A majority of evangelicals think that the United States should
      strengthen the United Nations' ability to deal with international
      conflicts so that the United States can "move away from its role as
      world policeman and reduce the burden of its large defense budget."
      Fifty-seven percent of evangelicals agree with this statement, while
      38 percent disagree. That's considerably less than the percentage of
      Democrats who agree (84%), but more than the proportion of Republicans
      (53% agree, 44% disagree).

      Pessimism about Chances of Success in Iraq

      Evangelical Christians have become less confident that the U.S.
      operation in Iraq will succeed, although they still tend to be more
      optimistic about the ultimate success of the effort than
      non-evangelicals. In October 2004, about half of evangelicals (54%)
      said they were confident the U.S. effort in Iraq would succeed (28%
      not confident), while only a third (34%) of non-evangelicals were (49%
      not confident). By March 2006, confidence about the war among
      evangelicals had dropped 11 points to 43 percent, roughly the same
      proportion as those who said they were not confident (42%). Among
      non-evangelicals confidence of success in Iraq fell to 24% (63% not

      There is growing awareness among evangelical Christians that most arms
      experts have concluded Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction
      before the United States' 2003 invasion. Two years ago, seven out of
      ten evangelicals (68%) said either that most experts thought Iraq had
      WMD (49%) or that expert opinion was "evenly divided" (19%). Less than
      one in three (28%) said, correctly, that experts largely agreed Iraq
      did not have such weapons. By March 2006, 52 percent said experts
      mostly agreed there were no WMD in Iraq while those saying experts
      thought Iraq had WMD (28%) or were divided on the issue (18%) had
      dropped to 46 percent.

      Evangelical support for a full or partial withdrawal of U.S. forces
      from Iraq has also grown significantly over the past two years. In
      2004, most evangelicals (68%) said the United States' military
      presence in Iraq should be maintained (36%) or increased (32%). Less
      than a third (28%) said U.S. forces should be decreased (14%) or
      withdrawn completely (14%). By March 2006, the proportion favoring a
      reduction (40%) or total withdrawal (20%) had grown to 60 percent
      while those wanting to maintain (28%) or increase (11%) troops had
      shrunk to 39 percent.

      Evangelicals who stated no party affiliation showed the most change on
      this issue: those wanting troops reduced or withdrawn rose 38 points
      (24% to 62%). Many evangelicals who identified themselves as
      Republicans also shifted position on this issue. Whereas 12 percent of
      this group favored a full or partial withdrawal in 2004, 47 percent
      supported such action in 2006.

      METHODOLOGICAL NOTE: For the purposes of this analysis, respondents
      who said they were independents were counted as independents, even if
      in later questions they indicated that they leaned Republican or
      Democrat. In most political polling it is standard practice to count
      independents who say they lean toward Republicans or Democrats as
      affiliated with that party. This is done in order to analyze the views
      of those who feel some affinity—strong or weak—with one of the two
      major parties. For this article, however, all those who said initially
      they were independents were counted as independent in order to better
      understand the attitudes of people without a strong sense of party



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