by John Green, Senior Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
White mainline Protestants have been divided politically in recent national elections. According to the 2004 exit polls, 55% of this group voted for George W. Bush while 45% supported John F. Kerry. In 2006, the exit poll showed that 51% of white mainline Protestants voted for Republican congressional candidates and 47% for Democratic congressional candidates.
What are the candidate preferences of white Catholics at this early stage of the 2008 presidential campaign? The Pew Forum's analysis of findings from a recent survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press provides an interesting early reading on this group, which constitutes about one-fifth of registered voters in this survey.
Among mainline Protestant Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are each the first choice of roughly one-in four respondents. John Edwards is the first choice of one-in-five, and Al Gore is the first choice of nearly as many (17%).
Clinton is the second choice of about one-quarter of this group, and Obama the second choice of about one-fifth. Meanwhile, Gore and Edwards are each the second choice of about of one-eighth of mainline Protestants. The remaining candidates have very modest support at this point in the campaign among mainline Protestants.
See a comparison of white mainline Protestant Democrats and other Democrats in the survey
Among white mainline Protestant Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters, Rudy Giuliani is the first choice of nearly two-in-five respondents. John McCain is the first choice of one-in-five. Giuliani and McCain are each the second choice of roughly one-in-five among this group.
All of the other Republican candidates, including Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, are the first choice of less than one-in-ten mainline Protestants.
See a comparison of white mainline Protestant Republicans and other Republicans in the survey
Religion & Politics '08, a new feature of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, also offers analyses of survey data on white evangelical Republicans and white non-Hispanic Catholics, both Democratic and Republican. The survey did not include enough evangelical Democrats, seculars or members of other religious groups to permit statistically valid analysis of their views.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 1,503 adults, 18 years of age or older, from March 21-25, 2007. (More details on the survey, including a discussion of candidate preferences among the public as a whole as well as additional methodological details and exact question wording.)
Respondents were asked to pick their first and second choices for the presidential nominations from separate, randomly ordered, lists of eight Democrats (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Gore, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson) and nine Republicans (Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter and Tommy Thompson).