A surprising new survey out Monday found that more born again Christian voters said they would support a Democratic candidate than a Republican candidate, breaking the long tradition of born-again support for the GOP.
The new Barna study shows that if the general election was held today, 40 percent of all born again adults who are likely to vote in November would choose the Democratic candidate, and only 29 percent would choose the Republican candidate. The remaining 28 percent are currently unsure whom they would support, preferring to vote for a specific candidate rather than strictly along party lines.
"Given the large percentage of undecided voters, it is possible that the Republican candidate might eventually win a majority of the born again vote," said George Barna, whose firm conducted the national survey. "However, it will not be easy to win them over."
Barna noted that several factors are working against the Republican candidates including their stance on social issues and the "personal integrity" of some of the contenders.
If the election was held today and all the candidates from both parties were on the ballot, the frontrunners among born again voters would be Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), favored by 20 percent of born again likely voters; Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), favored by 18 percent of voters; and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 12 percent. No other candidate reached double figures.
Thirty percent of born again likely voters said they are still undecided as to who to support.
Similarly, a poll by GodTube.com on Monday showed that Christian voters currently favor Democrats over Republicans. The new poll found that 43.9 percent of Christian voters support the leading two Democratic candidates while 34.7 percent back Republican candidate Mike Huckabee.
Obama received a 35 percent increase in the poll since Jan. 27, 2008, giving him 24.3 percent of the votes. Meanwhile, Clinton received a huge 78 percent increase giving her 19.6 percent of the votes, and Huckabee slipped 37 percent.
"From our poll, it's clear the candidate's platforms and political issues are weighing heavily on Christian voters in this election," said Chris Wyatt, CEO and founder of GodTube. "It appears the Christian vote is still up for grabs, which we've seen in the past can swing an election."
In the Barna survey, evangelicals – a subset of the born again population as defined by the study – showed a higher percentage of support for the Republican nominee.
If the election were held today, 45 percent of evangelicals say they would support the Republican nominee for president, and 11 percent would support the Democratic candidate. Yet perhaps more significantly is the 40 percent of evangelicals that are still undecided.
This figure is shocking, given that 62 percent of evangelicals voted for the Republican candidate in 1992, 67 percent supported the party in 1996 and in 2000, and 85 percent in 2004.
"Evangelicals are clearly sending a message to Republican leaders this time around," commented Barna. "There is tremendous frustration among evangelical voters, in particular … given the stands of some of the leading Republican contenders, evangelicals are registering their discomfort with the choices they have at hand."
Barna added, "As in recent elections, a key to victory in November will be the faith vote. Unlike the past couple of presidential races…the born again and evangelical vote is up for grabs," Barna observed.
Born again Christians are defined as people who said they have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and who believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
Evangelicals meet the criteria of born again Christians and seven other conditions including saying faith is very important in their life, believing in the personal responsibility to share their religious belief with non-Christians, and asserting that the Bible is the inerrant truth.
The polls on Christian voters are released just a day before Super Tuesday when 22 states will hold Democratic primaries and Republicans will go to the poll in 21 states. Currently, national polls show Clinton and Obama neck-and-neck in tomorrow's contests, while McCain has a clear lead.
"In recent elections, the faith vote sided with the Republican candidate early in the race, allowing those candidates to focus on winning over swing votes. In this year's contest, however, the faith vote cannot be taken for granted," Barna said. "Much can change between now and November, but Republican candidates have a tough road ahead of them this year."