In the 2012 presidential election, President Barack Obama could double the amount of support he got from evangelicals in the 2008 election, according to Barna Group, a Christian polling organization.
In 2008, Obama received the support of about 11 percent of evangelicals, according to Barna Group. In a March 14-21 Barna Group poll of 647 likely voters, twice as many evangelicals, 22 percent, said they were prepared to vote for Obama.
Barna categorizes "evangelical" more narrowly than most other polling organizations. Many polls simply include self-identifiers – those who say, when asked, that they are evangelical or born-again.
Under Barna's classification, an evangelical is one who says they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and that commitment remains important to them, and shares seven beliefs common among evangelicals, such as the existence of Satan and that eternal salvation comes through grace, not works. Using this measure of evangelical, Barna found that evangelicals comprise seven percent of the population and 10 percent of likely voters.
Though Obama appears to be gaining the support of evangelicals, the enthusiasm levels of those supporters remain low. Only three to five percent of evangelicals said they would "definitely" vote for him, while 53-58 percent of evangelicals said they would "definitely" support the Republican challenger.
Among religious skeptics, defined as atheists and agnostics, Obama receives strong support. Against Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee, Obama would likely receive the support of about 70 percent of this group if the election were held now. Religious skeptics would also comprise 11 percent of the electorate, about the same as evangelicals.
Barna Group cautions, though, about reading too much into the results. The election is not until November and the Republican nominee has not been chosen.
"Without the Republican candidate having been selected yet, and with three months of the major party candidates bashing each other after the upcoming party conventions, much could change before November 6. However, a few early indicators were flagged as factors to watch during the coming months," Barna Group writes.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.
Christian author George Barna founded Barna Group and is currently working with the Newt Gingrich campaign. He sold his majority share of Barna Group in 2009 and is no longer involved in its operation.