LONDON – Barack Obama would win the U.S. presidential election by a landslide next month if the results were down to British voters.
A poll of more than 1,000 people conducted by ComRes on behalf of faith-based think tank Theos found that 66 percent of people would vote for Democratic candidate Obama, 10 percent for his Republican rival, John McCain, and just 2 percent for independent candidate Ralph Nader.
Though far from the 53-40 percent margin revealed by a Newsweek survey late last week, the results of the British poll threw up some similarities between the attitudes of British and American voters when compared to a poll of Americans conducted by USA Today and Gallup in 2007. Both polls asked respondents whether they would vote for a political leader of a particular race, religion or age.
In Britain, 5 percent of voters would not vote for a black leader on principle, the same as in the United States. Seven percent in the United Kingdom, meanwhile, would not vote for a woman, compared to 11 percent in the States, and 43 percent of Britons would not vote for a leader who was 72-years-old – the age of McCain. In the U.S., 42 percent had said they would not vote for a 72-year-old leader.
There were considerable disparities between British and American voters when it came to the importance attached to some aspects of traditional morality.
In Britain, only 7 percent would not vote for a candidate who was divorced, compared with 30 percent in the United States. Twenty-three percent of British voters, meanwhile, would not vote for a homosexual leader, compared with 43 percent in the U.S., and 20 percent of the British public would not vote for a political leader who did not believe in God, compared with a sizeable 42 percent in the U.S.
Delving deeper than the U.S. poll, Theos asked respondents about their religious considerations. The poll found that 23 percent of Britons would not be willing to vote for a Muslim leader, while just 7 percent said they would not vote for a candidate who was Christian.
When asked if the presidency of George W. Bush, a born again Christian, had impacted their view of Christianity, only 12 per cent said their view of the religion had been damaged as a result of his presidency while 86 percent said that his eight years in office had made no difference to their view.
Paul Woolley, director of Theos, commented on the results, saying the U.K. electorate "is evidently very supportive of Barack Obama, reflecting his high popularity ratings across Europe.
"They see him as a candidate of change," he said.
"Britons also appear to be open to voting for a more diverse field of candidates than their U.S. counterparts, although the fact that one in five people wouldn't vote for a well-qualified candidate because they were a Muslim or an atheist perhaps reveals a concern about fundamental values," Woolley added.
"The finding that only 12% of the British public believe that the Bush presidency has damaged their view of Christianity is especially illuminating, given the high profile the president's faith has had and the controversial nature of his period in office."
For the poll, ComRes interviewed 1,007 British adults by telephone between October 17 and 19, 2008. Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all British adults.