Evangelicals are the Only Faith Segment Obama Hasn't Won Over

The evangelical community is the only faith segment that Barack Obama has not won the majority support of, a new survey found.

Out of 19 faith communities polled by The Barna Group, all of them with the exception of evangelicals currently favor Democratic presidential hopeful Obama over Republican John McCain, The Barna Group survey, released on Monday, revealed.

Among evangelicals (carefully defined by Barna using a nine-question qualification process) who are likely to vote in November, 61 percent supported McCain compared to 17 percent for Obama.

But Obama is significantly more popular among other faith communities, including notional Christians (44 percent vs. 28 percent for McCain); people aligned with faiths other than Christianity (56 percent vs. 24 percent); atheists and agnostics (55 percent vs. 17 percent); Catholics (39 percent vs. 29 percent); and Protestants (43 percent vs. 32 percent).

Perhaps most notable is that even non-evangelical born-again Christians favor Obama over McCain. If their support is maintained until November, it will be the first time in more than two decades that the born-again vote has swung toward the Democratic candidate.

Born-again Christians are defined as people who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.

Meanwhile, evangelicals meet the born-again criteria plus seven other conditions.

Barna surveys ask respondents to answer a series of questions in order to see if they qualify for the born-again or evangelical category. Most other surveys, however, only ask respondents for self-description, which can lead to inaccurate results.

The nationwide survey also found a decline in support for Obama in several faith segments over the past two months. Obama's lead among non-evangelical born-again Christians is down nine points, Protestant support fell 13 points, and favorability among Catholics declined 11 points.

"While some Christian voters seem to be questioning their early support for Obama, the McCain candidacy does not seem to be gaining momentum among evangelicals," according to the Barna report. "Since June, the current level of support Sen. McCain has among evangelical voters has declined significantly (dropping from 78 percent to 61 percent)."

George Barna, who directed the study, said while there is still "decided preference" for Obama among the Christian community, the more conservative part of the Christian population is "slowly coming to grips with what an Obama presidency might be like."

"As the finer points of a wide range of issues are clarified by each nominee, the initial excitement about Senator Obama has lost some luster to an increasing number of people whose vote is influenced by their spiritual perspectives," Barna said. "If Sen. McCain converts such apprehensions into votes, this will be a closer race than many have anticipated."

The report is based upon telephone interviews conducted by The Barna Group with a random sample of 1,003 adults selected from across the United States, age 18 and older, in August 2008.