- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

Voter faith — or the lack of it — made a strong imprint in the 2004 presidential election, according to a survey released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Non-believers, in fact, were among Sen. John Kerry’s most loyal groups, with 82 percent of those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics in support of the Massachusetts Democrat. They barely were outranked in the poll by black Protestants, 83 percent of whom supported Mr. Kerry.

“Modernist” mainline Protestants — those who claimed to be “liberal or progressive” in their views, according to the poll — ranked third at 78 percent, followed by other faiths, including Muslims, Hindus and New Age practitioners (77 percent) and Jews (73 percent).

Traditionalist evangelical Protestants were President Bush’s most ardent admirers, with 88 percent saying they supported him. According to the poll, the group included fundamentalists, Pentecostals, charismatics and other Protestants who preserve religious traditions and have strong beliefs in the Bible, existence of an afterlife, and other factors.

“Other Christians” were Mr. Bush’s next most powerful group of supporters (80 percent), followed by traditionalist Catholics with “traditional or conservative” views (72 percent), traditionalist mainline Protestants (68 percent), and “centrist” evangelical Protestants whose views fall midway between liberal and conservative (64 percent).

Mr. Kerry, a practicing Catholic who annoyed some in his faith because he supports abortion, found moderate support among them. Only 28 percent of traditional Catholics backed Mr. Kerry, along with 45 percent of centrist Catholics. He drew 69 percent of the support from both modernist and Hispanic Catholics, however.

“There was strong polarization not only between different religions, as was common in the past, but also within the major religious traditions — a relatively new phenomenon,” said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, which conducted the survey of 2,730 adults for Pew in November.

Support among religious groups has shifted since the 2000 election, the poll says.

Mr. Bush had a 31 percent gain among Hispanic Protestants, a 17 percent gain among traditional Catholics, and a 12 percent gain among both black Protestants and those of “other” Christian faiths. His support was down 12 percent with atheists/agnostics and modernist Catholics, and 10 percent among all mainline Protestants.

Mr. Kerry, alternatively, gained 12 percent among both modernist Catholics and atheists/agnostics and 10 percent among all mainline Protestants. His support fell by 31 percent among Hispanic Protestants, 17 percent among traditional Catholics, 12 percent among both black Protestants and “other” Christians, and 11 percent among centrist Catholics.

Overall, 47 percent of the respondents said faith was an important influence on their votes. Across the entire sampling, foreign policy was the most important issue, followed by the economy and social issues like abortion and same-sex “marriage”.

“However, a majority of the top four Bush constituencies regarded social issues as very important to their vote, exceeding the figure for the entire sample,” the survey notes.

The complete poll results can be seen at www.pewtrusts.com.

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