Thursday, March 16, 2006

Protestants and frequent churchgoers are most supportive of the war in Iraq, according to research released yesterday by Gallup.

“In general, the more frequently an American attends church, the less likely he or she is to say the war was a mistake,” noted Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport, who analyzed a series of polls that posed the question, “Is the war a mistake?” to 4,000 adults from January 2005 to February 2006.

Overall, 45 percent of Protestants and 47 percent of “other Christians” thought the war was a mistake. The figure was 52 percent among Catholics, 58 percent among other religions and 62 percent among those who had no religion.

Frequency of church attendance also held sway. Overall, among those who never went to church, 62 percent said the war was a mistake. Among those who attended services once a week, the figure was 44 percent.

Support for the conflict has varied among religious groups. Some vigorously opposed unilateral American military strikes against Iraq. The World Council of Churches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Vatican and the Church of England were among those that characterized the conflict as unjust, and urged diplomatic alternatives.

Some church organizations remained neutral, issuing calls for prayer instead; others offered unconditional support to the White House. The Southern Baptist Convention applauded military intervention, noting in 2003, “Our choice is to pay less now and deal with this problem, or we can pay a lot more later.”

The Orthodox Union, a Jewish group, said it supported President Bush “100 percent.”

The Gallup findings also revealed racial and political divides.

“In general, black Americans are strongly opposed to the war in Iraq and are highly likely to say it was a mistake,” Mr. Newport observed.

The survey found the most support among white Christians — 39 percent of Protestants did not think the conflict was a mistake. The figure was 50 percent among white Catholics, 55 percent among other religions and 60 percent among those with no religion.

A partisan pattern also emerged.

“The more religious the American, in general, the more he or she is to identify with the Republican Party. Frequent churchgoers tend to be Republicans, who in turn can be expected to support the policies of a Republican president,” Mr. Newport noted.

Among Protestants, 19 percent of those who were Republicans thought the war was a mistake, compared with 50 percent of independents and 76 percent of Democrats.

Republican churchgoers were the most supportive. Among those who attended services once a week, 16 percent thought the war was a mistake. The figure was 26 percent among Republicans who never attended church.

Among Democrats, 79 percent who attended church weekly said the conflict was a mistake; the figure was 81 percent among those who never attended services.

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