.- A recent survey carried out by the Ventura-based Barna Group shows that a “seismic shift” in the Catholic vote in favor of President George W. Bush may end up having a decisive role in the upcoming elections.
According to the Barna Group, which since 1984 has been conducting and analyzing cultural trends related to values and beliefs, “one of the big stories of the campaign is the seismic shift in preference among Catholic voters. Almost one out of every four likely voters (23%) is Catholic.”
The group reveals that in May, John Kerry held a small lead over President Bush, 48% to 43%. In the ensuing four months, however, “a myriad of events have stimulated a reversal among Catholics.”
“Currently, President Bush holds a commanding 53% to 36% lead over the Massachusetts Senator among Catholics who are likely to vote. That represents a 22-point shift in preference in just four months.”
“Equally surprising -the report says, - among Protestants who are likely to vote in November, President Bush has seen his 24-point lead over the challenger cut in half at the same time that his fortunes have reversed among Catholics. Since May, Mr. Kerry has picked up a small degree of support among Protestants (from 35% up to 38%) while President Bush has lost significant ground among Protestants (dropping from 59% to 50%). In total, that’s a 12-point drop in support for the President.”
According to the Barna study, “the significance of the faith factor cannot be overlooked in Campaign 2004. President Bush’s strongest support comes from evangelical Christians who are likely to vote: 90% of them plan to vote for the incumbent while only 2% plan to support Mr. Kerry. Non-evangelical born again Christians, who constitute about two-fifths of the likely voters, also strongly favor Mr. Bush (54% to 36%). Together, all born again Christians (evangelical and non-evangelical combined) are estimated to provide about half of the votes cast in November.”
Besides the support President Bush draws from the Christian community, the Barna survey also pointed out other significant results related to faith. Among those findings were:
· People who had read from the Bible during the past seven days, other than at church, are more likely to vote. They are also more likely to support President Bush (42% vs. 31% for Mr. Kerry).
· People who had attended a church worship service during the past seven days are more likely to vote. They are also more likely to support President Bush (47% compared to 26% of church attenders who back Mr. Kerry).
· People who had discussed a moral issue with someone during the past seven days are both more likely to vote and more likely to support President Bush (41% vs. 34%).
· People who had turned off a television program they were watching during the past seven days because of the morals and values it presented are both more likely to vote and more likely to support President Bush (45% vs. 29%).
The outcome of November’s election is in the hands of Christians, according to George Barna, the survey director. “Given the higher propensity to turnout on November 2 among evangelical and born again Christians, and their margin of preference for Mr. Bush, simply maintaining his support among those segments and among Catholics, and receiving a proportional split among the undecided will win Mr. Bush a second term in the White House.”
Asked to explain the reason for the rapid shift in support from Mr. Kerry to Mr. Bush during the summer months, Barna indicated that it was the result of a comprehensive consideration of each candidate. “That swing is attributable to an encompassing assessment by many Catholics of the leadership abilities, character, and policy stands of both men. We found that party identification and other matters had little to do with the reassessment of both candidates. Many of the Catholics now behind Mr. Bush have traditionally voted Democratic, but have chosen a different course this time around.”
However, Barna cautioned observers to remember that much can happen in the remaining five weeks of the campaign.
More information about the Barna research is available at: