Young Evangelical Christians and the 2008 Election

Poll: White Evangelicals Under 30 Less Supportive of McCain Than Older Evangelicals

A recent survey conducted for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly finds that young white evangelical Christians are less supportive of John McCain for president than their older counterparts. Although McCain maintains a solid winning margin among white evangelical Christians on the ballot, white evangelicals ages 18-29 are less supportive of his candidacy and express less favorable impressions of McCain than older white evangelical Christians.

View or Download the Data

Summary Memo and Tables (PDF, 110 KB)

Questionnaire (PDF, 112 KB)

Viewing these files requires the free Adobe Reader.

Key Findings

McCain is solidly winning white evangelical Christians on the ballot. White evangelical Christians support McCain 71 percent to 23 percent over Barack Obama, and two-thirds (66 percent) have favorable impressions of McCain. Likewise, Obama suffers from more unfavorable impressions from white evangelical Christians; fifty percent rate Obama “coolly” and only 35 percent give him a favorable rating.

Young evangelical Christians are less likely to support McCain’s candidacy. Although McCain maintains a winning margin over Obama among younger evangelical Christians ages 18-29, his support shrinks by 9 points among this group; McCain still wins young evangelicals overall, but the margin closes to 62-30 McCain compared to 73-22 McCain among white evangelical Christians over the age of 30.

Young white evangelicals also give McCain lower favorability ratings. Slightly over half, 54 percent, of white evangelical Christians under the age of 30 give McCain a positive favorability rating versus 68 percent of white evangelicals over age 30. Presented another way, McCain garners a mean rating of 56 (out of 100) from the younger set compared to a mean of 67 from those over 30.

White evangelical Christians are more likely to believe that McCain is more religious than Obama. Over half of white evangelicals (54 percent) say McCain is the more religious candidate compared to 32 percent of Americans overall. However, a large percent of Americans (including white evangelicals) say they are not sure which candidate is more religious; thirty-one percent of Americans and 23 percent of white evangelicals say they do not know. Younger white evangelicals are slightly more likely than older white evangelicals to choose Obama as more religious, however only 20 percent of the younger set choose Obama (compared to 13 percent of white evangelicals over age 30).

George Bush is even less popular among younger white evangelicals.
Fifty-seven percent of white evangelicals over age 30 give George Bush a warm rating but those under 30 seem more disenchanted, giving him a mean rating of 43 (out of 100) and with only 39 percent rating him favorably.

Young white evangelical women are less positive about Sarah Palin. White evangelical women under age 30 give Sarah Palin surprisingly low favorability ratings, with only 46 percent rating her warmly. This dissent contrasts sharply with white evangelical women over age 30 who are among her most ardent supporters; 65 percent of older evangelical women rate Palin warmly.

A majority of young white evangelical Christians support legal recognition of civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples. Fifty-eight percent of young white evangelicals support some form of legal recognition of civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples; a quarter (26 percent) support the full right for same-sex couples to marry. White evangelicals over age 30 are less supportive: forty-six percent favor some legal recognition, but only 9 percent of older white evangelicals favor full marriage rights.

White evangelicals are still solidly pro-life on the issue of abortion, and younger white evangelicals are no exception. Only a quarter (25 percent) of white evangelical Christians overall believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Another 46 percent allow for very limited abortion rights, saying it should be illegal in most cases, and 25 percent believe it should be illegal altogether. Younger white evangelicals are no exception; they oppose abortion rights in equal numbers to white evangelicals over age 30.