As the US presidential election approaches, the battle for the influential Christian vote continues. A number of surveys of Christian voters suggest that there could be changes to recent voting patterns.
A survey of Christian voters by Public Religion Research suggests that the religious and political polarisation that has characterised the past two presidential elections has lessened, as younger Christians take a more liberal line on issues such as abortion and same-sex relationships.
The research, which questioned Roman Catholic and Evangelical voters, reports that young RCs (aged between 18 and 35) “are considerably more supportive of abortion rights and same-sex marriage” than older ones: 60 per cent of younger RCs who were questioned said that abortion should be legal, compared with 51 per cent of older ones. Also, 44 per cent of younger RCs polled, compared with just 26 per cent of older ones, believe same-sex couples in committed relationships should be allowed to marry.
This generation gap was also underlined by the report that 25 per cent of the young white Evangelicals who were surveyed backed gay marriage, compared with nine per cent of older ones.
Another poll, in which the Hartford Institute for Religion Research surveyed 1200 megachurches across the US, suggests that just 33 per cent of leaders from these churches characterise their congregations as “predominantly conservative”, compared with 51 per cent in 2005.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, has urged that voters “prayerfully consider the choices before us”, and use the political process to solve “society’s most intractable problems”. “Voting and political participation are acts of Christian stewardship,” she said.