By Michelle A. Vu
Christian Post Reporter
Mon, Jul. 07 2008 08:25 PM EDT
Evangelicals traditionally are linked to the Republican Party, but a new survey of evangelical leaders suggests this group is more concerned about the candidate as an individual than his political party this election year.
Out of some 100 board members of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) surveyed, almost no one mentioned political party when asked, “How do you decide which candidate to vote for?”
Respondents instead often said they listen to candidates’ speeches, conduct research on them, and see where they stand on issues. But an overwhelming number of participants said the factor they look for in a presidential candidate is their character and conviction, specifically integrity and trustworthiness.
“What was most interesting about the survey results was virtual silence about political party,” observed Leith Anderson, president of the NAE. “Only one respondent in the unprompted poll named a party as a basis for selecting a presidential candidate. That response was balanced out by another respondent who insisted that party must never be the basis for voting.
“It says to me that evangelicals aren’t as partisan as many think,” he stated.
Some of the issues the leader were concerned with when examining the candidates include judicial appointments, compassion for the poor, opposition to abortion, and traditional marriage.
The evangelical leaders surveyed include denominational heads, megachurch pastors, and parachurch leaders.
Other studies about evangelical voters and who they will likely vote for also found the group to be more fluid and open to both parties as compared to previous elections.
A CNN poll in June found nearly two-thirds of white evangelicals voters surveyed backed Republican John McCain – down from President Bush’s nearly 80 percent in his 2004 re-election. Obama was supported by 30 percent of this constituency, according to the poll.
Likewise, Mark DeMoss – who handles public relations for clients such as Franklin Graham, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Focus on the Family – predicts Obama could get to 40 percent of the evangelical vote.
“Evangelicals are serious about how to vote and are still deciding which candidates they prefer,” Anderson noted.
But he added, “I couldn’t guess which way many will vote.”
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