The undecided evangelicals

Campaign 2008

Since Michael Farris claimed he had first dibs on their "Joshua Generation" idea, the Obama campaign is now using a slightly clunkier name for its outreach to young evangelicals: "Young. Evangelical. For Obama." David Brody has a sneak peek at the site - a place for supporters to find volunteer opportunities, blog, plan house parties and network - and says, "At this point the Obama campaign is winning the narrative on the younger Evangelical front."

Despite Obama's best efforts, however, the data has yet to show serious inroads among evangelicals as a whole. A Pew Forum survey shows that McCain has a slightly smaller lead among white evangelicals than Bush had at the same time in 2004. In 2004, Bush had 69% of the white evangelical vote. This year McCain has 61% of white evangelicals, while Obama polls 25% --- about the same as Gore and Kerry polled in June 2000 and June 2004.

Polls like this have God-o-Meter wondering if Democrats should just give up on cracking the monolithic evangelical voting bloc. But before they give up, Democrats should see which way undecided evangelicals swing.

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There are more undecided white evangelical voters this year - 12% according to the Pew Forum and 17% according to a July 11 Newsweek poll. If Obama can gain a little over a third of these voters for 30% of the evangelical vote, it will total 6-10% of the entire electorate, according to sociologist John Schmalzbauer - no small feat, but no small reward either.

This indecision may mark younger evangelicals, who are less reflexively Republican and more Independent than their parents, just as passionate about abortion but more apathetic about gay marriage. They may shrug their shoulders at McCain's confused attempt to take a stand on gay adoption. But if Obama pairs his Christian rock concerts with a move towards the center on abortion, he'll have a better chance of winning young evangelicals' votes.


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