Obama gaining some ground among young evangelicals, poll says

Barack Obama is making inroads among white evangelical Christians under 30 — still losing the group to John McCain but by a smaller margin than among older evangelicals — according to a poll released Monday. The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc. survey also found a clear majority of evangelicals under 30 support civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples.

The poll finds 71 percent of all white evangelicals support McCain — in keeping with the group’s overwhelming support for Republican presidential candidates since the 1980s — against 23 percent for Obama. But among evangelical voters age 18-29, McCain’s support drops to 62 percent and Obama’s rises to 30 percent.

In addition, younger white evangelical women don’t like McCain running mate Sarah Palin nearly as much as older members of the group. Those under 30 rate Palin “warmly” 46 percent of the time, compared with 65 percent of older evangelical women.

On the question of legal recognition and rights for same-sex couples, the generational divide among evangelicals is strong:

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.

The survey, however, found little difference between older and younger evangelicals when it comes to abortion.

The poll was conducted in September for the PBS program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, which will air a series of programs examining its implications the last week of October.

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