David Brody of the Christian Broadcast network notes the recent Faith in Public Life poll showing that voters view Obama as friendlier to faith than McCain, and then offers his own observations about why this may actually be true:
Imagine if I told you four years ago that voters felt John Kerry was friendlier to religion than George Bush? You would say that is crazy and you’d be right. But in 2008, a new poll published by Faith in Public Life shows that voters actually think Barack Obama , a Democrat, is slightly more friendlier to religion than John McCain. Read some of the findings below:Forty-nine percent of Americans say Obama is friendly to religion, while 45% say McCain is friendly to religion. More than seven-in-ten (71%) say it is important for public officials to be comfortable talking about religious values.
The greatest shift in candidate preference between 2004 and 2008 has occurred among voters who attend religious services once or twice a month, moving from 49% support for Kerry in 2004 to 60% support for Obama in 2008. McCain maintains a significant advantage among voters who attend more frequently, while Obama has a nearly identical advantage over McCain among those who attend less than a few times a month or never.
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As for Brody File analysis, do we really think these numbers are so surprising? In one sense they are startling because who would have “thunk” a Democrat running for President would lead a Republican on being “friendlier to religion”? Wasn’t all that religious talk supposed to be Republican domain? But these numbers make sense because Obama has engaged the faith community in public and McCain has pretty much stayed away for the most part.
Remember, this is not about social issues like abortion and marriage. These polls are not suggesting that Obama’s views on public policy are necessarily more “religious” than McCain’s positions. That is not what we are talking about here. Don’t mistake these polling numbers as a referendum on who’s the more religious man.
Let me also address a larger point. Americans overall are fairly religious. Worshipping God and going to Church matter in this country. (And not JUST with conservative Evangelicals) The point here is that Obama has done something very smart. By discussing his faith publicly and engaging in God talk, he’s been able to relate to millions of voters in a very real and emotional sort of way. In other words, people in America like to hear you talk about your relationship with God. They want to feel like you have a moral compass somewhere inside of you and what better way to express that than through faith?
The McCain campaign wants to show the World that Obama is a true blue liberal and indeed his voting record reflects liberal positions. But Obama’s zest to discuss morality, God and faith has positioned him differently than a John Kerry four years ago. Kerry came across as a secular northeast liberal and couldn’t shake that label. Obama hasn’t been defined that way and the faith aspect is a central reason why.
Read it all here. The study itself is here.
I think that Brody's analysis is right on. I also understand that this has also caused many of my atheist friends like the Exerrminator to have real doubts about Obama. I think, however, that Obama offers the best of both worlds--he is respectful (and yes, "friendly" to faith) and he can certainly takl the faith talk in ways that church-going folks like me can relate to. Yet, on critical First Amendment issues that should really concern the secularists among us, Obama has a very good and thoughtful record that recognizes the importance of a separationof church and state.
By the way, be sure to check out Ruth Gledhill's own poll on "Who is the better Christian" here. Last time I checked yesterday afternoon, Obama was winning with Sarah Palin in a close second, and Biden a close third. McCain came in dead last well behind Biden.