|Christian Support for Obama Declines|
Barack Obama was swept into office on a wave of hopes and dreams founded on his promises of a better life and a more competent government. With this first year in office now behind him, many Americans are considerably less enthusiastic about his performance than expected. A new survey conducted by The Barna Group shows that Christians, who formed a large segment of his support, are even less enthralled with the president’s handling of the job than are other Americans.
In the 2008 election, 42% of all born again adults voted for Barack Obama. The born again vote represented 40% of his aggregate support in the general election.
Most Americans are not satisfied with the job the president is doing. Currently, just 42% are either completely satisfied (15%) or somewhat satisfied (27%). One-quarter of adults (24%) are divided, saying they are “somewhat satisfied and somewhat dissatisfied.” The remaining 30% are either “mostly dissatisfied (13%) or “somewhat dissatisfied” (17%). Only a few (4%) don’t know how to assess the president’s job performance.
The picture is less rosy when looking at the ratings given to the president by committed Christians. Among evangelicals, only 18% are satisfied (just 6% are “completely satisfied”) while 69% are dissatisfied (including 38% who are “completely dissatisfied”). Among all born again Christians – one-fifth of whom are evangelicals and four-fifths of whom are not – the ratings are not quite as scathing, but are notably worse than those provided by non-Christian adults: 35% are satisfied and 36% are dissatisfied. Among adults who are not born again the president fares much better, with such people twice as likely to be satisfied as dissatisfied (48% satisfied, 24% are not).
When political affiliations and faith commitments are merged, the numbers are also quite diverse. A majority of registered Republicans (55%) are born again. Among them, only 9% are satisfied with President Obama’s performance to date, compared to 67% who are not. That rating is slightly less positive than the 15% satisfaction and 58% dissatisfaction found among Republicans who are not born again.
The picture is decidedly different among Democrats, among whom 47% are born again. Among born again Democrats, President Obama has satisfied 62% and dissatisfied 10%. That is not quite as upbeat a view as held by Democrats who are not born again, 76% of whom are satisfied and 8% of whom are dissatisfied.
Independent voters are notably less pleased with the president, regardless of their faith leanings. Thirty-seven percent are born again, the lowest proportion of born again adults found among the three partisan affiliations. Among the born again Independents, 25% are satisfied and 38% dissatisfied. Among the Independents who are not born again, 44% are satisfied and 21% are dissatisfied.
Specific Performance Ratings
The survey also revealed several consistent patterns. Non-whites were more supportive of the president’s results during his first year than were whites by an average of 21 percentage points. Downscale adults were typically more supportive than were upscale adults, except in the area of dealing with terrorism. Pre-Boomers (i.e. adults under 45) were invariably more supportive than were adults 45 or older. Single adults – those who have never been married as well as those who were presently divorced or widowed – were an average of 22 points more likely to express satisfaction with the president’s performance in these areas.
The study also found that Protestants and Catholics were generally similar in their views on these matters.
Americans Want It Now
The study suggests that many Americans may be losing their patience with President Obama. While most people recognize the complexities of the job, they have high expectations of their leader and have been generally disappointed during the first year of the Obama administration. Historically it is clear that legislative victories or other public relations efforts are capable of shifting people’s perceptions in a short period of time. However, with the mid-term elections on the horizon and the very real possibility of a significant number of Democratic seats being lost in Congress this November, the president’s sagging image or campaign presence may not be the boon for which many Democratic candidates had hoped.
The Barna data point out that at this stage of Mr. Obama’s tenure, party affiliation is a stronger predictor of people’s perceptions of his performance than is their faith commitment. At the same time, it appears that many committed Christians who were supportive of Mr. Obama during the election campaign are substantially less supportive of him today.
About the Research
This Barna Update is based upon a nationwide tracking study, called OmniPollSM, conducted by The Barna Group. The telephone interviews were derived from a random sample of 1,005 adults selected from across the continental United States, age 18 and older, from February 7 - 10, 2010. Interviews were conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the aggregate sample to known population percentages in relation to several key demographic variables.
"Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."
"Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."
"Downscale" individuals are those whose annual household income is less than $20,000 and who have not attended college. "Upscale" people are those whose annual household income is $75,000 or more and who have graduated from a four-year college.
The Barna Group (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research on a wide range of issues and products, produces resources pertaining to cultural change, leadership and spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources, both free and at discounted prices, are also available through that website.
© Barna Group 2010
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