So what’s an evangelical?


glass half empty.jpgBarna has a new survey of likely presidential voters, and one arresting take-away is that evangelicals only support McCain over Obama by 39 percent to 37 percent. Before getting all amazed, be aware that Barna has Obama up by nine percentage points overall (43-34), twice the margin of other non-tracking polls but smaller than the 50-35 Barna had in June. Still, the evangelical numbers are striking.
That said, what Barna wants us to understand is that the people most pollsters consider to be evangelicals (those who self-identify as “evangelicals”) are a whole lot more numerous than the people Barna considers evangelicals (those who take a bunch of positions on Jesus and Scripture–you can check them out at the link above). And while the former comprise 40 percent of the population, the latter comprise only eight percent. And the latter support McCain over Obama by 61 percent to 17 percent.
Frankly, I don’t know exactly what to make of this. It’s no surprise that what we might call the hard-core evangelical vote is going to McCain by a Bushian margin. But other surveys, using the other standard, show nothing like an even split among evangelicals. Barna’s an evangelical who always looks at the evangelical glass as half-empty; and so may be making some assumptions that pump up the amount of (what he considers) pseudo-evangelical support for Obama–such as a very, very big turnout among African Americans. It would be nice if the folks at Pollster took a close look at how he operates.