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October 30, 2004
Column #1,209

                                      Faith and the Election
                        
     People of faith and those most committed to traditional marriage will decide this election.

     Consider the "Marriage Gap." An October Gallup Poll reported the overall race was
essentially tied with 50 percent of registered voters supporting Kerry vs. 48 percent for Bush.

      However, 57 percent of married registered voters plan to vote for Bush, while only 39 percent back Kerry. By contrast, a big 60 percent of the unmarried support Kerry vs. a thin 37 percent for Bush.  

     That's the mirror opposite. The unmarried are even more committed to Kerry than the married are to Bush. Furthermore, this Marriage Gap has persisted throughout this election year.

     Why? Singles are more secular, less religious and more committed to individual freedom, such as the right of a woman to have an abortion. Kerry exemplifies those
characteristics. He was one of few Senators to vote against the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 that was signed by President Clinton. Although Catholic, he makes a point of saying "I love my church. I respect the bishops, but I respectfully disagree...on issues like a woman's right to choose or stem cell research."

     On the other hand, the marriage issue is particularly important in eleven states where marriage is on the ballot. Two are in closely-contested "battleground" states of Ohio and Michigan. Voters are being asked to approve a state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being only between a man and a woman.  This ballot initiative is clearly pulling some Catholics and evangelicals to the polls whose interest in other political issues is weak. That is may be one reason that Bush remains ahead of Kerry in Ohio and Michigan though both states have suffered a hemorrhage of jobs.

     Other states voting on Nov. 2 on marriage issues are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah. In recent months, Louisiana and Missouri passed similar constitutional amendments by 78 and 71 percent,
respectively.

     Among evangelical Christians who are likely to vote, a stunning 90 percent support Bush, according to a Barna Poll. Non-evangelical born again Christians also strongly support the President by a 54 to 36 percent margin. Together, these groups are half of those expected to vote. These voters predominate in the South and Midwest where Bush is comfortably ahead.

     Bush rallies such voters with this statement, given after he met with Philadelphia
Cardinal Justin Rigali last week: "We stand for a culture of life in which every person matters and every being counts. We stand for marriage and family, which are the foundation of our society."

     The Catholic vote has been much more volatile. Before mid-May, Bush had a slight lead among Catholics, who are a quarter of registered voters. By August, however, Gallup reported Kerry edged ahead, by 51 percent of Catholic voters vs. only 45 percent for Bush. 

     Of particular interest, in August weekly church attenders supported Bush over Kerry by a 10 point margin - 52 to 42 percent. Catholics who rarely  attend church favored Kerry by a large 57 to 39 percent margin. Presumably, more ardent Catholics support the church's pro-life position on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research.

     However, Gallup reported this week that while Kerry maintained his slender 50-48
percent margin among all Catholic registered voters, that the support of Bush by the most active Catholics had weakened. Weekly church attenders now back Bush by 49 to 47 percent, a mere two point margin, down from 10 points.

     Why?  Begin with the tribal factor. Kerry regularly mentions that he's a Catholic who attends Mass weekly and was an altar boy. President Kennedy, America's first Catholic president, garnered three-fourths of the Catholic vote.

     Add to that Kerry's stand on social issues. He asserts Christians believe in caring for the sick, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry but charges the Bush Administration was not heeding those teachings.

     Kerry said as President, "I will put middle-class families, and those who are struggling to join the middle class ahead of interests of the well-to-do."

     Catholic bishops believe the daily killing of 4,000 babies in the womb is more important.

     "We see abortion as a matter of civil rights and human dignity, not simply as a matter of religious teaching," argues Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput.

     "Words are cheap. Actions matter. If we believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, we need to prove that by our actions, including our political choices. Anything less leads to the corruption of our integrity."

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