General US Election Preferences by Religious Group

With voters continuing to focus on economic issues, Barack Obama holds a slim 49% to 45% advantage over Mitt Romney in the latest polling by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. However, Romney holds a 53-point lead over Obama among white evangelicals and a 20-point lead among white Catholics. Obama’s strongest support among religious groups comes from black Protestants (96% of whom support Obama) and the religiously unaffiliated (who favor Obama over Romney by 67% to 26%).

The poll also shows that more than eight-in-ten voters cite the economy and jobs as very important issues in deciding who to vote for this fall, and roughly three-quarters cite the federal budget deficit, health care and education. Far fewer rate hot-button social issues such as gay marriage, birth control and abortion as top voting priorities.

2012 Campaign Dynamics

Obama’s lead over Romney has narrowed since last month, when he had a 12-point advantage, though it is comparable to margins from earlier this year. While Obama’s advantage has declined since March, there is little to suggest a specific problem or campaign event as having a critical effect.

While there have been debates over issues related to gender, the rise and fall in Obama’s support has largely crossed gender lines, with a fairly consistent gender gap over time. For example, since March, Obama’s support among both men and women has slipped five percentage points.

Independent voters remain up for grabs. In the current survey, 48% favor Romney while 42% back Obama. A month ago, it was 47% Obama, 44% Romney.