Evangelical support for the war in Iraq has slipped sharply in the last month, according to a recent survey.
A study released last Thursday by the Pew Research Center for The People & the Press found roughly six in 10 white evangelical Republicans (58 percent) now feel it was the right decision to use force in Iraq. That figure, taken from polling in early to mid-October, compares to 71 percent in early September.
Further, white evangelicals are growing more open to the idea of establishing a timetable for removing troops from Iraq–46 percent now believe it is a good idea, compared to 32 percent in September.
Forty-eight percent of white Republican evangelicals now believe the war is going well, down from 61 percent in September. Barely half (51 percent) believe the war has helped fight terrorism, a 10-point drop from September.
White evangelical Protestants have become the most sought-after voters in the Republican Party. An Oct. 18 Pew study found white evangelicals are still more supportive of Republican candidates than any other religious group.
But that support is also eroding. Fifty-seven percent said they will vote Republican, a double-digit decline from the 68 percent who favored Republicans before the 2002 congressional elections and seven points below the 64 percent of evangelicals who said they intended to vote for the GOP in September.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said exit polls showed that 84 percent of Southern Baptists voted for President Bush in 2004, and he doesn’t think the war has significantly changed the picture.
“I’m not ready to throw in the towel on Iraq yet,” Land said. “I still think Iraq is one of the more noble things we’ve done. We went there to try to restore freedom and to bring freedom to the Middle East.”
Exit polls showed that 78 percent of white evangelical Protestants voted for President Bush in 2004. In October Bush’s approval rating among evangelicals stood at 57 percent, compared to 37 percent among the public at large.
But Land told the AP the president has lost less support from Southern Baptists than “virtually any other constituency.”
“I don’t think there’s any question that the vast majority of Southern Baptists still strongly support this president and his policies,” Land said.
Another Bush supporter from the Religious Right, broadcaster James Dobson, appealed Tuesday to listeners to vote next Tuesday in order to block Democrats from gaining majorities in Congress.
“We are in the midst of a war, and the president is the commander in chief, and we’ve got troops in the field, and we’re going to paralyze him for two years?” Dobson said, according to the Denver Post.
The war is a driving force in mid-term elections less than a week away. In a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 52 percent of respondents said they want Democrats to control Congress, compared to 37 percent who want Republicans to stay in charge.
October’s American death toll reached 103 late Tuesday, the highest since January 2005, when 107 American troops were killed. The worst month since the war began was November 2004, when 137 soldiers died.
In all, 2,815 U.S. military have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to the Department of Defense.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.