They may not be as large as Catholics or as active as evangelicals, but white mainline Protestants have a big thing going for them this election cycle: they are divided, and possibly persuadable.
That’s according to a new poll released Thursday (Feb. 2) that found white mainline Protestants are more evenly split between President Obama and his Republican challengers than other religious groups.
“They’re the most important ignored religious group in the country,” said Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the poll in partnership with Religion News Service.
In a matchup between Obama and GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, mainline Protestant voters are nearly evenly divided, with 41 percent supporting Obama and 43 percent for Romney. The same holds true between Obama and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — each is the choice of 41 percent of white mainline Protestants.
Mainliners — Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Methodists and others — tend to be well educated and civically engaged. They represent about 16 percent of the electorate, and are clustered in some key battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.