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Monday, March 27, 2006

Survey Shows Biggest Increase in Born-Agains Since Early 90s; A 21st Century Great Awakening?

Here's a new piece of data that could prove to be the sleeper fact of the 2006 elections - 45 percent or nearly half of all adult Americans profess beliefs that qualify them as "Born-Again" Christians.

The 45 percent is the highest ever in the 25 years The Barna Group has tracked religious belief and practice data in America and the biggest single year increase since 1991-92. Only 31 percent of Americans professed Born Again beliefs in 1983, the first year of Barna's surveyed work on the question.

Barna says the increase is being powered by a significant increase in Born-Again conversions among Baby Boomers:

"The increase is largely attributable to a 16-point rise among Baby Boomers since the beginning of the 1990s. With 53% of Boomers currently meeting the Born Again criteria used by The Barna Group, that generation has now surpassed the percentage of Born Again adults within the preceding pair of generations, among whom 48% fit the standard. Slightly more than one-third of the younger generations – the Baby Busters and Mosaics – fit the criteria."

The current percentage of Baby Busters and Mosaics who qualify as Born-Again Christians mirrors the percentage of the Boomer generation at comparable ages.

The swelling ranks of Born Again Christians could be a key to the 2006 congressional elections as such people tend to vote for more conservative and Republican candidates by about a two-to-one margin.

The steady growth of Born-Again converts among Baby Boomers may also help explain the big increase in conservative and evangelical voters in the last election. Here's how The Washington Post described that increase:

"According to surveys of voters leaving the polls, Bush won 79 percent of the 26.5 million evangelical votes and 52 percent of the 31 million Catholic votes. Turnout soared in conservative areas such as Ohio's Warren County, where Bush picked up 18,000 more votes than in 2000, and local activists said churches were the reason."

The Barna data may also have some surprising implications for Republican strategists seeking to increase support among minorities because the survey found women are significantly more likely to be Born-Again than men and that African-Americans are the ethnic group most likely to be Born-Again, while Hispanics were only half as likely.

The Barna Group telephone survey of 1003 randomly selected adults of 18 years of age or older and living within the continental United States was conducted during January 2006 and has a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.

The criteria used by Barna to determine if a respondent qualifies as a Born-Again includes whether they profess to have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.

In addition, Barna includes those "who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as 'born again.'"

Go here for the full Barna report.