A new study comparing religious voters’ preferences in the current presidential race and in 2004 has found a surprising degree of similarity.

The Fifth National Survey of Religion and Politics, undertaken by University of Akron pollster John Green, was conducted before the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

The survey found Democratic candidate Barack Obama does best with the same religious groups that supported John Kerry most strongly in 2004: Jews, black Protestants, Latino Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated.

Republican candidate John McCain’s support is strongest among evangelical Protestants, where he had almost as big an edge over Obama (37.3%) as President George W. Bush’s 40.8% margin over Kerry.

McCain held much smaller leads over Obama among non-Latino Catholics and mainline Protestants, again mirroring the 2004 results that saw Bush narrowly edging out Kerry among both groups.

Green told the Toledo Blade Sept. 20 that the consistency among the voting patters of religious groups reflects “deep-seated divisions among America’s faith communities.”

— Tom McFeely