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Study: Election created new 'values voter'

Rejecting 'culture wars,' most people of faith signal desire for politics that build bridges.

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Abortion (9 percent) and same-sex marriage (1 percent) ranked at the bottom of their "most important issue" list. Americans remained split on abortion, however, with 52 percent saying it should be legal in all or most cases, and 45 percent opting for illegal in all or most cases.

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But the survey found overwhelming support for seeking common ground in reducing the number of abortions. Eighty-three percent of voters said elected leaders should work together to enact policies for that purpose. This includes 86 percent of white Evangelicals and 81 percent of Catholics ­ and similar majorities of abortion-rights and antiabortion voters.

"Catholics and other people of faith want our elected officials to unite in support of robust public policies that research tells us help prevent the tragedy of abortion," says Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a co-sponsor of the poll.

On foreign policy, the survey revealed a strong bias among Americans today in favor of diplomacy over military strength as the best means for ensuring peace. Americans remain focused on security concerns, with 72 percent saying that stopping the spread of nuclear weapons should be the No. 1 priority, followed by maintaining a strong military (70 percent). Some 53 percent named "Improving America's reputation in the world" as a top concern, with 48 percent calling for banning torture and addressing global warming.

When it comes to how to achieve these aims, 61 percent emphasized diplomacy and 29 percent said military strength.

The readiness for unified action to solve problems also showed up in another poll released this week. Pew Research Center found that about three-quarters of all voters ­ including a solid majority of Republicans (56 percent) ­ said GOP leaders should work with Obama to accomplish things, even if it meant disappointing some supporters. They said Democratic leaders should do the same.

People of faith are ready to work with them, according to Jim Wallis, president of the evangelical group Sojourners. A new faith coalition, he said, which includes Christians of color, young people, progressive Catholics, Protestants, and some in other faith traditions is "reaching across barriers" in pursuit of change.