The religion-free election of 2010 (updated)

Now that the midterm voting is over, the news media can focus on what’s really important: What do Tuesday’s results mean for Democrats and Republicans in the general election two years from now?

Sorry, couldn’t resist that attempt at humor.

As tmatt noted yesterday, religion was not supposed to be a major factor in the elections this time around. But for GetReligion readers starved for a day-after faith angle or two, we’ll do our best to pick up a few crumbs.

Via the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life comes this preliminary analysis:

Two of the largest religious groups in the electorate followed the same basic voting patterns in the 2010 elections for the U.S. House of Representatives as they have in prior elections: white Protestants voted overwhelmingly Republican and religiously unaffiliated voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Democrats. But Catholic voters, who had favored Democratic over Republican candidates by double-digit margins in the last two congressional elections, swung to the GOP in 2010. And within all three of these major religious groups, support for the Republican Party rose this year compared with 2006, matching or exceeding their levels of support for the GOP in any recent election. Republican gains among religious groups parallel the party’s broad-based gains among the overall electorate and white voters in particular.

See more of Pew’s early look.

Meanwhile, the fine folks at ReligionLink — who do such a magnificent job of keeping Godbeat writers on top of current trends — already have weighed in with an Election 2010 roundup:

The 2010 midterm congressional elections promised to reshape the political landscape, and they did just that, as Republicans swept to victory in the House while cutting deeply into the Democratic majority in the Senate. But the vote also recast the terrain on moral and social issues important to believers of all political persuasions.

Among the hot-button issues likely to be affected are abortion rights and gay rights, for example. But economic issues galvanized religiously minded voters just as they did the entire American electorate this year, and debates over those matters are likely to be heated — questions such as whether or what spending should be cut or raised, and whether or what taxes ought to be cut or raised.

Arguments over who in society will bear the brunt of the cuts, or be the beneficiaries of the expenditures, are likely to divide liberal and conservative believers sharply.

Check out the full roundup for much more insight.

Speaking of gay rights, our friends at Christianity Today report that Iowa voters ousted three Supreme Court justices who legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. CT also provides news on other political items, such as California rejecting an initiative to legalize marijuana use.

USA Today’s Cathy Grossman has an interesting discussion on her blog titled, “Did you ‘vote your faith’ in the 2010 election?” Experts weigh in — pro and con — on whether Tuesday’s outcome represented a victory for “values voters.”

Finally, in an excellent Wednesday morning roundup, Religion News Service notes that “religion wasn’t a huge issue in the 2010 midterms, but a couple of notable races stand out.”

Those couple of notable races end up being nine full bullet points from RNS — from key Senate races to the Iowa judges’ ouster to the outlook for “mamma grizzly” Sarah Palin. Seriously, read the RNS post. Those nine points don’t count later discussion of an abortion measure in Colorado, the prohibition of Sharia law in Oklahoma and the aforementioned recreational pot decision in California.

Like I said, religion was not supposed to be a major factor in the elections this time around.

Guess it depends on your definition of major.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Matt

    Here is my religion angle: According to my research, of the 64 Democrats who voted for the Stupak Amendment last November, 34 occupied seats that were gained by the Republicans yesterday, including 24 who were directly defeated in yesterday’s election (of the races not yet called by NYT, I’m going with current returns that indicate Chandler will survive while Costa and Ortiz will not).

    This means that the ranks of pro-life Democrats (with “pro-life” defined rather broadly here) have been cut by more than half, and it also means that more than half of yesterday’s Democratic losses were pro-life Dems.

    The moral of the story? Democrats in Congress will be more ideologically pure on abortion in the next term than they were in this one? Pro-life votes are crucial to Democrats actually being in the majority?

  • Dave

    Matt, I don’t see how this point isn’t subsumed in the larger pattern that Democrats lost in 2010 many of the seats gained in 2008 in nominally Republican territory. I even heard a talking head on PBS News Hour, not a booster of the GOP, talk about seats where “Democrats shouldn’t have been in the first place” (not an exact quote).

    I would suggest that the old rule that voters will take an authentic Republican over a Democrat acting like a Republican was suspended in 2008 over weariness with Bush and reinstated in 2010 over impatience with Obama.

  • Ann

    In response to Dave: some of the Democrats that lost had been in Congress for a long time and were head of committees.

    For example, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri; House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt of South Carolina; and Transportation and Infrastructure Panel, Minnesota’s James Oberstar. The three committee chairman together had just under 100 years of experience.

    I think one of the primary causes for the Democrat losses was voter misinformation:

    Poll: Americans Don’t Know Economy Expanded With Tax Cuts

    “A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered.”

    “Still, the poll shows the message hasn’t gotten through to Americans, especially middle-income voters. By 52 percent to 19 percent, likely voters say federal income taxes have gone up for the middle class in the past two years. ”

    “The view that taxes have gone up is shared by a majority of almost all demographic groups, including 50 percent of independent voters, among the linchpins of Obama’s victory in the 2008 election.

    Even a plurality of Democrats, 43 percent, holds this misperception. Overall, 63 percent of those who earn $25,000 to $49,999 say taxes have gone up, compared with 45 percent of those who earn $100,000 or more. ”

    http://tinyurl.com/349e96o

    Read the entire Bloomberg article. I repeatedly heard the above misinformation spread by Fox media/pundits, pundits on CNN, and Republican members of Congress.

    In addition, the younger vote was smaller than 2008.

  • Dave S

    Ann, are you suggesting that democrats would not have lost as many seats had voters been better informed? Is there any evidence that voters were better informed in 2006 or 2008 when Democrats won? My guess is that they were not and an unfortunate lack of awareness of issues and facts is fairly constant. Democrats lost because people held them responsible for the prolonged economic downturn- rightly or wrongly. There was also a general discomfort with the large deficits due to a stimulus program that has not worked. Again, that may or may not be a correct conclusion, but my point is that you are over analyzing the situation. People voted the Democrats out for the reasons they’ve stated.

  • Dave

    People voted the Democrats out for the reasons they’ve stated.

    It’s important to maintain the distinction between the reasons the people have stated and the issues that candidates pushed in their ads. I saw a talking-head “analyst” on the PBS New Hour aggressively reiterate campaign points as though they were vox populi.


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