How We Voted

From Pew:

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Wow, more Evangelicals voted for Romney than Mormons.

  • RJS

    Do people realize that with white evangelicals constituting about 21% of votes cast for president this means that in the popular vote among the rest of the population Obama won by a landslide 60% to 40%?

    This brings up several questions for me.

    What does our harping on partisan politics do to our mission as the people of God?

    Why should seekers actually care about evangelical Christianity?

    I don’t care if you are republican or democrat – but what does the high profile rhetoric do to our witness?

  • scotmcknight

    RJS and Kenny, in my view, this graph reveals how implicated evangelicalism is partisan politics — the word “evangelical” has become a politic.

  • http://menwithdice.com ScottB

    I suspect that at least some of the exodus from self-identifying as evangelical among younger folks can likely be attributed as much to the politic as it can to the theology.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    It is amazing to me how white conservatve Evangelicals will gripe and complain how blacks or black Evangelicals will vote heavily Democrat while they themselves vote heavily Republican. Can we get the log out of our own eyes?

  • LisaH

    I’ve been reading the blog for a while, but have never commented before. This one just struck a chord with me. I think ScottB is right, and not just about younger people. I’m 37, and that is exactly why I left my former church and why I haven’t been able to find another for over 3 years. I’m honestly not sure if I’d still call myself evangelical, mostly because most evangelicals where I live assume that evangelical=Republican.

  • Josh

    So do we also have to conclude that the non religious has a politic as well, as they voted Democrat with the same force as the evangelicals voted republican? And if we do, does that paint the non religious in a bad light like it does the evangelicals?

  • Kenny Johnson

    I don’t think it paints either in a bad light. It also doesn’t surprise me that the non-religious would be more likely to favor a socially liberal candidate (even though many may actually be fiscally conservative).

    I think the “problem,” if there is one is that Evangelical has become nearly synonymous with “Republican” even though its supposed to be a religious/theological term instead of a political one. And those of us who tend to lean to the left politically often feel out of place in the far-right leaning congregation we’re part of. Some are even discriminated against: http://religionandpolitics.org/2012/09/13/my-journey-toward-the-new-evangelicalism/

  • Chip

    Bingo to Josh (#7). Here in the suburban DC area, the growing number of Nones apparently had a major influence this election, at least according to one analysis I read.

    I think the subject of evangelical partisanship is too often treated too simplistically, assuming that evangelicals are unthinkingly in lock step with the Republican party. (I’m not saying that Scot or RJS believe this.) Speaking purely experientially from having attended churches from non-denominational to theologically conservative Episcopal to Anglican over the last few decades, most of the conservative voters I’ve known vote on economic and value issues rather than party loyalty. For example, if they vote Republican partially because they perceive Republicans to be more friendly to small businesses, it’s not due to Republican party loyalty. This is also true for the traditional hot-button social issues of abortion and marriage.

    I haven’t seen yet any election coverage of what really hit me: In looking at the state-by-state popular vote totals, if you take out the few states where the vote was pretty close (e.g., PA; OH; NC; my own VA, where the DC suburbs tend to decide which way the state goes), the percentage point differentiation was astonishing. No matter who won the state, whether Obama or Romney, there was a difference of 10, 20, even 30 percentage points. Divisions within the country have, of course, been much discussed, but I never would have thought there would be such a huge division across so many states. What does this tell us about ourselves and our faith differences across so many states?

  • ScottW

    The term Evangelical has little meaning theologically as an identifier but does as political marker to designate white “born again” Protestants. I say this because an overwhelming majority of African American Protestants theologically share the same tenets and theology but not the same social/political markers, generally speaking.

    The Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy” has tempered the soul of the party and transformed its base so that it has found itself on the wrong side of demographic change in relation to minorities (not all Liberals), Moderates, young people and people from growing immigrant groups.

    A subtext in the Republican narrative of today is the confluence of race/religion/citizenship as deftly reflected upon in Duke theologian J. Kameron Carter’s article,”Everyday Fascism–Revisiting Hitler:Thinking about Race, Religion and Politics in America”.
    http://jkameroncarter.com/?p=532

  • Craig

    “…in my view, this graph reveals how implicated evangelicalism is partisan politics — the word “evangelical” has become a politic.” I get the same sense from browsing through the rest of the Evangelical Channel here at Patheos. But perhaps that is partially by design.

    I wonder to what extent the 20% of evangelicals who voted for Obama are, in their churches, closeted with respect to their political beliefs.

  • JRS

    What amazes me is that we call the issues of the day political. Every position on every issue is guided by some moral authority. Most evangelicals find their moral authority in the Bible and many (most?) agree on the Bible’s perspective on religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the definition of marriage. We shouldn’t be surprised at voting patterns when it’s pretty clear where the political parties stand on those issues.

  • fb

    didn’t emerson and smith examine this phenomenon (at least parts of it) in _divided by faith_ a decade ago? iirc, their thesis is that theology and sociology reinforce one another to produce predictable patterns of worldview, party preference, approach to poverty, approach to racism, etc. — all of which exacerbate racialization of all kinds.

  • Kenny Johnson

    JRS,

    I think we should be surprised. Because why those 2 issues? Evangelicals outside of the United States tend to be more politically liberal, in part, I think, because they tend to focus more on the issues of social justice.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I wish conservative Evangelicals could somehow step outside their narrow perspective on social issues and the Bible. Somehow they can’t believe someone would vote for a politician who is pro-choice but have no problems voting for people who limit funding and resources for these poor families to even exist minimally. When was the last time a pro-life candidate actually did something significant on the abortion issue? Somehow they cannot conceive how other Christians might vote for someone who supports gay marriage and leave it up to the states to decide the issue while they often support candidates who are divorced and had affairs on their wives and believe that person is somehow pro-family. Somehow we can’t believe a Christian would vote Democrat because we support religious freedom while both parties coopt churches for political gain. Somehow we believe the Republican party has been on the side of morality and ethics while the Republican party continues to go down its own moral decline and downward spiral of false accusations, slander, negative smear campaigning and the like. Where was the Republican party on immigration reform or the Dream Act? Where was the Republican party on health care and contraceptives for women? Where are the Republicans in reaching out to the marginalized and minorities like the black and Asian and Hispanic communities? How are Republicans or the church for that matter taking care of the poor, the hurting, widows and orphans, and the stranger? The Republican party is in real trouble and they have done it to themselves. The church also is in real trouble as many are following the politics of the Republican party!

  • http://www.thethousandmarch.com Nathan Willard

    Throughout the world urban voters predominately vote liberal and rural voters vote conservative. This goes beyond U.S. politics and white evangelicals. Therefore, though these statistics seem to show some interesting correlations, the way we vote may actually have very little to do with our religious affiliations, or our race.

  • Ruth Anne shorter

    Why those two issues? Because as a Christ follower, I am not going to vote my pocketbook, but I am going to vote for the value of a man and a woman who are joined in marriage and the sanctity of life. As a christ follower how can you vote for someone who may be in the position to appoint 1 or 2 Supreme Court Justices who will probably appoint someone like the last one or one who agrees with his belief and value system? Are you seriously okay with this? Can you agree that partial birth abortions are just fine? Can you agree that if a baby survives abortion that he or she is allowed to die? If the democratic party is okay with these 2 beliefs, how can I vote for them? JRS is right on. As a woman, I resent the idea that government needs to take care of me. As a child raised in a one parent family when it was not an acceptable in society, I worked and then when I married, my husband sent me to college paying monthly. Do not tell me this can not be done even easier today with all the available help out there. So what did I do with my education? I worked in corrections trying to help offenders get a job, get an apartment, and on their feet. As a result of a discouraging 20 years of these folks absconding, committing new crimes, etc, I finally realized the heart has to change, not hand outs. So I switched to teaching at an at risk school for nine years. Another eye opening career. Free dental clinic twice yearly– but just try to get a parent to sign a form. Two free meals a day and a free clinic in the complex. So only the Savior can change behavior. This has nothing to do with the above values I believe in but just get off your duffs, and work with this population for thirty years, and maybe you will then understand the value of telling, teaching, sharing your life with them in Christ . Then you will nderstand the importance of not voting your pocketbook, but your values. Both parties can have these values, but lately only one does.

  • James Neely

    As a conservative, independent, Christian voter, I am appalled at the words and thoughts that come up anytime the subjects of voting and religion are coupled in a discussion. I think CGC #15, expresses my fundamental problem as well as anyone could when he says, “I wish conservative Evangelicals could step outside their narrow perspective on social issues and the Bible”. When the Christian ceases to let the Bible be his standard of conduct in all areas (including voting) of his life, he has abandoned the only objective standard for making decisions that he has. Yes, some call it “narrow”, but it is as wide as God’s will for us in this life.
    As a conservative person who votes on issues, not on the name of some candidate or party, I resent being labeled as a party follower. I will not support or vote for a party, or candidate, that stands for and promotes the homosexual lifestyles, readily availability of nonprescription drugs of any kind, forcing people like myself to provide birth control pills to unmarried women to support their decant lifestyle and then if she becomes pregnant to provide abortions, and eliminating the name of God from our public documents and statements, etc, etc. If it happens that the Democratic party and its followers take most of these positions, and I vote for the opposition it doesn’t make me a Republican. I would like to vote for a Democratic candidate, if one would ever give me the opportunity to do so, and if it would not strengthen the party with its unacceptable positions behind him. (If you think I have overstated the matter, review the material put out before the election.)
    Incidentally, I think the Republicans would do themselves a favor, and better define their positions, if they would change the name to The Conservative Party, define corresponding positions consistent with their name, and then work on convincing the population that that is in the best interest for all Americans, including the various special interest groups that were catered to by the Democrats in this election. This would be a much more creditable approach to governing than the bribery associated with the “Louisiana Purchase” and “Cornhusker Deal” that the Democrats used to get Obama Care into law.
    I don’t believe deciding on who and what we will vote for is a political matter, it is more important, it is a moral and national survival matter. If you don’t believe so, review the Old Testament’s record of the nation of Israel’s many falls.

  • AHH

    Craig @11 touches on the issue of how the “Evangelical Channel” at Patheos reinforces the unfortunate idea of “evangelical” as a political label. One of the prominent blogs (Nancy French) was basically a Romney campaign site for most of 2012. And a couple of others were almost as overtly political in that same direction, whereas I don’t recall seeing any openly pro-Obama bloggers on the channel (although I don’t claim to have thorough knowledge of the blogs).

    Craig is also onto something about the 20% of white evangelicals who voted for Obama being “closeted” in their churches; in my fairly conservative church it would be risky for anyone (especially a leader) to come out in that way. One church leader a year or so ago confided to me “Don’t let it leave this car, but I voted for Obama” and his hushed tone reflects the social reality of this church (and the scars he bears from attacks after he expressed concern about global warming and concern about justice for Palestinians).

  • Ruth Anne shorter

    Amen to J Neely from my hubby and me. @ahh You need to be part of our church– we would ask you to help us understand your position and then have a good time talking. It is really interesting to dialogue as you may discover they are a Christian by culture, by convenience, by business, by heritage or a nominal Christian. Just because a person is a pastor or member does not mean they follow Christ. I might say I am a brain surgeon but unless I demonstrate by working as a surgeon and actually operating on brains, would you believe me? There are many in our churches for various reasons and thus the importance of pouring our lives into theirs, thus by involvement ( sometimes being messy at times) , but essential. you can not hide your light nor keep it dim so no one sees it. I think this is discipleship and iron sharpens iron. Please get them to share their thoughts and beliefs. That is like living a secret that you can not share with your brothers and sisters in christ– those with whom you worship –a holy God– even more so as the time draws near. i

  • Kenny Johnson

    I think this is what RJS was alluding to, and not sure if my math is right, but it seems that:

    Outside of white Christians and Mormons, Obama won the vote in a landslide. He found overwhelming support from non-white Christians (Black protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews, “Other” Faiths, and the religiously unaffiliated). It’s about 67 to 31 among those who are not White Christians (Protestants, Evangelicals, and Catholics) or Mormons.

  • Kenny Johnson

    Oops,

    The 67 to 31 description is wrong. It’s an average of the following:
    White Non-Evangelical
    Black Prot
    White Catholic
    Hispanic Catholic
    Jewish
    Other Faiths
    Religiously Unaffiliated

    So, basically… excluding White Evangelicals and Mormons.

  • Kenny Johnson

    The speaks volumes about the taking care of the poor and loving your neighbor, but says NOTHING about abortion and Jesus said NOTHING about homosexuality.

    And the Bible certainly doesn’t say to have the government provide for the poor, but neither does it say that it should not recognize gay marriages or seek to prevent abortions.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    The Bible view of justice is much larger than the few hot buttons issues that people vote on or talk about during an election year. I can’t believe that conservative Christian Evangelicals still buy into a system that really does not represent them anymore. How many moderate to liberal Republican Presidential nominees does there have to be before conservatives get that the party has moved or shifted more closer to the other party than they care to admit? Did any conservatives notice for example that Romney was a moderate before the election, became a conservative to get your money and support during the election, and moved to the center (when the media says center, think left) at the end of the election? How can conservative republicans say Bill Clinton took polls and was constantly shifting on his views when Romney in one year did it more than anyone I have ever witnessed in my lifetime of politics. How can conserative republicans complain that African-Americans vote mainly Democrat when they vote mainly Republican. How come pro-life Presidents not only are inconsistent on putting Supreme court judges on that are not pro-life, but even Ronald Reagan, vetoed defunding planned parenthood. In other words, how many conservative Republicans are going to buy the lie that their candidate is pro-life or not for gay marriage when in fact, some of them are playing word games just to capture your votes. There are so many Republicans that used to tolerate conservates, now they show openly their contempt for them. When are conservative Christian Evangelicals going to wake-up and smell the coffee of reality? If conservative Evangelicals want to start a new “conservative party” they can but they are fooling themselves to think that the Republican party is still ‘their party.’

  • Ruth Anne shorter

    You are sad, sad, sad. No one is saying the republican party is conservative but it is 100 per cent closer to being a pro life and pro traditional marriage. You just need to read Romans and the entire bible for that to be clear. We the people are to take care of the needy but the government has moved into that business. So am I to not help, support, and work in my local union mission because the government does this? No, because when the government gets involved, a lot of the money stays up top. Just like the lottery was to help teachers but it did nothing to react the classroom teacher as it stayed up top somewhere. So I spent my salary to supplement my classroom with books, supplies and teaching material. I LOVE this blog as it really helps to see “Christian” views. Excuses, excuses and blinders, I believe, are abundant.

  • RJS

    Kenny,

    President Obama won 50.5% of the popular vote. Govenor Romney won 48% of the popular vote. From the information that evangelicals constituted 21% of those casting ballots and 79% of evangelicals voted for Romney we can calculate what percentage of the 79% of voters who are not evangelicals voted for Obama.

    Obama won 60% of the non-evangelical vote … and this is pretty much a landslide in American politics.

    I think we need to think about how the rhetoric with which positions are held and the way they are attached to the Christian faith affects our witness – especially in the “blue” states.

  • JRS

    RJS #26,

    Are you suggesting that evangelicals should vote to please the people in “blue” states?

  • Craig

    I think we need to think about how the rhetoric with which positions are held and the way they are attached to the Christian faith affects our witness – especially in the “blue” states.

    Yes, RJS, let’s think about this. Let’s think about this in a serious and sustained way. It would be a fantastic topic for a conference, a dissertation, a scholarly or a popular book, or a special issue of Christianity Today. When the average blue-stater gazes upon American evangelicalism she sincerely takes herself to be gazing downward into darkened valleys well below the moral high ground, into regions far beneath moral decency. How can it be that evangelicals have made themselves morally repulsive? Are their excuses plausible? I doubt it. American evangelicals are more plausibly a sort of Old Testament whore. Nonbelievers find them morally repugnant, reacting to the mere mention of “evangelicals” with both visceral and well-reasoned disgust. True believers will claim that this is persecution for their righteousness. It’s more likely the height of self-deception.

  • Christine

    To me, the significant part of this poll is the 9% drop in Jewish voters for the president. There doesn’t seem to be much attention paid to this. Big story, I think.

  • RJS

    JRS (#27),

    No, I am not suggesting that anyone should change their vote.

    I was talking about rhetoric and the way the views are attached to Christian faith.

  • CGC

    Hi RJS and all,
    Some seem to miss what you are saying but this is so important. The rhetoric of many conservative Christians sound like they hate and blame whole segments of society for all of society ills. I watched on CNN just last night a Republican spokes-woman who said that “until Republicans lose the image that they want to deport hispanics, neuter gays, and are against reproductive rights of women, we will continue to lose.”

  • CGC

    PS – And yes, I know you were speaking specifically of baptizing certain political issues as “Christian.” When I listen to how Christians focus primarly on the evils of abortion and homosexuality, why would these people ever darken the doorsteps of our churches? Why would women who are depressed over abortion or young people struggling over the sexual identity ever want to get counseled by people who say they hate the sin and love the sinner but all they “hear” is contempt for the sinner.

  • CGC

    Hi Christine,
    How do you interpret the 9 percent drop in the Jewish vote? And what was the overall percentage of Jewish voters voting for Romney vs. Obama? I suspect the drop had more to do with the economy than anything else. If I remember correctly, there was a much higher Jewish vote for Obama than Romney.

  • Christine

    Hi CGC,

    Yes, a much higher percentage of the Jewish vote went to Obama than Romney, however a nearly 10% drop from a group that has a strong Democratic constituency is very significant. It could be partially economy, but Obama has not been as staunch an ally to Israel as one might hope. His recent refusal (“too busy”) to meet with the Netanyahu when he was in New York in October did not set well with many people. A good friend of mine voted for Romney largely because of Israel, but her vote endorses this 9% drop. Yes, there are conservative and liberal Jewish voters, but anyway one slices it, a near 10% drop for Obama is significant.

  • CGC

    Hi Christine,
    thanks for pointing this out . . . I think the real telling statistics of this election is where millions of voters of each party simply set this election out. Even though Obama won, he had significantly more people who voted for him in 2008 than in 2012.

  • Rob F.

    Craig @ 11, As one of the 20% of evangelicals ( I guess I am evangelical) that voted for Obama, I was not closeted in my local church…people know my leanings, but I imagine I am in the minority. Our congregation is essentially apolitical in terms of teaching/preaching (I am would imagine this places us in a minority of evangelical-like groups). While I was open with my voting preferences, I suspect that some in our leadership that voted for Obama were less than eager to share that publicly.

    With all due respect, for me, the views expressed here by JN@18 and RA@17 represent a dangerous conflation between Christianity and conservative/Republican politics. The “biblical” issues they *choose* to focus on (traditional marriage, abortion) are curious. I will not rehash old arguments here, but as a Christian I cannot see that either party clearly represents “biblical” morality (whatever that means).

  • AHH

    CGC @35,
    The drop in turnout is probably not as much as some have been saying, because in some states there are a lot of votes that still have not been tallied (including 2 or 3 million from California). Best estimate seems to be that there was a modest drop in turnout in non-battleground states, and in the states hit by Sandy. See analysis from Nate Silver:
    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/turnout-steady-in-swing-states-and-down-in-others-but-many-votes-remain-uncounted/

    Silver also notes that the still-outstanding votes will mostly favor Obama, giving him more like a 3% final margin in the popular vote.

  • CGC

    Thanks Ahhh,
    I would think of all the political let downs and even down right distortions that led up to the Presidential election that many Republicans would be doing some real soul searching about a lot of things. Some are but it seems like its representatives who led them astray to begin with are back to rattling the sabers and its back to business as usual. Sigh.

  • Fish

    The real harm is not electoral. The real harm is that evangelicals have tied themselves to the GOP and to many Americans represent organized Christianity. Thus, as goes the GOP, so goes organized Christianity.

    Is maintaining the power of the government to deny two people in love the opportunity to make a lifetime commitment to each other really the hill that Christianity is choosing to die upon? Really? Are there not larger sins to address? Sins that don’t involve governmental denial of the right to happiness? Sins that cost billions of dollars? Sins that kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who happen to have been born in an area of the world that produces oil?

    I know a good number of liberals who oppose abortion. I personally do. They simply think that the best way to reduce abortion is universal health care. I’d submit that our system of tying health care to income is a primary reason we are a world leader in abortion. Certainly far more secular societies are far more pro-life than we are. Until we spend as much time, energy and money caring about children after they are born as we do before, I will continue to see abortion as simply a vehicle for getting votes.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Some people gloated when this election was over and claimed that this presidential election loss was the melt-down of the Republican party. Somebody loses every Presidential election so I thought of it more as a wake-up call for the Republican party rather than a melt-down. But now watching the after-math of the elections by Republicans, I am witnessing a melt-down within the Republican party. Romney is saying crazy things that Govenor Jindal in his party is rightly disputing. McCain and others are trying to block a nomination for someone who may have been given faulty infromation while they supported Condalieze Rice for the same thing. The Republicans have said they are against a tax increase for the rich but they will not even budge that the rich must also receive the Bush tax cuts as well or they won’t play ball with the President. The Republicans are tying to make the Bengazi affair something worse than Watergate and the Republican House of Representatives will probably try to impeach this President during these next four years while the economy and national security is at risk at home and abroad. The American people wanted this year for politicians to work in bi-paritisan ways but it looks to me that many Republican leaders are such sore losers that they will do anything to make this President look bad, even at the expense of the country (and without seeing it, the dismantling and tearing down of their own party). I pray God will wake-up all our politicians or our country is is big trouble.

  • James Neely

    To: Rob F; #36. I appreciate your response to my comment at #18, although I apparently failed to make my comments clear enough. You mentioned in your response that we should not focus just on marriage and abortion; in my note I mentioned several spiritually important issues beyond those two, and could provide a much longer list.
    As to political party alignment, I will try to explain myself better.
    1. I am a Christian who, as best I can, gets my standards of belief and conduct from the Bible.
    2. I support and vote for those individuals whose statement of beliefs most closely align with what I believe the Bible teaches, irrespective of political party.
    3. I find the party affiliation of those candidates to usually be with the Republican Party.
    4. Putting it more succinctly, I am a Christian who usually votes for candidates who happen to be in the Republican Party, not a Republican who happens to be a Christian.
    I hope this better clarifies my point.
    Jim Neely


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