2012 Election Analysis

November 7, 2012, 12:04 pm | Posted by

Analysis of religious voters in last night’s elections presents a complex picture of the role of faith in politics in 2012. Below are key findings from national exit polls and exit polls in key states, followed by religious context affecting the election.

Catholic voters

President Obama won the Catholic vote by a 2-point margin,  50%-48%. This victory lags behind his 54%-45% advantage among Catholics in 2008 but precisely mirrors the president’s overall 2012 margin of victory. Mitt Romney won white Catholics by a 19-point margin, 59%-40%, an improvement on John McCain’s 52%-47% advantage in 2008. Those who attend religious services weekly or more often favored Romney by a 15-point margin, 57%-42%. Those who attend less often favored President Obama 56%-42%, nearly identical to his 57%-42% advantage among these voters in 2008. Twenty-five percent of 2012 voters were Catholics, and 27% of voters in 2008 were Catholics. Catholics have sided with the winner of the popular vote in every presidential election since 1972.

White evangelicals

Nationwide, white evangelical voters favored Romney by a 57-point margin, 78%-21%, a 4-point improvement upon John McCain’s 74%-24% advantage in 2008. However, this change mirrors President Obama’s decreased support among white voters overall.

White evangelical voters comprised 26% of the electorate this year, an identical share to 2008 despite a massive, well-publicized effort by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition to turn out conservative evangelicals in record numbers.

Swing states

OHIO — In the most heavily contested state, President Obama improved upon his 2008 performance among white evangelicals. In 2008, white evangelicals favored John McCain by a 71%-27% margin. Last night they favored Romney by a smaller margin, 70%-29%. These results are particularly noteworthy because Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition focused heavily on Ohio. Reed did not deliver the results he predicted in the most crucial state for Republicans. Thirty-one percent of Ohio voters this year were white evangelicals, as compared with 30% in 2008. In 2008, the President lost Ohio Catholics, 52%-47%. This year, he lost them by a 54%-44% margin.

COLORADO — Colorado white evangelicals’ candidate preferences (77% for Romney, 22% for President Obama) aligned closely with white evangelicals nationwide, a small change from McCain’s 76%-23% advantage and less of a swing than the white vote overall. White evangelicals made up 25 percent of the state’s electorate in 2012, compared to 21 percent in 2008.

VIRGINIA — White evangelicals favored Mitt Romney over President Obama by a margin of 82% to 18%, compared to John McCain’ 79%-20% advantage in 2008. White evangelicals comprised a declining share of the state’s electorate, decreasing from 28% in 2008 to 23% in 2012.

Social issues

Last night three states passed ballot initiatives in favor of same-sex marriage, and a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage was defeated in Minnesota. Religious crosstabs are not yet available. Support for same-sex marriage has increased among every religious demographic in recent years, but before last night opponents had won all 32 state-level ballot question on the issue. Supporters of marriage for same-sex couples conducted extensive outreach and messaging to the faith community, and religious opponents also invested heavily into these campaigns.

Ballot initiatives

In Florida and California, faith-based community organizing groups mounted victorious campaigns against anti-tax ballot initiatives. PICO National network affiliates helped advance sound fiscal policies that reject austerity and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. In Florida, voters resoundingly rejected by a 58% to 42% margin Question 3, a constitutional amendment that would have decimated public education and social services in the state. And in California by a 54% to 46% margin, voters approved Prop 30, which will raise an estimated $6 billion in revenue for schools and social services in the state through a tax increase on people earning over $250,000 and a small temporary increase in the sales tax. The clergy and congregations of PICO organizations played key roles in these fights, contacting over 1.6 million voters.

Context

With unemployment hovering near 8%, the political environment was much more challenging for President Obama than in 2008. While his share of key religious demographics declined, his overall margin of victory was also smaller. He also faced highly organized conservative religious opposition.

The battle for the Catholic vote was particularly fierce, and the slim margin of victory Obama achieved with Catholics reflect that sharp division. “A diverse coalition of social justice Catholics, especially Latinos, helped tip the scales this year,” said John Gehring, Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life. “While bishops doubled down against same sex marriage and demonized President Obama as an enemy of religious liberty, they were clearly out of touch with many Catholics. If the GOP has some reflecting to do about its inability to reach an increasingly multicultural country, Catholic leaders could benefit from similar soul searching when it comes to their own diverse flock.”

U.S. Catholic bishops mounted a highly politicized confrontation with the Obama administration over contraception coverage and religious liberty. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched a nationwide, two-week “religious freedom” campaign over the summer that made national headlines as part of their fight against the Obama administration’s contraception coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. In Kansas, the state’s Catholic bishops sponsored a rally at the state capitol that featured Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Shortly before the election, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL, and Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL, issued statements implying that voting for Democrats put Catholics’ salvation at risk.

However, other Catholic leaders declined to take part in the bishops’ offensive and mobilized around economic issues. Catholic nuns responded strongly to Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s erroneous claim that his federal budget plan — which includes steep cuts to programs for the poor such as Medicaid and food stamps, as well as tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — was consistent with Catholic social teaching.

NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice group led by Sister Simone Campbell, organized “Nuns on the Bus”, a nine-state tour through Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states highlighting the work of Catholic-sponsored social service agencies that serve those on the economic margins and stand to be harmed by Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal.

With tremendous grassroots support and media attention across America (and additional tours in the following months through Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, New York and Michigan), “Nuns on the Bus” successfully reaffirmed the unique contribution of women religious to America’s social fabric and refocused the public debate on the critical moral choices facing voters in November’s presidential election and beyond. These efforts highlighted the religious aspect of the economic and fiscal debates that dominated the Presidential campaigns.

On the Religious Right, Ralph Reed boasted that his Faith and Freedom Coalition would register and turn out record numbers of socially conservative Christians on election, turning the tide for Mitt Romney. While his efforts received copious media attention, evidence of results are lacking. White evangelicals’ share of the electorate was identical to 2008, and their movement toward Romney mirrored that of white voters as a whole.

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Deal Hudson and Paul Ryan vs. The U.S. Catholic Bishops

August 14, 2012, 2:09 pm | Posted by

Analyzing the Catholic dimensions of the 2012 Presidential race now that Paul Ryan has joined the Republican ticket, Catholic conservative Deal Hudson attempts to minimize the critique of Ryan’s budget plan levied by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Hudson decries that media who covered the critical letters from the USCCB failed to note that they came from only two bishops, suggesting that their concerns only represent some bishops, not all.

That’s the same defense Ryan employed when questioned about the bishops’ rebuke earlier this year. Unfortunately for both Ryan and Hudson, the conference definitively shot down their excuse.

Responding to reporters who inquired about Ryan’s apparent discrepancy in understanding, the USCCB said:

“Bishops who chair USCCB committees are elected by their fellow bishops to represent all of the U.S. bishops on key issues at the national level. The letters on the budget were written by bishops serving in this capacity.”

While there might be individual bishops who disagree with these committees’ criticisms of the Ryan budget, they (and Hudson and Ryan) do so as dissenters from the official position of the U.S. Catholic Church.

Photo from the National Catholic Reporter

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Advice on Evangelical Outreach

May 10, 2012, 11:02 am | Posted by

In the New York Times this week, Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann theorizes how different faith experiences affect how evangelicals conceive of politics and offers some advice to progressives looking to connect with to these religious voters:

When secular liberals vote, they think about the outcome of a political choice. They think about consequences. Secular liberals want to create the social conditions that allow everyday people, behaving the way ordinary people behave, to have fewer bad outcomes.

When evangelicals vote, they think more immediately about what kind of person they are trying to become — what humans could and should be, rather than who they are. From this perspective, the problem with government is that it steps in when people fall short. Rick Santorum won praise by saying (as he did during the Values Voters Summit in 2010), “Go into the neighborhoods in America where there is a lack of virtue and what will you find? Two things. You will find no families, no mothers and fathers living together in marriage. And you will find government everywhere: police, social service agencies. Why? Because without faith, family and virtue, government takes over.” This perspective emphasizes developing individual virtue from within — not changing social conditions from without.

If Democrats want to reach more evangelical voters, they should use a political language that evangelicals can hear. They should talk about the kind of people we are aiming to be and about the transformational journey that any choice will take us on. They should talk about how we can grow in compassion and care. They could talk about the way their policy interventions will allow those who receive them to become better people and how those of us who support them will better ourselves as we reach out in love. They could describe health care reform as a response to suffering, not as a solution to an economic problem.

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Ohio Faith Leaders to State Legislature: Protect Fair Election Laws

May 10, 2012, 10:52 am | Posted by

On Tuesday, the Ohio House of Representatives voted to repeal controversial voting restriction laws that were “supposed to go before voters on Nov. 6 — the first known case in Ohio history in which legislators repealed a bill up for referendum.”

While any opportunity to reinstate voting rights should come a welcome development, the repeal left in place rules that end in-person voting the weekend before Election Day and prevents Ohioans from acting on their referendum rights.

We Believe Ohio—a group of faith leaders in the Buckeye State—are standing up against these Republican-passed limits to early voting.

A member of the group, Rev. Timothy Ahrens of the First Congregational Church in Columbus, said people of faith have moral obligation to defend voting rights

 There seems to be a crisis in this state when lawmakers need to play games and pull tricks instead of restoring the opportunity for voting for all Ohioans. It’s a moral issue that we have as a sacred trust in this American democracy an opportunity and a chance to vote. There is a need for early voting and the question before us today is: is early voting going to be Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day? [Editors’ Note: More than 93,000 Ohioans voted during that three-day period in 2008]

As numerous state legislatures work to restrict the voting rights of historically disenfranchised groups of people, people of faith and voters around the country will need to keep standing up for every individual’s right to vote and reject discrimination at the polls.

Christopher Hale contributed to this post.

Photo Credit: Kristin_a. Flickr

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Millennials: Economic Justice Must Buttress Budgetary Decisions

April 20, 2012, 4:18 pm | Posted by

Amid the intense debate about the Paul Ryan budget and competing visions for the future, the future has finally gotten the chance to speak.

In a millennial values survey conducted by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center and the Public Religion Research Institute, the data is clear: young people are frustrated with economic policies that promote injustice.

Nearly three-quarters of Millennials (73%) think the economic system in the United States favors the wealthy. This belief is consistent across all divides of race, gender, educational attainment or religious affiliation. Even 6-in-10 Milllennial Republicans (58%) agree with this sentiment.

Equal opportunity is also of great concern to Milllennials. More than 6-in-10 think that one of the major issues in the United States is that we don’t give all the same opportunity in life.

As all eyes turn to the race for the White House this election year, pundits will be obsessed with the latest poll numbers, NASCAR dads and soccer moms. But perhaps they will pay a bit more attention to the concerns affecting young people, namely fair economic opportunity for all.

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