Results! Evangelicals

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As readers of this blog know, I’ve been pushing the hypothesis that evangelicals in the Midwest were going to be shifting to Obama in ways that their co-religionists in other parts of the country, especially the South, were not. And lo and behold, yesterday’s vote (see this great interactive map) more or less bears that out. Across the Midwest, where evangelicals tended to vote 3-1 for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004, they tended to vote only 2-1 for John McCain over Barack Obama yesterday. Meanwhile, in the South and what we call the Southern Crossroads, whereas in 2004 evangelicals voted 3-1 or better for Bush over Kerry, in most states they actually voted by greater margins for McCain over Obama.
Let’s compare Indiana and Oklahoma. Hoosier evangelicals favored Bush by 77-22 but McCain by only 66-41. Oklahomans, by contrast, voted 77-23 for Bush and 77-22 for McCain. Midwest pickups for Obama included 11 points in Ohio, 13 in Michigan, 11 in Iowa, 11 in South Dakota, and 19 in Nebraska. But he lost one point in Alabama, five in Mississippi, three in Kentucky, five in Tennessee, eight in Louisiana, and five in Arkansas. There were some exceptions. In Missouri, which we include in the Southern Crossroads (but which has real Midwestern features), there was a 14-point shift to Obama. And in Kansas, which we include in the Midwest (but which has real Southern Crossroads features), there was a 2-point shift to McCain. Meanwhile, out West, there were significant shifts by evangelicals toward Obama in Oregon (15), Colorado (20), and Idaho (12). In the latter two states, however, the shift didn’t even manage to bring the vote down to 3-1 levels.)
I haven’t tried to do all the calculations, but one thing is clear. In Indiana’s astonishing flip to blue, fully half the 21-point shift came from the evangelicals. The larger question has to do with explaining the overall bifurcation. The most likely explanation for what happened in the South and Southern Crossroads is the persistence of racial prejudice in those regions. It’s also the case that this is where evangelicals are most heavily organized and mobilized as Republican partisans. But in the Midwest, there is Obama’s identity as a Midwesterner, and the common Midwestern religious sensibility that he appealed to, to take into account. Not to belabor the point, but Obama’s communitarian outlook is very much the Midwestern way–a point Andrew Walsh and I make in our new book, One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics. The book postulates that, led by the likes of Obama, we may be now be trading the Crossroads ethos of Bush and Company for a Midwestern one. As the book’s last line reads: “If there is to be a new style of religious pluralism in America, there is something to be said for having it emerge from the Midwest.”
Update: Does Ralph Reed not know that Obama-voting evangelicals made a crucial difference in Indiana or is he blowing smoke?

  • Chuck Ness

    While I do not have any hard facts to back up my claim, let me say that I believe the evangelical vote in the Midwest was skewed by the black evangelical vote that went overwhelmingly for the “Anointed One”.
    In the Midwest there are not as many evangelicals as you would think. There is actually a larger number of Catholic and Lutherans, who are predominantly white and not usually lumped into the evangelical pool. Also, if I remember right, there is numbers that point out how McCain won huge among the Catholic vote, and I would believe he kicked butt amongst the Lutherans also.
    In the South and in the West the white evangelicals out number the black evangelicals by a very large amount. So it only makes sense that you will get a large portion of Midwestern evangelicals going for Obama, whereas the South and West evangelicals went big for McCain.
    If you want to make a point, you can do it very easily when you omit information that does not help. This article omits key factors in its desire to say evangelicals voted for the “Anointed one”. However as I pointed out the facts do not point beyond the the truth that again it is Black evangelicals who went for the communist.

  • Mark Silk

    I’m afraid not. The evangelicals in question are white evangelicals–the exit polls screen for race. There is, however, a different argument that you might use. It’s that the Midwestern states have significantly high numbers of Mainline Protestants than the Southern states. And, as I point out below, we now know that nearly 40 percent of mainliners answer yes to being born-again or evangelical Christians. So it could be that the differential has to do with large numbers of mainliners voting for Obama, rather than “true” evangelicals. So you might want to hang your hat on that, Chuck.

  • Let me begin by pointing out to Chuck that he needs to review the meaning of “communism” before he applies it to someone who does not, in fact, fit the description.
    I appreciate the information that Mark has shared in this post about evangelical voters. As a liberal Kansan who recently lived in the south, I agree with his assessment that white Midwestern evangelicals are shaped by a “communitarian outlook” that is prevalent in the midwest. The climate and landscape of the Midwest has historically required a strongly cooperative lifestyle for those who settled there. This fed into the populist movements of the 19th century–started and largely carried by white evangelicals.

  • can you tell me the percentage of black evangelicals who voted for obama????

  • Mark Silk

    The strict answer is no, I can’t. The number is obtainable, however, by cross-tabulating those who tell exit-pollsters that they consider themselves born-again or evangelical with those who identify as African Americans. Nobody, so far as I know, has done (or at least released) such a cross-tab. However, most African-Americans are Protestants, and most of them are likely to consider themselves born-again or evangelical. So the answer to your question is, almost certainly, upwards of 90 percent, and probably at the 95 percent level that blacks as a whole voted for Obama.