Religion and the midterm election vote

Print More
Ballot Box


Ballot Box

Ballot Box

Ballot Box

What do we know about how the vote by religion is shaping up for the midterm elections two weeks from now? Unfortunately, not very much. In contrast to the midterms four years ago — and especially eight years ago — those conducting state surveys aren’t asking respondents to give their religious affiliations (or lack thereof). Religion, largely out of the news in election campaigns, has dropped off pollster radar screens as a factor to take into account.

As a result, we’re left with national surveys by the folks at Pew and PRRI. These indicate party preferences and positions on the issues and, perhaps most importantly, changing demographics. Here’s the basic picture compared to 2010.

The core Republican constituency of white evangelicals has become even more Republican (now 72-20). White Catholics have become a little more Republican (53-39) and Hispanic Catholics a little less Democratic (67-26). Mainline Protestants are virtually unchanged at 49-41 Republican; Jews somewhat more Democratic at 70-26; Black Protestants a little less Democratic at 84-10; and the Unaffiliated (Nones) modestly more Democratic at 63-27.

Overall, these changes cancel each other out, so national party preference remains stable at 48 percent Democratic and 43 percent Republican. The real question is which party can get its folks to the polls in the states that matter — which is in significant measure a function of how many of its folks there are to get out.

In that regard, PRRI has some interesting data on the decline of white evangelicals and the rise of the Nones in the five Southern states where close U.S. Senate contests are taking place: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina. This reflects long-term shifts in the ethnic and religious composition of the South. In the words of PRRI president Robert Jones, 2014 “may be the year that the underlying demographic trends finally exert enough force to make themselves felt.”

I’m a little dubious. After all, in Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina it’s a Democratic incumbent who’s in trouble. Nevertheless, there’s no question that the long-term trends are telling the GOP that it can no longer rely on white evangelicals to pull them through in an increasingly contested South.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Republican operatives orchestrated their take-over of the South by shifting strategy from racial politics to the politics of culture war. Since the Tea Party four years ago, they’ve begun shifting the emphasis from culture war to the size and function of government — you might even say, from culture war to class war. So far, it’s worked pretty well.

  • Jack

    The most important fact to know about midterm elections is that the party that doesn’t occupy the White House nearly always wins lots of seats.

    This trend has been observed for at least a century.

    The reason is that it’s the out-of-power party’s base that is most motivated to vote in midterms.

    Thus we can expect that the Republicans will pick up a number of seats….the only question is how many.

  • philip

    Your question, “What is the pulse of the religious voter and why is there no news regarding it?” One first has to understand that polls are driven by politics, and politics is driven by power. Power is driven by money.
    Like any sporting event, unless you understand the rules of the game, and what roles each player plays, you will be left feebly cheering for something you know nothing about; as in “they’re my team.”
    This election seeks to hide the failures and the underground delivery of federal money to religious organizations as a “bag person” for socialist business, which is driven by political power, population manipulation, and, above all, the profit goal of Big Business in conjunction with Big Church. The media does not like to show the inconsistencies of Church and State when it comes to back-scratching.
    PS The parishoners of religious faith are better left in the dark as to what goes on behind the scenes in God’s name.