Columns Government & Politics Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Politics

Moore lost enough white evangelicals to lose

In this Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, file photo, former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a rally, in Fairhope, Ala. According to a Washington Post story Nov. 9, an Alabama woman said Moore made inappropriate advances and had sexual contact with her when she was 14. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Last week this column took note of a decline in President Trump’s job approval among his white evangelical base since February, from 78 percent to 61 percent. In the wake of Roy Moore’s stunning loss in yesterday’s senatorial election in Alabama, it’s worth noting a similar decline in white evangelical support for the Republican candidate.

In 2012, the last election for which we have an Alabama exit poll, 47 percent of the voters identified as white evangelicals and 90 percent of them cast their ballots for Mitt Romney. Yesterday, according to preliminary exit polls , they constituted 44 percent of the Alabama electorate, and 80 percent of them voted for Moore.

In other words, white evangelicals were less motivated to go to the polls than other voters (black and white), and those that did were less likely to vote GOP than in 2012. My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that had they turned out and voted the way they did then, Moore would have won by 2-3 percentage points instead of losing by 1.5.

Significantly, Alabamians who went to the polls yesterday were equally divided on Trump’s performance as president, with 48 percent approving and 48 disapproving of the job he’s doing. In a state he carried by 28 points (62 percent to 34 percent), that’s pretty poor.

By tweet, robocall, and an appearance across the border in the Florida Panhandle, Trump evidently believed that his own popularity in Alabama, especially with white evangelicals, would push Moore over the top. Enough of them were sufficiently disillusioned with both to hand the election to Doug Jones.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • Republicans could have fielded literally any name from a phone book besides Roy Moore and won the election with a double digit lead. They chose to back the one candidate capable of delivering a Democrat Senator to Alabama.

  • Maybe true. But the important thing is that they woke a sleeping tiger. If African Americans and young people bother to turn out and vote, we could see a different landscape in 2018.

  • No we won’t, we’ll see the same Neo-liberal landscape we’d seen for generations. I’m all about change, but you’re selling a false hope you know corporatists could never fulfil.

    That landscape would do nothing for working class African Americans. The only people well served would be investment bankers and the military industrial complex. The entire system is an Oligarchy, the public has zero impact on policy, and its been proven by the university studies.

    Those young people would have to be younger and younger, because after each election you win, you betray another generation.

  • What do you get with that sort of comment — a chance to feel smarter? Of course I know we aren’t going to get utopia next year. You use lots of big words there — but to what end? What would you like to see happen? Everybody vote your way in 2018? (Not gonna happen.) Or everybody give up?

  • The same numbers don’t support your point very well. For instance, yes, the proportion of votes who are evangelical dropped from 47 to 44% – but that shows that practically all evangelicals (44/47= 94%) still came out. As for the other small drop 90 to 80% – are you actually surprised that in Alabama, the evangelicals voted against an Africa American (2012) at slightly higher rates than they voted against a white male? Come on. The bottom line is that evangelical turnout was only slightly down, and that those evangelicals voted overwelmingly (80%!) for a pedophile. This is not a surprise since this type of pedophilia – marrying teen girls – is practically the norm in many evangelical communities. The evangelicals showed, with flying colors, that they are completely morally bankrupt.

  • Moore has not conceded as of this writing, but instead is embarking on a crusade to bring back slavery (go back to the pre-civil war days when families were happy), promote anti-Semitism (public officials can only be sworn in on a Christian Bible), and devalue women (get rid of the pesky Amendment which allows females to vote), all in the name of Scripture. This is no longer a winning formula, but what’s shocking is that he didn’t lose by much.

  • You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men……..Matthew 5:13

    Trampled under foot by men! But who are these men who will do the trampling? What are they like?

    They’re mature minded folk from all over who understand what hate is. They easily recognize the power of comments and verse like —

    ‘In everything’, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for ‘this fulfills’ the law and the prophets………Matthew 7:12

    I think that explains in a simple and a spiritual way why Moore and others similarly minded eventually lose.