By William Wan
In the big day after, experts across Washington – including many in the religious world — are trying to figure out exactly what happened in last night’s election. To help make a little sense of it all, the polling gurus at Washington Post have a few interesting tidbits to share from their Religion tabs – national.xls. A more detailed version Religion tabs – v2.xls.
Some numbers and trends that jump out most:
* Catholic voters broke 53 to 45 percent for the GOP, a reversal from 2008, when they supported the Democrats by a 55 to 42 percent margin.
* White Catholics in particular supported the GOP 58 percent to 40 percent; two years ago, they backed the GOP by a narrower 52 to 46 percent margin.
*Republicans also gained the support of 59 percent of Protestants, up six points from 2008 and five points from 2006.
* Republicans also gain more support from white evangelical Protestants. Seventy-seven percent backed the GOP, up from 70 percent in 2008 and 2006. (White born-agains have tended to be more GOP in presidential elections.)
Also of note, is that while pollsters, sociologists and others have been predicting that Democrats are making inroads with white evangelicals (specifically young ones), the data, at least from Tuesday, doesn’t seem to show that borne out in the voting.
While we and others continue to pore over the data, many are already boasting, venting angst and debating over what it all means.
On his blog on Christian Broadcast Network, David Brody has numbers from the conservative religious group Faith and Freedom Coalition that claim “52% of all people who identified themselves as part of the Tea Party movement are also conservative Evangelicals.” Brody argues that while much of the conservative/tea party wave in this year’s election centered around fiscal issues, that could translate in the end into power for social conservative on issues like abortion and gay marriage with the new rise of the GOP. He dubs the imagines the combination of fiscal and social conservatives as the “teavangelicals.”
Meanwhile, separation of church and state folks who fear that very thing happening are already girding up to fight the rise of conservatives. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has already issued a press release outlining their take:
“Voters sent a strong message that they want Congress to focus on fixing the economy,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “but the election results may inflict collateral damage on the Constitution. I think the Religious Right will seize this opportunity to advance its agenda in Congress.”
Fellow Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein took a good look a few weeks ago at this exact question over a connection between tea party and the religious right, examining numbers then that showed about half of those considering themselves part of the tea party also identified as part of the religious right – a “complex – and sometimes contradictory – blend of bedfellows in the American conservative movement.”
For those scouring for more reaction and analysis on the election, a few interesting takes so far below:
Burns Strider, who was Hillary Clinton’s faith advisor and now heads up a progressive faith consulting group, says the faithful among Democrats need to do a better job sharing their testimony.
A partner in Strider’s consultant firm Eric Sapp also posted on HuffPo, saying the Democrats reaped what they sowed among religious voters…meaning they simply didn’t sow enough and largely ignored faith voters in recent years.
In this post from that same group that Brody quotes, the Faith and Freedom Coalition argue that this was the largest ever turnout of evangelical and social conservatives, and as the coalition’s founder Ralph Reed, pits it: “This survey, along with numerous exit polls, makes clear that those who ignore or disregard social conservative voters and their issues do so at their own peril.”
UPDATE: A few more reactions and analyses…
* Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life with some dense numbers and analysis. According to Pew:
“White Protestants voted overwhelmingly Republican while religiously unaffiliated voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Democrats. But Catholic voters, who had favored Democratic over Republican candidates by double-digit margins in the last two congressional elections, swung to the GOP in 2010. And within all three of these major religious groups, support for the Republican Party rose this year compared with 2006, matching or exceeding their levels of support for the GOP in any recent election. Republican gains among religious groups parallel the party’s broad-based gains among the overall electorate and white voters in particular.”
* Analysis (as well as spin) from progressive group Faith in Public Life
What do you think about the election’s results and the implications for religion and politics? Are the GOP’s victories a sign of things to come?
More On Faith and politics:
Catholic America: The disappearing abortion issue
Muqtedar Khan: Sharia Law banned in Oklahoma
Jordan Sekulow: We’re back: Christian conservatives swarm Congress
Albert Mohler: New political equation for religious right