As the Year Fades- Religion and the 2012 Election

CNN posted an article it calls, Our Take: Biggest moves in religion and politics in 2012.  As a left-winger and severe agnostic, I found the ‘trends’ encouraging.  Here is the article:

1) The Mormon question is finally laid to rest

We, too, thought the speculation would never end, but the “Mormon question” was essentially answered by May, when white evangelicals fell in line behind Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee. This answer was confirmed at the ballot box in November, when white evangelical Protestants, who made up nearly one-quarter (23%) of all voters in 2012, turned out at a rate comparable to 2004 and supported Romney (79%) over Obama (20%) by nearly 60 points.

The bottom line: partisanship and antipathy toward Obama ultimately trumped theological concerns about the Mormon faith among white evangelical Protestants.


2) The end of a white Christian majority

Obama’s decisive victory in 2012 was largely the result of his strong support among the growing number of non-Christian, nonwhite Christian, and religiously unaffiliated voters. While white Christians made up the vast majority (81%) of Romney’s vote, they comprised only 39% of Obama’s coalition. Over the past few decades, Democratic presidential candidates have relied less and less on white Christian voters (e.g., white Christians were 60% of Bill Clinton’s 1992 coalition), while Republican presidential voting coalitions have continued to rely on coalitions that are approximately 8-in-10 white Christian.

The bottom line: In presidential election years, there simply are no longer enough white Christian votes to overcome deficits among other demographics for Republican presidential candidates.

3) The religiously unaffiliated are not all ‘nones’

Americans who identify with no particular religion now represent nearly 1 in 5 (19%) Americans, but they are not all “nones” or nonbelievers. Although more than one-third (36%) of the religiously unaffiliated are atheist or agnostic, roughly 4-in-10 (39%) of the unaffiliated identify as secular, and nearly one-quarter (23%) belong to a newly identified category of “unattached believers.”

These groups differ significantly not only in their level of religious commitment and belief – most secular Americans believe in some type of God and unattached believers overwhelmingly believe in a personal God and pray with some regularity – but in who they are.

Unattached believers are more likely to be Hispanic and African-American, while the vast majority of seculars and atheists and agnostics are white. As a whole, however, religiously unaffiliated voters are fairly unengaged, politically. They strongly supported Obama (70%) over Romney (26%) in 2012, but despite representing nearly 1 in 5 Americans, they made up only 12% of voters in 2012.

The bottom line: The growth of the religiously unaffiliated is changing the American religious landscape, but it has only partially been felt at the ballot box due to lower turnout rates.

4) Jewish voters unswayed by rhetoric on Israel

Despite strenuous efforts by Republican leaders and strategists to convince Jewish voters to abandon Obama because of his record on Israel, only 4% of Jewish voters reported that Israel was the single most important factor in their vote this year.

A majority of Jewish voters reported that the economy was the most important issue in determining how they would vote. The proof was in the pudding on Election Day: Obama won 69% of the Jewish vote, a result that was lower than his support among Jewish Americans in 2008 (78%), but only slightly lower than John Kerry’s level of support in 2004 (74%).

The bottom line: GOP leaders will have to expand their outreach strategy beyond the topic of Israel to reach into the American Jewish community; this will present a challenge on the domestic policy front, since American Jews strongly favor economic justice and are among the strongest supporters of rights for women, immigrants, and gay and lesbian Americans.

5) Failure to launch: Contraception mandate as religious liberty violation

Bishops sought to raise Catholics’ ire against the “contraception mandate,” a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires religiously affiliated organizations to provide no-cost birth control to their employees through health insurance plans. Yet, throughout the year, most Americans (55%) and a majority of Catholics (52%) agreed that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to comply with this requirement.

White Catholics were more divided, but white evangelical Protestants are notably the only religious group that remains staunchly opposed (66%) to the mandate.

The bottom line: Rank and file Catholics strongly support the principles of religious liberty, but most do not have moral objections to contraception and failed to see the religious liberty threat in the ACA.


6) Shattering the myth of the “Catholic vote”

While it’s a much-repeated fact that the winner of the Catholic vote has won the popular vote in every presidential election since 1972 (Obama led Romney 50% to 48% in 2012), this fact hides the presence of at least two Catholic votes. Three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics voted for Obama, while nearly 6 in 10 white Catholics supported Romney.

The bottom line: While Catholics maintained their bellwether status again this year, the shrinking number of white Catholics coupled with the rapid growth of Latino Catholics promise to tip the scales toward Democrats in the future, if current voting patterns continue. Look for delicate negotiations as the laity drifts left while the bishops tack right.

7) Millennials not their parents’ ‘values voters’

Upending many likely voter models in pre-election polls, this 75 million-person cohort flexed its political muscle once again this year. On Election Day, millennial voters under the age of 30 outnumbered seniors (19% vs. 16% of all voters), and strongly supported state ballot initiatives on marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage. Fully 6 in 10 lined up behind Obama. Pre-election polls found that more than two-thirds (68%) of millennials nationwide favor same-sex marriage, and 6 in 10 (59%) favor legalizing marijuana.

The bottom line: Using traditional models, most polling firms underestimated millennial turnout; this generation is sending analysts back to the drawing board to understand both their style of political engagement and a new generation of “values voters.”

8) The sea change on same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage advocates went from a 13-0 losing record on state ballot measures in 2004 to 4-0 winning record in 2012. Before a single vote was cast, it was already clear the landscape on the issue of same-sex marriage had shifted considerably over the past decade. Most notably, Obama’s support for same-sex marriage before the election was not a prominent theme in negative campaign ads. Three states (Washington, Maryland and Maine) legalized same-sex marriage through popular referendums, and a ban against same-sex marriage was defeated in Minnesota, marking the first time this issue has ever triumphed by popular vote at the polls.

The bottom line: Look for this issue to fade at the national level as a campaign wedge issue. The polling shows that it’s not just America’s youngest voters who favor same-sex marriage – a majority (51%) of Americans age 30-49 now support allowing gay and lesbian people to marry.

9) The perils of staking out extreme views on abortion

Republican Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin seemed not to realize just how far outside the mainstream their comments about rape and abortion were, even among their base.

While 69% of white evangelical Protestants say abortion is morally wrong, two-thirds (66%) nonetheless believe that women should be able to obtain a legal abortion in cases of rape.

The bottom line: While the issue of abortion continues to divide Americans, political leaders on both the left and the right would do well to remember that Americans hold complex views on this issue, that they distinguish between moral disapproval and legal prohibition, and that few on either side are absolutists.

10) Americans support Second Amendment, but also strict enforcement

Earlier this year, just after the mass shootings in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, wediscovered that although more than two-thirds (68%) of Americans perceive the right to bear arms to be as important as other constitutional rights, majorities also want both stricter gun laws (52%) and stricter enforcement of existing gun laws (67%).

Furthermore, roughly three-quarters of Americans believe that concealed weapons should not be permitted in churches, on college campuses, or in government buildings. While support for stricter gun control laws has generally waned since the 1990s, there is early evidence that in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, support for stricter gun control laws is now in solid majority territory and at a 10-year high.

The bottom line: Still to be seen. The Columbine High School shootings resulted in an increase in support for stricter gun control laws for about a year before support began to flag and continue its downward trend.

Finally, the 2013 religion and politics forecast:

Look for religious groups and themes to appear in debates over immigration reform, economic policy as the “fiscal cliff” fight spills over into 2013, implementation of the ACA, and LGBT rights as the Supreme Court hears challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.


8 thoughts on “As the Year Fades- Religion and the 2012 Election

  1. Well so much for the Obama campaign rhetoric of repealing the Bush Tax
    Cuts. Instead of the $250,000 threshhold that Obama promised, he has
    now made permanent lower taxes to the $400-450, 000 income group,
    not considered middleclass. Moreover, he caved on the Estate Tax. The end result is that Obama has given the GOP two victories on taxation right
    out of the box. And, how does he justify it, simply by saying that the best
    interests of the country demanded it. What happened to “elections have
    consequences”? Moreover, he even caved on extending the debt ceiling
    for another year, which opens the door for the GOP to again within two months renew the demand for entitlement cuts. What a way to start the new year for Progressives, eh?

  2. Compromise my ass, lol! The overall situation, group, is bleak. We can’t repair the economic and social fabric of the country by compromises that
    keeps going Right-of-Center, don’t you see? I’m no damn ideologue, but
    the line in the sand needs to be drawn at some times. Please go see
    Lincoln”, if you have not already. Lincoln was told to compromise on the
    13th amendment because he would need the votes to deal with reconstruction after the War. Jefferson Davis had sent negotiators up to
    work out the surrender terms. His advisers met with Lincoln and said end the War now, but he refused. Instead, he wired Grant to delay their journey
    to Washington, until the vote on the 13th Amendment was taken. Sure, he
    could have compromised and ended the war, but the freeing of the slaves
    would have been lost. They would have been sacrificed for expediency.
    So are we to sacrifice the 98% for a simple idea of compromise? In the last 30 years, president after president and congress after congress have done
    that with the 99%. Our debt, my friends, exceeds are total GNP. And, today the CBO estimates that the “compromise” will add $4 TRILLION to the
    debt over 9 years! Tell me, what I am missing in this “compromise.”

  3. Very good post because you addressed the major ideological issues the Republicans are trying to somehow grasp a last breath of air out of . Interestingly enough, I just spent a few days with a couple from New York I have known for years as our house guests. They both come from fairly affluent Jewish families. A few years ago, I could not speak to a lot of my closest Jewish friends of Palestinian Independence, Israel and the complicated issues involved without stepping on toes and creating an uncomfortable situation. The tide has truly turned…they were the ones who brought it up again and again and were militantly anti Netanyahu and very pro Palestinian! They are not the only ones.
    UTF, I really feel it is not relevant and totally unrealistic to try to draw a historical comparison between Lincoln and Barack Obama and the present circumstances we have to deal with in trying to keep this dysfunctional, outdated, totally hacked operating system we refer to as the Holy Relic, the Sacred Shroud so to speak, This is not 1787, this is 2013. The system is broken, hacked, compromised beyond repair. I try to remain pragmatic and optimistic. Under the constraints of the inflamed brain tumor infecting the GOP, Obama did what he was able to do to keep the system going, but obviously, this was not the end of this process. It would look as if it is going to “be continued” in the next episode of this sad and tawdry little soap opera in just 2 months.
    As Mudrake points out here, the sands have shifted and are in flux in America. We should look to Iceland, where they just started convicting and sentencing financial criminals…like the CEO of their biggest bank on Dec 28.
    Iceland just adopted their new “crowd sourced” open ended Constitutional operating system for the 21st Century. They knew the system was obsolete and hopelessly hacked and to create another sacred document chiseled in stone was another invitation to a new disaster…so they did something completely different. Sometimes you just have to…that’s why they are the oldest continually operating democracy on the planet.

    1. Thank you, Microdot, for your ‘insight from a distance.’ Back on this side of the Pond, we are so mired, so accustomed to things-as-they-are that we often lose sight of the possibility of change. We are generally afraid to breech the topic of change and that is especially so for those on the right side of the spectrum. That dorky clutch of dress-up Tea Party dolts may be the extreme, but many just to the left of them ‘believe’ that the words of our Founding Fathers are set in stone- like the stone tablets of the so-called 10 commandments.

      In fact, as this thread is about religion, could THAT in fact be our problem? Do most Americans ‘believe’ that the Constitution is as ‘sacred’ as those stone tablets? Do they link them? After all, most Americans [left and right] ‘believe’ that stone tablets were actually etched by god. Four thousand years old edicts, most of which prohibit alternate, ‘strange’ gods.

      That mindset, which America has in abundance and ad nauseum, surely plays a role in determining the inflexibility of the 223-year-old documents forged before the light bulb brightened our world and minds.

      Iceland, as you referenced, is one of the most non-religious nations on earth, as exhibited by other Nordic neighbors in that neck of the woods. I just began reading another e-book on that very subject. Those 4000-year-old ‘stones’ mean little to those of Norse decent, yet, not surprisingly, their standard of living, their crime rate and their happiness index rank as some of the highest on earth. As in most northern European nations, citizens both don’t know nor do they care the religious affiliation [if any] of their politicians. That topic is moot. In fact, talk of god/gods could quickly end a political career.

      Back to the point- it is my hypothesis that one of the causes of “the present circumstances we have to deal with in trying to keep this dysfunctional, outdated, totally hacked operating system” is the religious mindset of this nation, that things are the way they are because they always have been the way they are. The same mindset as those enamored with ancient religious beliefs.

      1. M_R writes, “… we often lose sight of the possibility of change.”

        There is good change and bad change, M_R. Good change was creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, the Glass-Steagle Banking Reform Act of 1933, the Pure food and Drug Acts, just to name a few. On the other hand we just have to look at the way a Democratic President, Bill Clinton, set about bring change. He destroyed the Glass-Steagle Act and made possible the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession that we are still in, and, of course, he ended, as he proudly hails, “welfare as we know it.”
        With the strokes of his pens signing these bad changes, Clinton destroyed two important reforms of FDR and the New Deal. In one he gave tremendous power to Wall Street and the Big Banks, and in the other he guaranteed that in any economic downturn the unemployed and the poor will suffer harsh circumstances, while the top 1% continued their accumulation of wealth and power. But, the LIV think Clinton is on their
        side. Dead Wrong!

    2. MD writes, “UTF, I really feel it is not relevant and totally unrealistic to try to draw a historical comparison between Lincoln and Barack Obama and the present circumstances we have to deal with …”

      My point was not to compare Lincoln and Obama. I was talking about
      compromise, which is the deflecting term that M_R used to spin Obama’s
      change on the Bush Tax Cuts. All we have heard from M_R in his many
      posts has been the terrible Bush Tax Cut, and now the President who said
      he would not renew them, has made them permanent for 99% of the country. Suddenly, now M_R throws his support behind Obama for the very same tax cuts but even at a lower rate for thos making $250,000 to
      $400-450,000. And what does it do? It adds $4 TRILLION to the national debt. And, who will pay for that? I surmise that it will be the 99%, and especially the lower and middle classes in the cut of programs. Do you and M_R really think that Obama is going to get another tax
      revenue through Congress? If you do, I have some great swamp land
      down here to sell you. I mean, where is the money going to come from?
      Finally, the United States is a republic, not a democracy, so it’s not a fair comparison with tiny Iceland of whom we provide their national defense as we do with most of Europe and Asia.

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