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November 7th, 2012
08:21 AM ET

Election results raise questions about Christian right's influence

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Washington (CNN) – For many conservative Christian leaders, it was a nightmare scenario: Barack Obama decisively re-elected. Same-sex marriage adopted by voters in some states. Rigorously anti-abortion candidates defeated in conservative red states.

On multiple levels, Tuesday’s election results raised questions about the Christian right’s agenda on American politics, eight years after the movement helped sweep President George W. Bush into a second term and opened the era of state bans on same-sex marriage.

“For the first time tonight, same-sex marriage has been passed by popular vote in Maine and Maryland,” said Robert P. Jones, a Washington-based pollster who specializes in questions about politics and religion.

“The historic nature of these results are hard to overstate,” Jones said. “Given the strong support of younger Americans for same-sex marriage, it is unlikely this issue will reappear as a major national wedge issue.”

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Some conservative evangelical leaders echoed that line. Albert Mohler, who heads the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on Twitter that votes for same-sex marriage suggested that “we are witnessing a fundamental moral realignment of the country.”

A Tuesday ballot measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state is still pending. In Minnesota, voters rejected a Tuesday measure that would have banned same-sex marriage there.

Thirty-eight states have banned same-sex marriage, mostly via constitutional amendments.

Obama’s victory also raised questions about the Christian right's influence in the electorate.

Though evangelical leaders as diverse as the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land and Christian icon Billy Graham voiced support for Mitt Romney (Graham stopped short of an official endorsement), Obama performed better among white evangelicals than he did in 2008 in some states.

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In swing state Ohio, exit polls showed that Obama got 30% support among white evangelicals. While that’s hardly a victory, it’s better than the 27% support Obama got among those voters four years ago.

Before the election, many evangelical leaders predicted that opposition to Obama over his support for abortion rights, his personal endorsement of same-sex marriage and his vision of government as a force for good would trump reservations evangelicals had about Romney’s past social liberalism and his Mormon faith.

“There is no evidence in voting patterns that President Obama's 'evolution' on same-sex marriage cost him anything,” Mohler said in another tweet Tuesday night.

Obama also narrowly won Catholics, even after the U.S. Catholic bishops waged a rigorous campaign against the Obama administration around the issue of religious liberty. The bishops alleged Obama was forcing Catholics to violate their own teachings by making health insurance companies provide free contraception coverage for virtually all employees.

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John Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron, said Obama’s win among Catholics was partly a testament to the growing Latino demographic.

“Maybe Hispanic Catholics were not as moved by religious liberty-type arguments as by immigration and economics,” he said.

Unlike in 2004, when John Kerry a former altar boy lost Catholic voters, the Obama campaign had a robust religious outreach program aimed largely at Catholic and evangelical voters. The effort included videos from Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, talking about their Christian faith.

Obama's success among some religious demographics also illustrated how economic issues, as opposed to culture war concerns, dominated the election cycle.

The defeat Tuesday of two Republican Senate candidates who made national headlines with anti-abortion remarks also raised questions about the Christian right’s power.

In Missouri, U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, who in August walked back his remark that "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," lost his bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat.

Akin’s campaign became a national cause for conservative Christian activists after the Republican Party abandoned the candidate and encouraged him to drop out over his abortion remark.

In Indiana, Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock lost his race against Democrat Joe Donnelly after saying last month that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.”

Conservative Christians did claim some victories Tuesday night, including helping the GOP retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives and helping elect tea party favorite Ted Cruz as a U.S. senator from Texas.

Ralph Reed, the leader of conservative group the Faith & Freedom Coalition, planned a Wednesday morning press conference to release his data about what he called the enduring influence of “values voters.”

“Preliminary evidence is they turned out and they voted heavily for Romney,” Reed said in an e-mail message Tuesday night.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Christianity • Politics

soundoff (4,434 Responses)
  1. Sara

    The problem with the "Christian right" is that, as a whole, they aren't very Christ-like. Yes, they may be pro-life, but they miss the bigger messages – do unto others, don't pass judgement, etc... There's a HUGE Christian voting block, Latinos, that is not being utilized – mainly b/c of rampant bigotry (and the viewpoint that Catholics aren't true Christians – which is ridiculous). Until the Christian right accepts Latinos and other minority groups into the fold, they are doomed to fail. Thank god.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Terry

      The "No True Scotsman" fallacy again?

      Religious people need to broaden their range of fallacies. They use the same couple fallacies over and over again.

      You know, if they had facts or truth or evidence or a logically sound position, they wouldn't have to use fallacies.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • I approve this message

      We just received evidence that Terry is a troll.

      November 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  2. ClevelandGAL

    The lesson here is that people are fed up with extremists on BOTH ends...we need to learn to find some compromises...for example..I am Christian and anti-abortion..but I'm reasonable enough to know that if I don't want abortion to be an option I have to help support prevention with birth control pills...the extremists on BOTH sides of the aisle refuse to give one inch on their positions...which leads to nothing gettin done for either side...and what good is that??

    November 7, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  3. Richard

    What the article fails to address is this: many conservative Christians...didn't really like Romney. The author briefly mentions that he didn't get "official" endorsements, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's not just that Romney is Mormon, although that certainly plays a part (many non-mormon Christian groups consider it a cult).

    But also you have to consider that aside from the "Big 2" issues of Gay Marriage and Abortion...Romney was portrayed as anti-poor, anti-charity, anti-government programs for the needy...and these are issues that the Christian base disagrees with strongly. It's not just Romney but the entire Republican party that's losing touch with these issues and how their base feels about them.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  4. Jason B.

    And yet the Christian right forced through votes in 2 cities here in Kansas that openly allows you to discriminate against LGBT citizens. Nothing like ignorance as a policy!

    November 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Cynic

      Isn't this the same Kansas that the nutcase Rev. Phelps lives in?

      November 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  5. Redclay

    As a Christian from the South, I've always felt that the biggest threat to my 1st Amendment rights, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, " was the far right/conservative christians. Noticed I purposely used a small "c" in addressing them. I agree with gingersnap and others on here that their god has never been my God, and their jesus has never been my Jesus. My God and my Jesus believe in tolerance and love - not greed, hate, intolerance, etc. as do the far right conservatives.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      All views, perceptions and laws taken to the extremes are unhealthy for the common good of any nation's people, the citizens of the worldly empire.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  6. Jackdack

    Yes, the freaky christians that have been trying to take our great country back to the dark ages since the Bush regime, can go crawling to the Middle East, where they can enjoy the Theocracy that they have been trying to turn America into.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Cynic

      Make that the Reagan administration, not the Bush administration. And yet they (the evangelicals) had no problem supporting a president and first lady who let an astrologer help them make decisions.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  7. Steve

    A rather stupid question. They didn't exactly disappear. Their influence is going to fade slowly. If you look at generational polls you can clearly see overwhelming support for gay rights, drug legalization, etc... among 40 and unders, including people from all parties and political spectrum. The older folks go to church more and tend to be more religious and hang on to the tired value system of their day.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • JFCanton

      This is as at least as much the natural progression of the young to the old as it is an indicator of group progress in a particular direction. It is subject to demographic shifts... those under 40s who hold "modern" views are less likely to have a lot of kids than the ones who don't... and social preferences... morals were lax in the late 1700s and early 1800s but then the Victorian era happened.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • swing state voter

      I'm not so sure about that. Almost everybody that was working hard in the Obama for America office yesterday was at least 60. And don't forget the reaction of members of AARP to Paul Ryan.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • swing state voter

      When I think about it, I see more of a split between people with different levels of education than I do of age.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Cynic

      Yes, the same "older folks" who did illegal drugs until they dropped, made free love like animals, and went against everything that was "Establishment" when they were young.

      Do the math. The "older folks" were the younger generation in the 1960s.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • LittleHero

      The first election that grabbed my attention was Nixon/McGovern, and this was my eighth time voting for President. I was told when I was younger that I may be liberal now, but as I get older, I will become more conservative. What a crock, and this is the same kind of mythology the will keep the Repubs worked up. Unfortunately, it is a lie, just like trickle down economics or the idea that abortion will ruin this country. Well, if you look at the statistical analysis, you will find that as abortion became legal and safe, the rate of violent crime has dropped in this country – significantly and with a high correlation to access to safe and legal abortions. Unwanted babies become unwanted adults.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Well, probably if we time-shift it... implying that a lot of future criminals were aborted...

      I don't believe the conservativeness vs. age relationship works for me either, but it is certainly true across groups.

      November 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  8. Sea Bass

    Let's hope so. Quit ramming your interpretation of the Good Book down my throat. This nation is not a theocracy.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  9. mark

    Religion has no place in politics. I'm a Christian, but there is no way that I'm going to let a church dictate how I vote. The churches have been used by the right for 40 years now to get votes. They've promised no more abortion, no gay marriage, and prayer back in the schools. They have not delivered on a single one of these issues, just keep regurgiating the same old rigamarole over and over. And, alot of people fall for it time after time. Looks like they'd question why the Repubs did not deliver on one of these issues in 6 years of absolute control in DC under Bush. They had the presidency, both chambers of Congress, and the Supreme Court under their control. They managed to deliver tax breaks for the rich and oil companies, that's indisputable, but not on any of the "moral" issues they've used since the early 70s to get votes from religious people.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Selah

      Why are you all still complaining on here? Bronco Bamma won the election, didn't he? You all should be happy!! No more complaining about the Republicans because your man won the election. Right? You all should just be happy, you won, YAY!

      November 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      Selah, the quick and easy answer is that the Tea Party evangelical crazies rigidly insist that President Obama reach out to them, "across the aisle" to find common ground and compromise. The evangelcials, too, must insist that their leaders in Congress reach out and seek common ground and compromise. But, they will not because of something in their rigid little minds which makes them believe that they are Jesus' "pure". Actually they are simply pawns of "supermen" who create their own morality. When did it become immoral and un-Christian for 60% of the people in the USA, and their leaders, to ask that the wealthy pay 3.9 percent more in taxes on income greater than $1,000,000? It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a wealthy man to get into heaven. Why are Jesus' children fighting so hard for so few who have so little in common with Jesus?

      November 7, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • LittleHero

      Just because the religious right lost this battle does not mean they will give up on their tactics. They seem to be pretty stubborn – they have been fighting Roe v Wade for 4 decades, and I don't see them stopping until they control the SCOTUS.

      November 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Selah

      WachetAuf, calm down. Why are you still complaining? Bronco won. Be happy. Yay!

      November 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  10. Scared To Death

    I have read down through these comments and I am frightened. I am afraid of the path our nation is taking. No one has any respect for anyone. Our nation is going to implode. We used to support each other and our country but it appears that no one supports anyone but themselves anymore. What is going to happen to us?

    November 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • truth be told

      This is just a goddamn comment section on one site. What the hell is wrong with you? Get back under your bed, chicken little.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jackdack

      Try some anxiety meds. They work great!

      November 7, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Burbank

      What's going to happen to us? Religions are dying in favor of a natural spirituality and inherent knowing of right from wrong that we are all born with and that's a good thing. All organized religions eventually become political, complete wiht dysfunctional controlling, manipulating rules to serve those in power. We are entering an era where these control freak religious preachers that live on our contributions "in the name of God" are going to have to go out and get real jobs like the rest of us! Hooray!

      November 7, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • me

      I too fear the same as you. This is the time for anyone who believes in God to start fighting to defend their rights,because things aren't looking very good.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Terry

      Nice paranoid episode, scared one!

      They have meds for that.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • swing state voter

      Me:
      As a Christian, I fought to defend my rights by voting for Obama, I do not want some extreme version of Christianity imposing their religious views on my rights.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • tonygiovanni

      Wow, because we are not all religious freaks you think we don't care and support each other. I think the movement to accept the gay lifestyle is exactly the opposite of what you are preaching. We are now beginning to care for and support everyone.- not just the ones who these religious leaders single out. It's a shame that the old folks can't let go of their 1920's belief system. I am proud to be American. I am proud that we can accept everyone and their choices. I am proud that the Christian right is losing grip of power to segment and demoralize.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Julie

      "We used to support each other" really when? If we were supporting each other , then providing healthcare to everyone should have been supported by the right , but no they have FOUGHT AGANIST healthcare for decades.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Scared To Death

      JackDack and Terry – Too many people cover everything up with drugs. Maybe that is why neither of you can focus on what could be happening.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Scared To Death

      tonygiovanni – I don't believe that I mentioned religion in my comment. All I said was that I had read these comments. Do you assume that just because the article was about religion that I was commenting on that?

      November 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • sam

      @Scared – you're on the religion blog, genius. It's a reasonable assumption.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  11. Blessed Geek

    Dear Messr Catholic Church AKA Vatican,

    I am pro-life and therefore, I am pro-contraception because contraception prevents abortion. Please re-read your Bible and you will find that I am right.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Gerald

      Contraceptives are abortifactents. Sorry you lose. By the way evidently you believe in the bible so do you disagree with "be fruitful and multiply (not to be confused with be fruits and don't multiply in this election for a couple of states) and Psalm 127 which says children are a blessing. Contraception rejects that blessing and sees children as a hinderance rather than a gift from God.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • sam

      Contraceptives are not, Gerald. That's bullshit. Go peddle your nonsense somewhere else.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • My goodness you Christians are slimy

      Gerald "By the way evidently you believe in the bible so do you disagree with "be fruitful and multiply "

      So Gerald you must approve of murdering and ra-peing captive children; because that's in the bible too. Or are you just another slimy cafeteria christian

      And Moses said unto them “Have ye saved all the women alive?... Now therefore Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him, but all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” Num 31:1-2, 9-11, 14-18

      November 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • swing state voter

      Gerald: Most contraceptives are not abortifactents. Barrier contraceptives are definitely not. Get your facts right.
      And...
      nice bit of bigotry against gays there.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  12. SRV

    God Blwss America !!!

    November 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Gerald

      Yes. God-less america.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  13. Gerald

    50 to 49% is decisive? Oh I suppose if you consider the electoral college but in terms of do I have a mandate to implement policy, the 50/49 number is a more telling number to the winner.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  14. William

    It's About Time America woke up & rejected these Bible thumpers! Throughout mankind's history, every time we've moved forward three steps.. organized religion has dragged us back two! No greater rivers of blood & misery have been spilled than in the name of religion & "God".

    November 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      I agree somewhat. The wrong herd has co-opted Jesus' message. That herd does need to be taught a different message. There may be some, however, who do have integrated Jesus' real message of tolerance. They need to start speaking out. Of course, they are afraid. Jesus himself was fearful. Yet, he dared to go back into Jerusalem one last time.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  15. Bill, Bloomington Il

    And yet when democrats tell you how to live, that is ok?

    November 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • lalala

      Yes an republicans never stepped on a single social freedom......

      November 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • lalala

      Yes and republicans never stepped on a single social freedom......

      November 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • truth be told

      Yes

      November 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • 13directors

      Please cite an example.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      We get angry when others who are not a part of our herd, try to control our lives. That is basic primitive human instinct. It lives in all of us. So, we complain when others tell us what to do. Jesus asked us not to get drawn into the fight without first looking to a guide to measure our and our neighbor's conduct. His guide was the old law, but he gave us a new remedy for handling infractions of the law : tolerance. Maybe, if you would be more tolerant, not insist on an eye for an eye, that democrat who you disdain may show you some respect.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  16. JesusIsTheWay

    JesusIsTheWay

    November 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • lalala

      To self delusion

      November 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • MN

      Trust in the Lord with all your heart and Lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)

      It is a sad day but at the same time, we have to TRUST in Jesus and know that He is in control. I'm so sad for all those little babies that will be aborted .... this world is fallen.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  17. gingersnap

    So sorry, but I feel that Jesus would not treat people like the religious right treats others- thru anger, threats, and control.
    The general problem here is that the religious right's God is a lot different from my God (as well as many other moderate voters.) Don't b**** and moan about what the current government is forcing you to do. You are still allowed to do as you please: not support gay rights, not support contraception, etc. I, on the other hand, am thrilled to still have the option of NOT having my rights TAKEN AWAY by zealots. I know gay people and glad they can marry. I think contraception is a great idea. From an independent voter, married , 8 month pregnant, in a SWING state.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Gerald

      Yes I am sure he would never call anyone a brood of vipers or speak of hell. Your God is only the merciful god. The God of the heveans and earth is both just and merciful. Some people lean to much on the justice side and some too much on the merciful side because we are human. I am afraid your god is no more a god than theirs, though not everyone on the right is as you describe them. There is tuff love mercy as well.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  18. Yahweh

    Rudy – Amen!

    November 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • PFUI

      Who is "rudy"?

      "God" doesn't guide you on how to use the reply button?

      November 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Rudy can't fail, at least according to Joe Strummer.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  19. Oregonian

    The Republicans can win again if.....they don't tell me how to live, they don't tell me who to love, and don't tell me how to worship.

    November 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  20. WachetAuf

    Jesus' message is one of tolerance. Tolerance. Tolerance. Tolerance. While he did not come to destroy the law, he did advocate a new remedy. Tolerance. Not punishment. Not punishment. Not Taliban-like punishment, an "eye for an eye". "Go and sin no more". Jesus has not been able to do get his message to connect with the GOP's herd of evangelicals. It will not come from the GOP or its leaders. Isn't there someone out there who will take Jesus' message of tolerance to the evangelicals and show them how to act on Jesus' message of tolerance?

    November 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Steve

      Religion is dying, albeit very slowly. I know many youngsters who are openly atheist, including and especially those with religious parents. They have the internet, facts, and a healthy skepticism, things many of us never got as children.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Time kind WachetAuf will bring the fruits to fullfillment and be picked up by anyone who can honestly hear the crux of changes to be had. For example, pot usage for recreational purposes has become legal in a few states. Time will reap in the weathers of the changlings' coming. Children will grow up and become next generations to enact changes in the lands' laws. Time will bear out that which could not be born in the todays.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • DeusEtPatria

      So, Jesus was tolerant when he physically drove people out of the temple with a whip? Don't make the mistake of thinking that God's mercy, is his tolerance.

      November 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • MN

      At STEVE:
      It's not about religion...it's about the amazing Grace that Jesus gave to us. He bore our punishment and that is AWESOME! People are so wrapped up in 'religion' when they are missing the whole point of Jesus. It's not about works, it's not about being a good person...it's about Christ and what He did for us. We all fall short, we all sin, and we all make bad decsions.. Go and Sin No More....

      November 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.