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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 (4,433 Responses)
  1. jj

    Let's hope the Christian right Tea Partiers go back to the planet they came from...

    November 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  2. Mike

    Socialism does NOT mean becoming lazy and dependent on handouts from the state like beggars ... LOL

    November 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  3. Roger Elgersma

    The Christian right goofed bad when they embraced GW Bush. He was an ex playboy who was to rich to care and to accustomed to forcing his way as a rich person can, and thereby they showed the worst side of the Christian right. This made it to easy for the other side to demonize those in the Christian right. Getting us in wrong wars, cutting taxes to the point of trashing the budget and giving the rich a dispropotionate amount of the wealth so the customers did not have enough money to make house payments and the whole system went broke. It almost made it an embarassment to be a Christian. Although if one is a real Christian and follows God rather than depend on the government to give them an easy ride and protect them with military rather than faith, then then one can still follow God without trusting any man as the Bible says.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Mike

      Finally, a sane voice! You nailed it .. perfect analysis. The Chrristian right hurt itself by embracing a false idol named George W Bush. Could not agree more!

      November 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  4. Mike

    Obama is a "Christian" who believes in NOT a single word of the Bible. LOL

    November 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • kiki

      I suggest you read the parable of "The Pharisee and the Tax Collector".

      November 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  5. Mike

    Politics and religion are inseparable .... Secularism is but a recent experiment in history of human civilization and it has already failed terribly ... all it results in is - Void-ism or Atheism - as the state must work with lowest common denominator - which is ZERO or VOID. But faith rules over the hearts of the people and therefore there is a conflict between the nature of govt policies and what people desire .... secularism will die with another flawed idea - the democracy ... the Saintly Monarchs will rule again ...

    November 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  6. woodie

    Politics and religion are never a good mix. We've known this for 100s of years.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • just wondering

      How many 100's of years old are you folks?

      November 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  7. John

    The Christian right is like the Taliban, they hate everyone that is not like them, do with the right in each religion and what you have is peace and harmony

    November 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  8. dtboy

    Rights are over, in general.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  9. Evolution

    I know why these people hate or refuse Evolution, Because it is in effect for them. Evolution dictats that you must adapt and change in order to survive. These religous fools have failed to do so, and will eventually go the way of the dodo. It will be long time, but eventually they with be the tiny crazy minority. And when that happens, things will finally get done in this country, and we can move back to the front, and not be bogged down by old world myths.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • kiki

      Most Christians, including the Pope, accept evolution.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  10. Nick

    Yes.
    It's losing infleunce.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  11. Daniel

    What does the election mean? It means that our country is growing increasingly godless. That we can expect things to get worse and worse in this country on every level. That the blessing of God is obviously being withdrawn. That evil is growing, and many are very happy to bath in it. To boast about it. To bring about greater condemnation upon themselves. All of this of course, is passing away, and very quickly. For the believer, our home is in heaven. Jesus will be ruling soon as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, all the kingdoms of this world will fall to Him. PTL The future for the Christian couldn't be brighter. For the godless? Well, I wouldn't want to be in their shoes.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • humanbean

      cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo!

      November 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • kiki

      The fact that a lying, draft dodging, money laundering, super rich Mormon was not elected president is a sign we're becoming godless? I have to ask then, who is your God? Not the God of the Bible.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • George

      Thanks, Daniel. You represent a dying breed of brainwashed people.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Keith

      Terrible, terrible things are happening! Like people getting healthcare (instead of multi-nationals getting breaks). Or things like the declining infant mortality rate as we rely on science instead of religion! Or the decrease in violent crime over the past 4 decades! If only we could be a theocracy, like Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iran. Then we'd have no problems at all.

      Seriously; when exactly was this moment in "christian america' where things were so eutopic? Back when we had Jim Crowe and being gay was literally a crime? Wake the heck up–the world is generally getting BETTER, not worse.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • SoldierOfConscience

      Keith,

      Being gay should be a crime. The decline of society started with tolerance of deviancy and drug abuse etc

      November 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Stationedathill

      Daniel, you are the exact type of person that scares all of us down here on the planets surface! You and your type are teh ones who scare all the regularly religious folks with your scary interpretations.
      Have scotty beam you and the rest of your elk back down to the planets surface.

      You religious people are very scary, and you just keep getting scarier,...

      November 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Daniel

      George and Stationed: You can continue down your delusional and rebellious paths, but you will not find peace in them. Not only is your long term future bleak, but short term you will not be happy, for there is no rest for the wicked.

      November 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  12. Mike

    Jesus wanted us to personally help our neighbors and those in help – he did not talk about waiting for the government and state to help them on our behalf ... Jesus was talking about personal example and not a political system. conservatives help their neighbors personally and through charities – Jesus also did not like dependency of any kind – he said you teach a man to fish and you take care of him for the rest of his life – THOSE ARE TRUE CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES ... its a false myth that is being spread that Jesus was socialist – Jesus had nothing to with any POLICIAL SYSTEM whatsoever – He is a spiritual prophet – transcendental to mundane politics but interested in saving our personal soul and therefore in OUR PERSONAL EXAMPLE ... not the example of a political system or government ... PLUS the change comes one heart at a time – that is what he was focused on ... change of heart and not constant political upheavals that accomplish nothing.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • humanbean

      Hey enlightened one, socialism is not a political system. You people really should get out more.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • Mike

      @humanbeam

      hey ignorant one ... socialism is a political philosophy that advocates socialist economic policies ...

      November 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  13. Jeff

    If we call it the "Christian right" do we also call it the "Satan Loving left"?

    November 8, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • humanbean

      Well, according to them, if you're not with them, then you must be with the devil. So knock yourself out.LOL

      November 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  14. Gerri

    OMG!!!! I can not BELIEVE what I am reading here! WHO CARES WHO PUTS WHAT WHERE AND WHEN! It is time for us to be adult about it and let people do what they want. In spite of what the wingnuts think, IT IS still a free country.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Dude

      Prayer has been shown to increase recovery time of sick people.

      I can move more mountains by myself with a shovel than all of the christians on earth praying, and your so-called god.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • 4sanity

      Prayer changes things. Not not really. It's just your internal consciousness talking through your problems and if anything refusing to take personal responsibility for them by foisting them onto some projection of a divine being. If it works for your mental state, great. Just don't expect it to have any influence on the real world.

      And by the way, there is nothing wrong with atheism. It can be liberating since you do rely on yourself and your humanity in interacting with others. It leads to stronger moral convictions, civic duty, perspective and tolerance. Things that organized religions frequently invoke but also frequently fail to live up to.

      And I'm curious, what "other living things" find atheism unhealthy ?

      November 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • George

      This is one of the dumbest statements I've ever read.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Minneapostate

      Religion is like a penis....a lot of people have one, and it's fine to be proud of it. Just don't pull it out and wave it around in public. And it should never be shoved down anyone's throat, especially children.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Huebert

      You said you believe in predestination. If all things are predestined, how can prayer change anything?

      November 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • humanbean

      Ok. I've got an idea. Put you money where your mouth is. Next time you have a medical emergency, just pray about it instead of going to the hospital. Unless, you have kids. Please don't put them in harms way because of your ignorance. This would bring a whole new definition of irony to your moniker.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  16. Ron

    Let's all stop fighting against each other and use our minds to force our representatives to serve this country and us the people.
    Let's get rid of "companies are people too." They are not – this notion will destroy our country.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  17. kiki

    The Christian Right, who are really Dominionist, will give way to the Christian Left who are actually followers of Jesus.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Jeff

      Categorizing who is and is not "truly following Christ" based upon their political persuasion is illogical.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  18. Mike

    One is to be considered a Christian not by the label he wears on his shirt but by his actions & decisions that match with his beliefs. A true Christian will NEVER support abortions and gay marriage. Obama conveniently labels himself Christian only to get votes ... he stands for nothing .. he has no principles and no leadership ... he just follows POLLS – which if show that there are electoral gains to be had from labeling himself Christian and re-inserting God in DNC platform – he will do it ... an opportunistic UN-principled man ... this is what America is coming to ... SHAME!

    November 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • kiki

      But the right love their wars and their capital punishment so I guess not all killing is wrong to you folks.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • mama k

      Bigotry at its best I see. Of course Christians are experts at arguing any side of any issue and being able to support it from their conflicted Bible. Yes, sadly, the two-faced, forked-tongued nature of the Christian is built right into the religion. They almost tell each other "you are not a Christian" as much as they tell others.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • CRH

      Also, a true Christian wouldn't talk poorly about the poor and the hungry. Jesus would have helped. Both parties have some of the Christian side to them and some of the normal human side to them.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Mike

      @CRH

      Jesus wanted us to personally help our neighbors and those in help - he did not talk about waiting for the government and state to help them on our behalf ... Jesus was talking about personal example and not a political system. conservatives help their neighbors personally and through charities - Jesus also did not like dependency of any kind - he said you teach a man to fish and you take care of him for the rest of his life - THOSE ARE TRUE CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES ... its a false myth that is being spread that Jesus was socialist - Jesus had nothing to with any POLICIAL SYSTEM whatsoever - He is a spiritual prophet - transcendental to mundane politics but interested in saving our personal soul and therefore in OUR PERSONAL EXAMPLE ... not the example of a political system or government ... PLUS the change comes one heart at a time - that is what he was focused on ... change of heart and not constant political upheavals that accomplish nothing.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Vic

      What makes you a Christian:

      Romans 10:9
      "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;"

      Romans 1:16
      "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

      Ephesians 2:8,9
      "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
      not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

      Scripture from New American Standard Bible (NASB)

      November 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Chris

      With young perople fleeing organize religion, churches are losing there influences over them. As a 66 year old white male I left my church because I got tired of hearing I was not a "true" christian because I voted the wrong way. As a vet of the Vietnam war, I fought for the right of all Americans to be free and make choices best for them. If you right wing religious nuts can't handle that some Americans think and act differently than you, I suggest moving to China, North Korea or some other country where all actions of its citizens are controlled by the government. In my American you have the right to disagree, without be labled a traitor.

      November 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Vic

      @Chris

      Happy Veterans Day Chris!

      Thank you!

      Faith in Jesus Christ is all what matters to be a Christian!

      God Bless You!

      November 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  19. Jesus was a space alien

    I hope so. They have done more to poison the political landscape than any other group in the last 30 yrs. Keep politics out of the pews.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  20. moi

    It's finally happening! It's finally biting them in the a55, and I couldn't be happier. These are not good people. These are the hypocrites.... the ones who think it's OK for their candidate to lie because they themselves do it on a daily basis. the evangelicals who voted for Obama... those are the good ones. The ones who believe in helping others, hope, positivity. Obama won because honesty, integrity, and intelligence really does prevail. The young see that in him. The educated see that in him. women see that in him.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:06 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.