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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. Rufus T. Firefly

    The Christian right is neither.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Nicely put Rufus.

      As long as the American Taliban holds the GOP in thrall, they will lose more than they will win.

      The question is not as simple as the religious right. The GOP is fragmented by conflicting requirements from traditional Goldwater conservatives (now best represented by Libertarians) neocons, social conservatives, fiscal conservative (including the Randists), tea party nutters and the American Taliban.

      Other than appealing only to old white men, they now have an identîty crisis.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Gaven

      What is funny about the "Christian Right" is that they are not only not right, they are not Christian.

      Their Jesus should be utterly disgusted with the lot of them if he were here to see their beliefs today.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • ed 188

      Took the words right off my keyboard.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  2. Larry

    Per Barry Goldwater in1994: "Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

    November 7, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Indeed so Larry.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Sadday

      Once again: Obama claims Christianity. Oh snap! What are all you liberal left atheists going to do now?? Oh yeah, pretend you didn't read that...my bad.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  3. Social capitalist and social liberal

    Yeah, but if they turned out and didn't change the result...they don't have absolute influence anymore. Plain and simple, Mr. Reed.

    Guess your precious votes essentially ruined the GOP primaries for nothing (as the proceedings of the primaries, even, were an indication that they are losing the iron grip over the national GOP that they never really had as well, despite their obnoxious attempts to show that they owned it).

    November 7, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  4. Bubba

    Jesus Christ is defined by LOVE, FORGIVENESS, and SACRIFICE. The day the GOP comes back to any combination of these Godly Principles, will be the day we allow the GOP back into our lives. Until then, enjoy the barn you nutjobs.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • James

      Jesus talked more about hell than any other person in the Bible. Jesus was very much exclusive. He said "I am the way the truth and the life and no man comes to the father except through me." No, many followers of Jesus do not represent him well. But he is also not just about love and peace. :)

      November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  5. Rich

    Keep god and other tales out picking a president.Stop pushing your beliefs on the educated...

    November 7, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • john brooks

      Maybe learn English first.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • James

      "Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery." Those are religious laws. Our laws are founded on those laws. Religion is the conscience of America.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • JFCanton

      But you use "educated" as if it doesn't also apply to some of them. Antonin Scalia is educated. Thomas Sowell is educated. An inherent problem with the -opposite- of conservatism is that eventually you run out of money or immunity.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  6. Delaware Voter

    We can only hope the evangelical right's influence in politics is over. They never had any business getting involved to begin with.

    We have a separation of church and state in this country for a reason.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Social capitalist and social liberal

      This Christian says FINALLY!

      November 7, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • john brooks

      Actually, the church started this country. Freedom of belief in a God, and only God. No separation, but influence.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Sadday

      Obama claims to be a Christian and has had prominent evangelical leaders at events and prayer sessions. Even though he's weaving an elaborate lie, he still claims it. So where is the separation of church and state for your beloved president?

      November 7, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  7. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

    As noted many times before the election:

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    And the irony:

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    i.e. IF THE PILL AND MALE CONDOMS WERE USED PROPERLY, ABORTION WOULD NOT BE AN ISSUE AND OBAMA WOULD NOT BE PRESIDENT.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Reality

      Leaving the gods and souls out of the discussion:

      Only for the new members of this blog:

      The reality of se-x, abortion, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from a guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-
      Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

      The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

      : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

      Added information before making your next move:

      from the CDC-2006

      "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

      And from:

      Consumer Reports, January, 2012

      "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

      Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

      "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

      Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

      The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

      - (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
      – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

      Followed by:

      One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
      Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
      The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
      Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
      IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

      Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

      November 7, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • JFCanton

      Half the population taking hormones (and putting them into the water supply) is not an acceptable endpoint. Condoms, yeah.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  8. As I see it

    The reason Romney lost last night is a simple one. The Republican party caters to the god fearing white male, and excludes everyone else. So they lost the female vote, the minority vote, etc. The problem with this is that god fearing white mails are a dying breed in this country. the Republican party is going to have to adapt, and to do that, they're going to need to change their core values.
    Like a talking head pointed out last night (on I think CNN), how people vote at 24 is usually indicative of how they'll vote at 54. Unless the Republican party is willing to make those drastic changes I mentioned before, there may not be another Republican president for a LONG time.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Ken

      The real problem is that God-fearing white males exclude everyone else, and the GOP caters to them.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  9. Martin

    Very encouraging that the younger generation is helping lead America to a better place.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • john brooks

      Let's see you say that in 4 years. Heck see how great and far we have come in the last four.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  10. Willow

    It's not over, but it is waning. This election proves it. They are getting older and it is showing. The younger generations are being turned off by their message of prejudice. If those in the younger generations are Christian, they are moving to the Christian left.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  11. Rodents for Romney

    Yup. The tea party is over. There may be some left-over crumpets, but they will be stale.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Ken

      They were always stale. ;-)

      November 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Reality

      Fortunately or unfortunately tea is still being served in the House of Representatives who have the responsibility to reduce and/or eliminate our $16 trillion debt.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  12. Kate Long

    We can only hope that the Christian right's hold is weakening because everyone in our country should have a voice and just because someone claims faith in a god, does not mean it's the Christian god. It's time to put aside antiquated books and look to ourselves to obtain a bright future.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  13. tolajn

    The Christian right has long interpreted scripture literally where the verses suit their own need to protect themselves from those who don't look and act as they do. If you saw the audience awaiting the Romney concession speech you were hard pressed to see any diversity. All but a few Asians in the crowd were drowned out by the visably white demographic. Fear of expanding the tent to include others to the feast is a driving force for conservative Christians. I have family who would rather right off family members due to a political stand regarding moral social issues than to think for just a moment that the Christian God I believe in is similar to the Jesus depicted in the New Testament. He was cutting edge in his invitation to dine with those who looked, believed and lived lives very different from his own. His mission was to gather, not to scatter!

    November 7, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Sadday

      Keep in mind that even though Jesus dined with those different than him and taught loving everyone (because we are all sinners), he did not advocate their behaviors and sins. This country is going down the tubes because we teach the younger generation that sin is "ok" as long as we aren't harming someone else. But it's pulling people away from God. So these kids grow up thinking that gay marriage and abortion is fine. The ignorant seem to believe that tolerating immoral behavior (or straight up denying that morals exist), and it's a scary thing. It's odd how people see the future as getting better, yet all we're doing is regressing to a barbaric human past. All I see is selfishness in the future of our country, while pretending to be a free and tolerant people. More and more laws get passed to allow atrocious things but punish goodness and decency. Jesus loved the sinner but hated the sin. Never forget that.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  14. ChuckB

    It will not get better for them. They have passed their apogee. As has been said, morality is a personal and local issue. If they think deeply about this they will realize that if they truly believe government is too intrusive they can be comfortable with this. No one will be forced into a gay marriage, to have an abortion, to use contraceptive, etc. What they will have to learn to live with is that also no one will be prevented from having a gay marriage, to have an abortion, to use contraceptives, etc. Freedom doesn’t mean having the right to impose one’s will on others. Keep your religion to yourself, on you cable TV channel and in your place of worship and out of the public square.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Sadday

      If we have to keep faith and God out of the public square, than why are gays allowed to have parades and protest at Chick-fil-a? Hypocritical thinking at its finest.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  15. Tom

    I'm so glad the christian right is finally being marginalized, but I do thank them for helping to wake the open-minded progressives up so we could take this country back and move forward instead of back to the stone age. Pray to whatever you want to pray to, believe in whatever you want to believe in. I believe in Santa and He tells me he wants all of us to wear red all the time but I'm not going to try to get legislation passed so EVERYONE has to follow what I believe in, that would be ridiculous and un-American. You're living in the wrong country if you want a theocracy.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  16. William Demuth

    I was thinking

    Rather than spending all the money on adds, couldn't the Dems use the money to relocate Gays and Muslims into these tiny little redneck states.

    I mean one herd of lesbian from San Fran starting a commune in Montata, and we could switch it to blue.

    Plus if Obama offers citizenship to any illegal in Texas as long as he registers Democrat, the dance is done for 2016.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I don't have many nice things to say about George W. Bush, but he understood the influence and contributions of Latinos.

      His GOP cronies crucified him for honest desire and attempt to do something meaningful about immigration reform. Maybe after this election they'll get the message.

      As long as the GOP remains the thrall of factions like the American Taliban and the Tea Party Caucus, Hispanic voters will keep the GOP out of office.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • NOMORECHRISTIANS!

      WHILE WE'RE AT IT, WE SHOULD ROUND UP ALL THE CHRISTIANS AND PUT THEM IN A CAMP SOMEPLACE. NO PLACE FOR THEM IN THE NEW PROGRESSIVE WORLD!!! ALL HAIL OBAMA!!!

      November 7, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • David

      That is exactly the unflinching narrow minded BS, that is and will, minimize further any political influence the Chistian Right will have in the the future. Growup........

      November 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  17. DC

    Apparently all that praying they were doing didn't really help them win this election.

    Or maybe it was all the other people praying for Obama to win who actually outprayed the Christians and beat them at their own game?

    What's good for the Goose is not always good for the Gander.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • ChuckB

      God is bigger than our petty squabbles. He hasa a universe of trillions of stars and billions of planets to regulate. Now it appears that their may be millions of universes such as ours. Think deeply on this and you will realyze that our concerns don't amont to a hill of beans. To live is to suffer and the cause of suffering is desire and hatred.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • TL

      You're a moron. Obama is a Christian, and Christians voted him in. Atheists are about 6% (or less) of the electorate, and Christians are >70%.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  18. therealpeace2all

    Where's "Ronald Regonzo" today ?

    *Crickets*

    Peace...

    November 7, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  19. Robert M

    Extremist groups of all kinds will never be able to influence national policy in the 21st century America.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  20. OneWay

    How easy it is to follow the wide path that allows everything and anything as long as it makes others happy and comfortable. Yet it is so hard to accept the righteous and narrow path set before a loving God that wants the best for everyone. Perseverance and sacrifice for what is right brings rewards – anything else is just taking the easy road that leads to mediocracy and decline, which is the way the US is headed and most are just Spiritually blind to see it.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @OneWay

      And... it's just that kind of myopic world-view, that is so out of touch with reality, that will keep you and the "Christian Right" on the continued path to irrelevance.

      Peace...

      November 7, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • William Demuth

      A loving God?

      I bet you say that to all the altar boys.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Ken

      Doesn't your narrow judgmental path bring you comfort? Admit it, the Christian Right's desires are just as selfish, and comfort-seeking as you imagine the other side's.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Which God?

      Oneway, or your way, right? Well, oneway, I know oneway is to stick it up there, and revolve around your own planetary butt. You are wacko.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Doug

      Thank you. well said.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Manda

      Take that crap to rural Afghanistan where it belongs.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • OneWay

      Your reality is one of self-pleasure, self-indulgence, money loving and everything else that makes you happy. Your reality will last only in this life time – the soul of humans are eternal and your world-view has you on a straight path to condemnation. This life aint your last.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Mary McGuinness

      Making hard decisions that are moral and just in one's own life is deeply personal.
      Defending the rights of others to do the same is wisdom at its best.
      To speak for God and claim it as truth is mediocre and arrogant... two traits that have become the christian decline.

      November 7, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • shut up

      your comment exemplifies the problem, you assume that your beliefs are the right beliefs and should be shared by everyone. you people don't get it. we don't share your beliefs, we don't want to share your beliefs and we will never share your beliefs. we want all of you to mind your own business. you live your life the way you want to and we will live our lives the way we want to. this election should be telling all you conservatives that trying to shove your beliefs down other people's throats is detrimental to your so called "cause." "one way" is the wrong way. the world is filled with many different people from many different walks of life who practice many different kinds of religion. people like you are too ignorant to see this. why don't you just become a Nazi because that is how you people think.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • OneWay

      God speaks for himself through Scripture. Something many of you have probably never picked up to actually read – or read and than put it down as soon as you came across something to confronted your own moral views.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Ken

      One way
      The Christian Right is just as self- indulgent in its desire to impose its own morality on everyone. Why can't you see that?

      November 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • The Way indeed

      Well said! What is right is still right in God's eyes. There is a day of judgement for all evil and wicked doers. Pray for this nation to repent and return to Jesus.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • blondemorel

      Yes, the path a loving God sent out is definitely one in which we continue to watch extreme wealth grow in the hands of few while others have less. There is no question that this is what Jesus preached. Hoard wealth and screw the impoverished and our nation will flourish........ Gotcha. To all who determine their vote based on the issue of abortion alone, please listen. Overturning Roe vs Wade would have no positive effects. Abortion would not decrease, just be more dangerous for some. Thousands of doctors would absolutely continue offering the service and we would have to spend billions to try and police this law. Thousands of people would be jailed, resulting in only negative. This is not a black and white issue. I do not like abortion, couldn't be a part of one. But, there are so many other ways to spend our energy to help instead of wasted rhetoric that is not logical. Use your effort at creating better adoption programs or educating youth or something that can actually help people. I understand the passion, but it is so misguided. Millions of live children need your help. Take a look. Overturning Roe vs Wade would have no positive impact except that it may make you feel better, instead help some of the impoverished feel better.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:12 am |
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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.