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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. Happy Dance

    We are not a Christian nation. We are a diverse nation of all creeds and religous beliefs. The Christian Right does not belong in politics. With that said. Four more years!!!!

    November 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  2. MennoKnight

    Election results raise questions about Christian right's influence:

    I am a born again Christian. I hold traditional family values, am pro traditional marriage and I voted for Obama in Ohio for two reasons:
    1. His policies for international affairs are less likely to lead towards war in Iran and
    2. I believe in universal health care.
    Both of these issues are important to me as a born again believer because of what I read in the New Testament.

    And I voted for Obama while holding my nose to his big spending and his moral relativity (but not his personal morals).

    And I believe that it is time to pay our taxes, cut the military in half, and put in banking regulations to protect ourselves from another Wall Street melt.

    Oh and really this was not a blow out. Romney had 49% of the VOTE! The election was a squeaker.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Jack

      I completely agree!

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

      With a two party system its almost always going to be a squeaker, as each side will stretch their position just far enough to cross the finish line. The landslide is the exception.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • America Lost

      How can you say you hold traditional family values and vote for a president who has totally opposed that in support of gay marriage. i can understand an evolving view on economy etc... but when the president uses that toward his Christian faith, he's going to fall for anything. Not to mention putting this country in such a fiscal mess that will take a miracle to get us out of. I apprecite you sharing your reasons for your vote but I totally disagree with your rationale. What a waste.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • MennoKnight

      America Lost
      My vote was for either a bad candidate or a really bad candidate.
      At least with Obama we will not go into another terrible war. But with Obama we will be killing more of our unborn children

      November 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  3. srichey321

    One can only hope that the christian right becomes a non-factor in the political process.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  4. Reuben Sutherland

    Great Job Erin Burnett! I am so glad Obama won and I am just as glad the right wing views of the Christian right is losing clout.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  5. midwest3

    As a Catholic (thus Christian) I do hope that the religious right's influence is no more. Referencing God is not, in my opinion, a "Church vs State" issue. However, having someone's personal religious beliefs shape legislation is another matter.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  6. AmericanLiberal

    really, I don't see how you can be a Christian and vote DEM anymore.
    With all the God hate and Christian bashing coming from the left. It is kind of like suicide isn't it.
    Pretty obvious by reading all the hate on here, who the enemy to a Christian is, isn't it ???

    When they get that figured out...

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

      You've got a very narrow definition of what a Christian is.

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

      What is god hate? Is that like hating Santa or the Easter Bunny?

      November 7, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • blondemorel

      Pretty sure that this has nothing today with hating God. Maybe more to do with constantly being told by a group of people, some good and some bad, that they are bound for hell. You go right ahead and believe that your human brain has everything figured out about the divine. Yes, because you learned it one way, it is complete truth. Self righteousness and greed are what I tend to see in today's Christianity. This isn't the message of Jesus and to think that you have all the answers is complete arrogance. Complete understanding of the divine is so far beyond the capability of our little human brain. Unfortunately, to comfort ourselves, we grasp rididly to our own beliefs without admitting that they would be different if we had been taught differently. Faith shouldn't be an excuse for a lack of critical thought. Just because mom,dad, and a reverend on Sunday tells you it is true, doesn't make it so.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • De Odorizer

      AmLib: you and 'liberal'?? Ignorant? Perhaps you reflect the ignorance of the right wing about political ideologies, those guys who flung the "Libtard" label around in the weeks before the elections. I am . I'd rather be proudly in the group called "libtards" before I share the label 'liberal' with you. Liberals have pretty much one complaint: keep religion to yourself , don't mix it with your politics, don't try imposing it on greater society.
      Your comment that you can't be a democrat anymore if you are christian STINKS of the hatred the right wing has for anybody thinking differently than themselves. Narrow minded, behind the times, and using empty words to get in some (brainless) cheap shots. What manure! Your kind would overturnd the achievements America has made in 5 years . We'd be a backwards country and the laughing stock of any thinking person. Crawl back under your rock.

      November 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  7. TiredODaCrap

    Most ironic part of all of this is that the group (young adults) that appear to have come out in force to get him re-elected, are the ones that will be paying for this decision (in more ways than one) for the rest of their lives.....

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

      Evangelicals in this country deserve no power whatsoever. A group whose main concerns are anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-anything non-christian have no place in the United States. The only thing this bunch is for is trying to get the bible, a blatantly false book of fairy tales, supposed inspired by a non-existent pal of theirs, integrated into laws.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Tired of the idiot Right

      Oh really? Pray tell, wise one, how so?

      November 7, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  8. lance corporal

    I hope so

    November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  9. tallulah13

    This election was too close for comfort. The reality is that the religious right's influence still exists, but it is an aging demographic. I do wonder how this election would have gone if both candidates had been white christian males. I think the fact that President Obama is African American and Mr. Romney is a mormon were huge factors. I think that future elections will better indicate how much influence remains for the religious right.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Tally

      True... and... well said.

      Peace...

      November 7, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Larry

      The only reason the popular vote was close is that voters from the intellectual states – alabama, mississippi, arkansas, kansas, nebraska, oklahome, texas – turned out in droves for their candidate (anybody but Obama). In states with higher per capita income, greater housing prices, Ivy League schools, and other fine universities, Obama's greatest win was in Massachusetts (romney's political experience) with about 60% of the vote.

      Let's look, however, at the electoral college vote – you know, the votes all presidential candidates need to win. This is where more populous states (with the exception of texas) have more educated individuals, and thus chose the right candidate. Obama is going to win about 65% of the electoral votes to romney's 35%. This was a tad more than close, a bit more than a landslide – I'd call it an old fashioned whupping.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Larry

      True as well.

      Peace...

      November 7, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • De Odorizer

      Very true, Larry: compare the old Union states with the old confederate states and how they voted 2012.
      10 of 11 confederate states voted romney. 20 of the 23 odd Union states voted Obama (including Michigan, Wisconsin, Massachusetts). Does that tell you something?
      Throw into the mix redred Oklahoma, my home state, and wannabe honorary confederate state... lol, and you'll get all the race based voting in a bucket. I am glad 63 mill. voters saw through the scam.
      Obama 2016. Duh, shouldn't have said that... now they're gonna call him a muslim communist dictator again... hahahaha

      November 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  10. Bails

    I will continue to pray for our nation. Just as if God needs my help carrying out His plan.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  11. Generic Email

    We all need tolerance.

    Romans 14:1-4

    As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  12. CORWIN7

    Maybe instead of (or in addition too) all that praying you might give John Boener a call and tell him you expect him and his house associates to co-operate fully with the President instead of continuing this "baby and bathwater" approach they have been persuing. Stop destroying our country if you don't fully get your own way!!

    November 7, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  13. EZRA

    A return to Reason in this country would be refreshing.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  14. Bob Dolcimer

    the new america: CELEBRATE DIVERSITY...oh i forgot, that catch phrase is already taken by the LGBT extremist group. i'm sorry, but exclusionary has many benefits in our society. this 'new' america makes me want to vomit.

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

      Feel free – I'll get you a bucket.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • CORWIN7

      You know Bob...the border does work BOTH WAYS:)!

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

      Luckily the majority of Americans do not think like you.

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

      Nazi Germany was pretty exclusionary too. We know that well that worked.

      November 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  15. Matt in Oregon

    The separation of church and state must be upheld. It is a very positive development that those who would go over the line on this issue are losing influence.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  16. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    Romney – king of the white southern rural Babble Belt. What a delusional loser!

    November 7, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  17. Hadenough

    Is the christian right's influence over??Oh god, let's hope so!!!!!

    November 7, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Citizentobe

      Hacenough: "Oh god". What oxymoron!

      November 7, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • tallulah13

      Not really. I know plenty of christians who think that there is nothing godly or Christ-like about the christian right's agenda.

      November 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  18. Matt

    Right wing evangelicism has little to do with Christianity in practice. It has been a platform based upon willful ignorance in the face of science and dedicated xenophobia in the face of all other demographics. It has been a shameful episode in American history, already replete with extremist groups out to exploit and harm.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Herm

      I agree, more of a modern day "Inquisition"

      November 7, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  19. AmericanLiberal

    Oh, lets bash on Christians some more ra ra ra

    makes us feel so mighty, kind-of hypocritical though

    Enough already...

    November 7, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Generic Email

      Goes both ways. Romans 14:1-4

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

      There's no bashing in the article, it’s just an opinion and observation. However, if you feel Christians have be "bashed" then so be it-that's YOUR opinion.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • CORWIN7

      Seriously...I don't want to bash Christians or any other group...I just wish they would realize that religion is supposed to be a shield of faith to protect and comfort a soul...not a sword of hatred to slay thier fellow man....

      November 7, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  20. JDJ

    It is shocking that the President did better among some evangelicals this year than in 2008. Days like today remind me of ominous statements in the Bible that everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

    November 7, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      As opposed to what is right in God's eyes, like stoning adulterers to death.

      November 7, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • BRC

      Shouldn't true evenagelicals look at this and say "Okay, Obama is who God wants, so let's see what he has to say"?

      November 7, 2012 at 12:04 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.