Do the voting patterns from the U.S. presidential elections show a religious divide or new common ground in America?
Just as the final election results remained uncertain long after November 7th, the impact of the “religious factor” in voting is still under debate. This much is clear: White Protestants, who comprise 54 percent of the electorate, supported George W. Bush with 55 percent of their vote (43 percent for Al Gore).
As expected, evangelicals and fundamentalists went predominantly for Bush;. On the whole, Bush supporters go to church (on a weekly basis) more often than Gore voters (56-41 percent), reports ReligionToday news service (Nov. 10).
Citing exit poll data from the Voter News Service, it was found that Catholics chose Gore, by a narrow margin (50-46 percent). This reflects a gain for the GOP among a group that has traditionally voted Democratic. This may be due to the Bush Campaign’s concerted effort to target the “roughly 25 percent of Catholics who attend Mass regularly, [trying to] build a coalition of conservative churchgoing Protestants and Catholics.” [See July-August RW for more on this.]
The five percent of Americans who practice a religion other than Christianity or Judaism supported Gore — 54 percent to 33 percent for Bush. But that is not the case for Muslims, who may be on the way to creating an Islamic voting bloc, according to the Washington Post (Nov. 27).
In a post-election survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (of 1,774 respondents), 72 percent reported voting for Bush. Of those, 85 percent said their decision was influenced by the endorsement of the Muslim group. The results are significant because this was the first time Muslim advocacy groups endorsed a U.S. presidential candidate, throwing their support behind Bush.
Many analysts used a colored map of a county-by county breakdown of the U.S. to demonstrate how divided the nation was between Republicans and Democrats. The map showed Gore’s votes were predominantly on both coasts and in other big cities, with much of the West, Midwest and South solidly for Bush. The conservative Christian newsweekly World (Nov. 25) cites one commentator as saying that the election proved “Democrats as a home for women, minorities, gays, immigrants and city dwellers; Republicans as the favorite for men, religious and rural Americans, gun owners and moralists.”
Writer Gene Edward Veith concludes that “In the end, the election came down to the conflict between cultural conservatives and cultural liberals. And the nation, with the government it elected, is cracked right down the middle.”
Commentator Andrew Sullivan looks at the same map and sees more commonalties than clashing differences. In the New York Times Magazine (Nov. 26), Sullivan writes that viewing the maps of votes by counties shows enclaves of Bush supporters and Gore supporters coexisting throughout the country. “In Bush’s highest margin of victory in any state, in Wyoming, Al Gore still got well over a quarter of the vote. In Gore’s biggest statewide blowout, Rhode Island, Bush still won about a third of the vote.”
Sullivan adds that the distinctions between the candidates were minor with both focusing on similar concerns: paying the national debt, offering tax cuts, and internationalism in foreign policy. “Fundamentalist Christians, blacks and Jews vote as blocks, but they are the exceptions. A third of Latinos voted for Bush; Catholics and Asian-Americans were roughly split. A full quarter of even the gay vote went to Bush — even more to the Republican Congressional candidates.”
(World, P.O. Box 20002, Asheville, NC 28802-8202)