The religious divide so evident in previous elections did not make much of an appearance in the recent U.S. mid-term political contests. The Christian Century (Nov. 30) reports that the Democrats’ strategy of inserting religion into the 2008 elections and capturing a segment of Catholics and some white Protestants was largely absent last month.
Liberal leaders say that Democrats “largely retreated to the same old wonky language to explain their policies and the same old strategies to drum up voters—with predictable results.” The faith outreach of 2008 was largely seen as a success, which is why activists are puzzled by its recent absence. The party’s gains among religious voters have been reversed, with 60 percent of religious voters opting for Republican candidates. Nearly seven in 10 white Protestants voted GOP—a six percent increase from 2008. Similar patterns were found among Catholics, with 54 percent voting for Republican candidates, compared to 42 percent in 2008.
Analysts cite the poor economy and weaker national networks (with many religious Democrat activists now working in the Obama administration) for the loss of the faith-based outreach. But on both sides, there was less deliberate political activism among religious groups. There was a sharp decrease of clergy promoting candidates to their congregations, and fewer voters encountered information on parties or candidates at their places of worship during the 2010 mid-term elections, according to a report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Among registered voters who attend services at least once a month, only 16 percent said they found political information for the elections at their places or worship, compared with 25 percent in 2006.
Just six percent said that their clergy urged them to vote a certain way. Among white evangelical churchgoers, 16 percent said election information was available at their churches, down from 30 percent in 2006. Far fewer Catholics encountered such literature in their parishes, with the rate declining from 21 percent in 2006 to 10 percent in this past election. Of all religious voters surveyed, only six percent said they were contacted by an outside religious group about the election campaign.
(Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60605)