« "Imagine" Viewpoint Discrimination? | Main | Supreme Court to Consider Case of Cross Monument in Mohave Desert »

February 23, 2009

Slicing the evangelicals

Posting on Christianity Today's political blog, Tobin Grant of SIU-Carbondale pooh-poohs the idea that anything significant happened with the evangelical vote for president last November, even as he acknowledges that the exit polls showed a geographical split, with Southern evangelicals more likely to vote for McCain than their Midwestern co-religionists:

The news, however, is that despite the economy, the war, and at least some campaigning by Obama, evangelicals remained unmoved in their support for the Republican candidate.

No, the news from 2008 is the emergence of significant internal divisions within the evangelical vote, not only geographical but also generational. The geographical one (on display in Ted Olsen's cool interactive map) enabled Obama to carry Midwestern states (Ohio, Indiana) that had been beyond the reach of Democratic presidential candidates for a long time. The generational division was portentous, because it showed that among evangelicals, the young went from being the most enthusiastic Bush voters to the least enthusiastic McCain voters, while the old went in the opposite direction.

Here's what I wrote about that a couple of months ago:

Laurie Goodstein of the NYT was kind enough to make available some number-crunching of the exit poll numbers on white evangelicals that the pollsters, Edison/Mitofsky, did for her; and it's pretty interesting stuff. The margin among 18-29 year-olds went from 83-16 for Bush in 2004 to 66-32 for McCain in 2008. Among 30-44 year-olds, the shrinkage was from 86-12 to 76-23. Among the 45-64 year-olds, there was essentially no change: 76-23 to 76-22. And among those 65 and older, the GOP margin grew, from 68-32 for Bush to 72-26. So we're talking about swings toward Obama of 33 and 20 points in the younger cohorts, and towards McCain of 1 and 10 points in the older cohorts.

The point, obviously, is that young evangelicals are the future of the voting bloc, and if they hew to their 2008 preferences, the solid 3-1 GOP majorities that evangelicals have turned in for the past few elections is in jeopardy. As with the Catholic vote, aggregate numbers can conceal more than they reveal.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

Comments

But we should not per se relish the fact that we are a significant voting block, inasmuch as our democracy works better when many groups all get a reasonable chance to be the median voters that decide our winner-takes-all elections....

The way to make this happen is to enable the proliferation of local third parties that would contest local elections and vote strategically otherwise. This could happen, giving us all more options for the location of our political activism, if we incorporate the use of proportional representation into state legislative elections, while keeping the current winner-takes-all system for major single-member elections to guarantee that we remain a two-party dominated system for purposes of stability and quality-control.

The recent entry of election reform for primaries in a CA initiative is going to make state election reform innovations a hot topic in the coming years...
dlw