The inconvenient truth of the evangelical vote

Barack Obama was supposed to usher in a new era of religious voting patterns by appealing to evangelical voters on poverty, health care and climate change (excuse me, “creation care”). In May of 2008, the founder of Beliefnet predicted that Obama “has a real chance to win substantial evangelical support,” since “evangelicals are in a period of de-alignment from the Republican Party.”

That prediction didn’t fare so well. John McCain won 73 percent of the evangelical vote, a higher share than the born-again George W. Bush in 2000. According to a survey for the Faith and Freedom Coalition conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, 32 percent of all voters in 2010 were Christian conservatives, and 72 percent of them voted Republican. Voters of faith helped the GOP gain 63 seats and control of the House, and helped elect new governors like John Kasich in Ohio, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and Nikki Haley in South Carolina.

The Tea Party, which has recast American politics by focusing on spending, turns out to be sweetened with a dollop of evangelical belief. The Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Tea Party voters are pro-family. Pew also found fiscal and social conservatives coming together, the old divisions blurred by their mutual opposition to Obama’s statist agenda.