By Jason Gedeik, Sojourners
"This election demonstrates the beginning of a fundamental shift taking place in America which is, at once, a political shift, a cultural and racial shift, a generational shift, and a religious shift. In recent times, religion has been both too narrow and too divisive. The leadership of African American and Latino Christians, with a younger generation of the faithful in white America, is creating a broad new moral agenda for faith in public life. Racial and economic justice, creation care, peacemaking, and a more consistent ethic life will all shape that new agenda."
—Rev Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners & author of The Great Awakening and God's Politics.
National Shift in Religious Vote
National exit polls indicate a significant shift from 2004 in voting patterns among key religious groups including evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics. The following comparisons are based on the 2004 and 2008 national network exit polls that can be found at: http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls.main/
- White Evangelical Vote: 3% increase from 2004 for Obama
- Protestant Vote: 5% increase from 2004 for Obama
- Catholic Vote: 8% increase from 2004 for Obama
- Latino Vote: 13% increase from 2004 for Obama
- Black Vote: 7% increase from 2004 for Obama
- More than weekly church attendance: 8% increase from 2004 for Obama
Evangelical Shift in Key States
- Colorado – 14% increase for Obama
- Indiana – 8% increase for Obama
- Michigan – 4% increase for Obama
- North Carolina – 8% increase for Obama
- Ohio – 4% increase for Obama
TOP THREE REASONS BEHIND SHIFT IN RELIGIOUS VOTE:
Black & Hispanic Christians Marry Social Conservatism with Social Justice
The election results reflect a major surge of support among Black and Latino voters, galvanized by a campaign and a candidate that better spoke to their aspirations and values. This is witnessed by the 13% increase in support for Obama among Latino voters and a 7% increase among African Americans. Their overwhelming support marks a growing shift within the religious landscape led by Latino and Black Christians, who marry social conservatism with a deep commitment to social justice. Recent studies indicate that Latino voters are very pro-life on abortion yet also consider the debate on immigration as a key "life" issue for their community.
A new generation of young Christians cast a "Post Religious Right Ballot" this election. Polls leading up to the election have shown a significant break from their parents on issues like gay marriage and while abortion is still a top concern it is not the only one. Sanctity of life now includes poverty, war, genocide and climate change. Young religious voters refuse to get caught up in the culture wars of the previous generation. These young white evangelicals are not the evangelicals the country is used to and they will be reshaping the future agenda. Additionally, we have never seen evangelical Christian college newspapers endorsing a Democrat like several did for Barack Obama.
Broadening of the Moral Agenda
Pro-life voters are realizing that their faith calls for a consistent ethic of life that protects life from the "womb to tomb." Voters are now judging candidates based on who has the most consistent ethic of life that addresses all the threats to human life and dignity. And for some, a more pragmatic strategy of serious abortion reduction, rather than a strategy of continuing only trying to make it illegal, is appealing. Abortion reduction is now becoming a new common ground that both sides can support in order to break the ideological deadlock of the past 30 years. This consistent ethic of life has caused a significant shift in the political agenda of many Christians by expanding their definition of what it means to be pro-life to include issues like poverty, the environment, health care, pandemic diseases like HIV/AIDS and even American foreign policy, including the war in Iraq.