Biggest moves in religion and politics in 2012


 Considering that 2012 saw the first presidential contest in which there was no white mainline Protestant anywhere on the presidential ticket, religion played a surprisingly subtle role in the election cycle. But even if religion played more of a supporting than a leading role in the election, the religion factor was nonetheless alive and well this year.

Here are the 10 most important ways religion influenced politics and culture in 2012, trimmed out with findings from 16 surveys and over 22,000 interviews conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute research team in 2012.

1) The Mormon question is finally laid to rest

We, too, thought the speculation would never end, but the “Mormon question” was essentially answered by May, when white evangelicals fell in line behind Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee. This answer was confirmed at the ballot box in November, when white evangelical Protestants, who made up nearly one-quarter (23%) of all voters in 2012, turned out at a rate comparable to 2004 and supported Romney (79%) over Obama (20%) by nearly 60 points.

The bottom line: partisanship and antipathy toward Obama ultimately trumped theological concerns about the Mormon faith among white evangelical Protestants.

2) The end of a white Christian majority

Obama’s decisive victory in 2012 was largely the result of his strong support among the growing number of non-Christian, nonwhite Christian, and religiously unaffiliated voters. While white Christians made up the vast majority (81%) of Romney’s vote, they comprised only 39% of Obama’s coalition. Over the past few decades, Democratic presidential candidates have relied less and less on white Christian voters (e.g., white Christians were 60% of Bill Clinton’s 1992 coalition), while Republican presidential voting coalitions have continued to rely on coalitions that are approximately 8-in-10 white Christian.

Written By: Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox
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  1. There is a good match in the mind-set of authoritarian ignorance of the two camps.

  2. According to this report religions are not only directly relevant to politics in their own right, they’re also an integral part of every subject in the political spotlight.

    If your neighbour belongs to an organised religion then that religion’s priests are guaranteed the attention of politicians – even if your neighbour doesn’t agree with the priests.

    So much still to do.


  3. Obama could have had the ultimate trump card in pointing out the stupidity of Romney’s Mormon faith and its emergence in recent centuries, a story not far removed in its wacky ideas and attendant gullibility than the well understood and documented cargo cult religions.

    Of course Obama couldn’t raise his head above the parapet with regard to religion, you can’t call yourself Christian without admitting you believe in a fair part of the wackyness, contradictions and bronze-age thinking that accompanies it.

    But perhaps unfortunately it’s more sinister than muddleheadedness and indoctrination on the part of Obama, perhaps his apparent adherence to biblical hogwash is more cynical, more calculated and done with an eye on being at one with the public and with an eye on votes.

  4. Based on what I’ve seen over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised if both Obama and Clinton were privately atheists. They just know better than to state it, in such a prejudice nation. Cowardice? Yes. Politically smart? Yes.

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