evangelical vote

White Christian Voters No Longer Hold Keys to the White House

The road to the White House is no longer white and Christian.

President Obama won last week with a voter coalition that was far more racially and religiously diverse than Mitt Romney’s – a phenomenon both predicted in the days before the election and confirmed in the days after.

What the Public Religion Research Institute has concluded since, however, has farther-reaching implications: that relying on white Christian voters will never again spell national electoral success — especially for the GOP.

“The changing religious landscape is presenting a real challenge to the strategy that relied on motivated white Christians, particularly white evangelical Christians,” said PRRI Research Director Dan Cox, referring to a PRRI study released Thursday.

How to Measure the 'Evangelical Vote'

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A supporter of Newt Gingrich outside church in Florida. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In Tuesday’s Mississippi and Alabama primaries, about eight of 10 voters identified as evangelical, locking in victories for former Sen. Rick Santorum, and proving once again the importance of the evangelicals in the election.

Presidential hopefuls are again battling it out to be the God candidate, but the tide of the so-called “evangelical vote” seems ever-shifting. Santorum—a Catholic—is doing better to court most evangelicals, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — a Mormon — is beating out Santorum among Catholics. And according to a recent poll, Republicans in the Deep South are still questioning whether President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Religion matters.

But what does the “evangelical vote” even mean anymore? And can any one candidate really claim it? Even with Santorum’s win Tuesday, a significant number still fell into Romney’s column — and that’s just among Republican evangelicals. Obama was able to draw some evangelical support in 2008 and could garner more in November.

How Did Religion Play Out in Super Tuesday?

Chart by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

Chart by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

New analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, based on National Election Pool exit polling conducted during the Super Tuesday GOP primaries, shows that Mitt Romney continues to struggle among the GOP’s white born-again/evangelical voters. He did win the evangelical vote in two of the seven states where exit polling was conducted: Massachusetts (where he served as governor); and Virginia (where neither Santorum nor Gingrich were on the ballot). In four states, Romney received significantly less support from evangelicals than from non-evangelical voters — continuing the pattern seen in previous caucuses and primaries.

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