Stop the Presses! Or Not.

Darren Grem

How much of a role younger, white evangelicals will play in the November elections remains to be seen, but they're certainly flying around in pre-season reports. Reporters seem devoted to the notion that younger, white evangelicals are either apolitical or now ready to slap Obama stickers right next to the magnet Jesus fish donning their vehicular posteriors. To be sure, there's some Pew research to back these notions up in a very basic, general way, although it comes with some big caveats. Often overlooked in fly-over accounts was that the Pew Center concluded that younger, white evangelicals were "Less Republican, [But] Still Conservative," noting that they weren't much different than most conservatives (or Americans, for that matter) who are fed up with the Bushies. In turn, they remained more conservative than counterparts their age on questions concerning Iraq, law and order, abortion, and (I would proffer) free market capitalism. As such, though the opportunity is there, Obama probably shouldn't expect a windfall of younger, white evangelicals falling into his camp. John Green said as much, pointing out: ". . . Relatively few of the evangelicals who have moved away from the Republican Party have become Democratic, most have become independents." The numbers don't lie. In 2001, 55% of young, white evangelicals held Republican affiliations and, in 2007, only 40% do (still, that's a decently large minority). In the same period, Democrats only picked up a measly three percentage points while independent affiliations rose by six percentage points. I guess that means that if I ran as, say, a Bulldawg Party candidate, I'd be getting more younger, white evangelical votes than Obama.

What does this all mean come November? I'm willing to bet a case of Milwaukee's finest that it won't be an election maker or breaker since Bush has handily alienated more Republican constituencies than just plus-30 evangelicals and more swing voters than their Facebooking counterparts. Try as he might, McCain probably won't be able to overcome that fact. I'm also willing to argue that, in the long run, it won't be the cultural shift that some folks think it will be. To be sure, younger evangelicals might not jump in as short-list, "issues voters" as fervently as their parents' generation, but whether they will continue a drift leftward or middle-ward remains to be seen, especially as they get into their thirty and forty-somethings, have families, get corner offices, and start paying property taxes. As I believe John Turner has mentioned on this blog before, in four to eight years, we might be seeing report after report about the "revival of the Religious Right."

Meanwhile, James Dobson has officially thrown his two-cents in. I'll see your hermeneutics and raise you, sir!


John G. Turner said…
I still feel the same way, Darren! Even as many evangelical leaders loathed him, Bill Clinton won a sizeable percentage (43% in 1992, I think) of the evangelical vote because of similar broader trends.
Anonymous said…
My daily contact with the evangelical tribe tells me that very few have a strong dislike for Obama (as in the way they dislike Hillary), and a significant lot, especially younger folks, truly like him.

Of course, my location (Mass/NH border) may have something to do with what I'm seeing.

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