New US survey confirms end of 'white Christian' political hegemony

By agency reporter
16 Nov 2012

A new survey conducted after the election last week confirms that winning an overwhelming majority of 'white Christian' voters is no longer sufficient to secure the US presidency.

The 2012 post-election American Values Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, found that like previous Republican candidates, Governor Mitt Romney’s base in last week’s election was largely made up of white Christians. Specifically, 8-in-10 (79 per cent) Romney voters were white Christians, half of whom (40 per cent) were white evangelical Protestants.

On the other hand, President Barack Obama’s coalition rested on the two very different cornerstones: minority Christians and the religiously unaffiliated. Only 35 per cent of Obama’s voters were white Christians.

“This presidential election is the last in which a white Christian strategy will be considered a plausible path to victory,” says Dr Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “The American religious and ethnic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, and any campaigns relying on outdated maps are destined to lose their way.”

PRRI’s analysis draws on findings from both a national panel survey that re-interviewed respondents from its October American Values Survey, and a new post-election Ohio Values Survey.

Overall, Obama scored higher than Romney in voters’ perceptions of empathy. A majority of voters agree that Obama, rather than Romney, cares about people like them (53 per cent versus 41 per cent). While white working class voters overall strongly supported Romney (65 per cent to 33 per cent), they split their vote in Ohio with 44 per cent supporting Obama and 46 per cent supporting Romney.

White working class voters in Ohio were also more likely than white working class voters overall to say that Obama, rather than Romney, cares about people like them (50 per cent versus 36 per cent) and to support the auto bailout (60 per cent versus 48 per cent). Among white working class voters who support the government’s action to help the auto industry, 62 per cent supported Obama, while 35 per cent supported Romney.

“Nationally, Obama struggled with white working class voters, but performed much better in Ohio,” said Daniel Cox, director of research at PRRI. “This stronger performance was boosted by widespread support for government assistance to the auto industry.”

The survey also found that the two candidates divided suburban voters nearly equally between them nationwide (50 per cent Obama versus 48 per cent Romney) and in battleground states (48 per cent Obama versus 51 per cent Romney). Nationwide, Obama led Romney among urban voters (60 per cent versus. 38 per cent) and trailed Romney among rural voters (33 per cent versus. 65 per cent).

Among the findings are that three-quarters (76 per cent) of Obama voters say that their vote was primarily a vote for Obama, while 13 per cent say their vote was primarily a vote against Romney, and 11 per cent say it was both.

Among Romney voters, a slim majority (52 per cent) say their vote was a vote for Romney, while nearly 4-in-10 (37 per cent) say their vote was a vote against Obama, and 1-in-10 (10 per cent) say it was both.

In addition:

* Less than half (48 per cent) of white evangelical Protestants said their vote was a vote for Romney, while more than 4-in-10 characterised their choice as a vote against Obama.
* Tea Party voters are nearly evenly divided on whether their vote for Romney was a vote for Romney (44 per cent) or a vote against Obama (42 per cent).

The findings from the survey will be discussed by a panel of experts at an event hosted by The Brookings Institution and moderated by Brookings senior fellow E.J. Dionne, Jr. The event is scheduled for Friday 16 November 2012, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, Fourth Estate Room.

A research memo containing more detailed analysis is available at the PRRI website here: http://publicreligion.org/research/american-values-post-election-survey-...

The Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organisation specialising in research at the intersection of religion, values and public life.

The post-election American Values Survey and the Ohio Values Survey were made possible by generous funding from the Ford Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Civic Participation Research Fund at the New World Foundation.

Technical survey details:

The post-election American Values Survey and the Ohio Values Survey were designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results from the post-election American Values Survey were based on 1,410 callback bilingual (Spanish and English) telephone interviews with respondents from the pre-election American Values Survey. Results from the Ohio Values Survey were based on 1,203 bilingual (Spanish and English) telephone interviews of adults currently living in Ohio. Both surveys were conducted between November 7, 2012 and November 11, 2012. The margin of error for the post-election American Values Survey is +/- 3.3 percentage points, and the margin of error for the Ohio Values Survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95 per cent confidence interval.

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