By Mark Tooley
Although not widely noticed, Mitt Romney seems to be on his way to capturing as much of the white evangelical vote as George W. Bush famously did in 2004. Bush got 79 percent. A Pew poll conducted before the first presidential debate had Romney getting 74 percent of white evangelicals versus 19 percent for Obama.
Although Barack Obama got only 26 percent of white evangelicals in 2008, according to exit polls, he got about 33 percent of young white evangelicals. The latter statistic inspired hopes by Democrats and liberal evangelicals for a generational shift away from social issues in favor of more liberal-focused causes. But a Public Religion Research Institute poll, pre-presidential debates, showed young white evangelicals choosing Romney over Obama by 80 percent to 15 percent. Hispanic evangelicals reportedly are not as strongly for Romney as they were for Bush, although they are much more pro-Romney than Catholic or non-religious Hispanics.
Full throttle evangelical support for Romney was not widely anticipated. Evangelicals do not see the former Mormon bishop as one of their own, as they did Bush. And Romney has not strongly emphasized social issues that energize conservative evangelicals. Many prominent evangelical leaders endorsed Rick Santorum during the Republican primaries.
But Obama administration policies favoring same-sex marriage, indirect abortion funding through Obamacare, and the HHS mandate compelling religious groups to offer contraceptive/abortifacient coverage have antagonized many evangelicals. Several evangelical schools have joined Catholic schools in litigating against the mandate. The Democratic convention’s awkward last minute restoration of God to the party platform likely did not help.
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