Pew: how religion helped decide the Barack Obama/Mitt Romney election

The election analysis continues today and my inbox is flooded with various studies of the role religion played in Tuesday’s results.

Let’s get right to it.

John Swords, at York Township Poll 1 at Covenant Moravian Church, hands out literature for candidate Ron Miller Tuesday. Swords said 153 voters came to the polling place in the first hour. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS — PAUL KUEHNEL

* The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life analyzed results from the National Election Pool exit polls and found that Democrat Barack Obama lost ground among white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics, compared with 2008.

In other findings, Pew reports that the basic religious contours of the 2012 electorate are similar to recent elections – traditionally Republican groups such as white evangelicals and weekly churchgoers strongly backed Republican Mitt Romney, while traditionally Democratic groups such as black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews and the religiously unaffiliated backed Obama by large margins.

Mormon voters were firmly in Romney’s corner, with 78% voting for him. Catholics as a whole were evenly divided (50% voted for Obama and 48% backed Romney), while white Catholics swung strongly in the Republican direction relative to 2008.

Likewise, Faith in Public Life came to three major conclusions based on exit polling:

* Despite conservatives’ best efforts to the contrary, Obama won the Catholic vote, although by a smaller margin than in 2008

The Religious Right failed to mobilize conservative evangelicals to tip their candidate to victory

Religious voters were also key in defeating austerity measures in FL and CA. Let’s take a closer look at this last point:

In Florida and California, faith-based community organizing groups mounted victorious campaigns against anti-tax ballot initiatives. PICO National network affiliates helped advance sound fiscal policies that reject austerity and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share.

In Florida, voters resoundingly rejected by a 58% to 42% margin Question 3, a constitutional amendment that would have decimated public education and social services in the state.

And in California by a 54% to 46% margin, voters approved Prop 30, which will raise an estimated $6 billion in revenue for schools and social services in the state through a tax increase on people earning over $250,000 and a small temporary increase in the sales tax.

The clergy and congregations of PICO organizations played key roles in these fights, contacting over 1.6 million voters.

Finally, Kim Daniels of Catholic Voices USA assesses the difficult night for Catholics. Daniels says it’s time to consider rejecting “the tired paradigm that pits liberal and conservative Catholics against each other.”

There is some good news out of the election results, she added, and suggests three routes for Catholics to take to continue their fight against gay marriage and the contraception mandate:

* The HHS mandate was a huge wake up call to people of all political views and Catholics opposition was remarkably unified.

* Catholics will urge the administration to take this opportunity to return to the long-standing bipartisan consensus in favor of common-sense conscience protections.

* Catholics and others objecting the mandate will continue legal efforts to vindicate their civil rights. More than 110 plaintiffs have filed some 40 cases that are the best hope to uphold our beliefs.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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