Do Americans take their faith with them to the ballot box -- or
do they leave it at home or behind church doors? A recent study by
the Barna Group reveals a lot about the motivation of voters when
it comes to their Christian values.
With President Barack Obama's self-proclaimed "evolution" to
fully support homosexual behavior and same-sex "marriage" since his
2008 presidential election victory -- along with his emboldened
support of other unbiblical policies regarding abortion and
religious freedom -- many anticipated a flood of unprecedented
opposition to the incumbent. But was this the case on Election Day
After what ended up as the most expensive presidential election
in U.S. history -- not to mention the most negative campaigning to
date -- Barna conducted a nationwide survey to see if voters' faith
substantially affected the choices made on November 6.
With a 62- to 38-percent Electoral College landslide victory for
a president considered by many as championing the most
anti-biblical agenda America has ever seen, are Christian values no
longer an important factor for Americans when choosing their next
president? Not for those who consider their faith to be an integral
part of their lives, according to the Barna survey.
And when the popular vote is taken into consideration, Obama
defeated his challenger, Mitt Romney, by a narrower margin (50 to
48 percent) than most realize. But how does this all stack up when
measuring America's spiritual climate?
This time around, many evangelical Christians apparently took
note of the president's advocacy for leftist ideologies, as seen
through his refusal to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA) and his declaration to fully endorse same-sex marriage. That
bloc overwhelmingly voted for Obama's opponent, who received 81
percent of their vote -- as opposed 17 percent for the president.
Correspondingly, 71 percent of evangelicals proclaim themselves to
be "mostly conservative on political and social issues."
But does this showing indicate that Christian Americans are
getting more fed-up with presidents and policies that contradict
the nation's biblical roots? Not exactly.
As high as the 81-percent figure might seem, it represents the
lowest showing of evangelical support for a Republican presidential
candidate since 1996, when only 74 percent of this group voted for
Bob Dole when he lost to Bill Clinton in 1996.
And how about this year's showing when compared to 2008 -- a
time when Obama's supposed platform on social issues was much more
moderate? That year, Republican presidential candidate John McCain
took the evangelical vote 88 percent to 11 percent -- seven points
higher than this year.
Self-proclaimed non-evangelical born-again Christians also
showed definitive support of the candidate who defended biblical
principles instead of challenging them, but by a narrower margin.
Last November, this Christian sector supported Romney by 13 more
percentage points (56 to 43). But even though this margin is
smaller than with evangelicals, this statistic represents the
greatest showing of support from this group for a Republican
candidate than in the previous four presidential elections (tying
George W. Bush's support in 2004). Just last year, this Christian
sector (non-evangelical born-again) supported the GOP candidate
McCain by a much smaller margin (51 to 48 percent). In 1996, the
Democratic candidate Bill Clinton actually won this segment (48 to
44 percent) against Bob Dole.
Out of all born-again Christians, Romney garnered the support of
60 percent, next to 39 percent for Obama. This 21-point margin
surpassed McCain's 15-point margin in the prior election. Sixteen
years ago, Dole only tallied up a six-percent margin of victory
over his Democratic competitor, Clinton.
The Protestant vote was not that much different, with 57 percent
weighing in for Romney, next to a 42-percent showing for Obama and
his more leftist ideals. This was the fourth consecutive election
where a majority of Protestants voted for the Republican
And do Catholics reflect this consistent support for the
candidate with the most conservative and biblical ideals,
especially with the Catholic Church's staunch backing of pro-life
policies? Not by a long shot. In fact, Catholics have supported the
liberal candidate in presidential elections at the last five
presidential elections, overwhelmingly supporting Obama 57 to 42
percent this year against Romney, and 56 to 43 percent versus
McCain in 2008. Even though George W. Bush only came up short in
the Catholic vote by two and four percent in 2004 and 2000,
respectively, this group championed Clinton in 1996 by a 21-percent
What about those considering themselves to be Christians who are
not born-again? This group, described by Barna as "Notional
Christians," closely reflected the Catholic vote for Obama, voting
for the president over Romney 57 percent to 41 percent over Romney.
This segment comprises 43 percent of the American electorate, as
does the born-again group, with Notional Christians consistently
showing overwhelming support for the Democratic candidate over the
past five years, including handing Clinton a 32-percent margin of
victory 16 years ago.
Some other faith-related voting groups were also analyzed in the
survey, including mainline Protestant church attenders, who chalked
up Obama support by a slim margin of 48 to 45 percent, whereas
non-mainline attenders sided with Romney 56 percent to 35 percent.
The "unchurched" backed Obama over Romney 58 to 32 percent, and
those with an inactive faith (69 percent of the public) cast their
ballots for Obama 52 to 39 percent. Voters with an active faith
(comprising 31 percent of the voting public) checked the box next
to Romney by a margin of 56 to 35 percent.
The who and why
Just what kind of a player was faith in 2012? Nearly half, or 45
percent of voters, said their faith was a factor in their choices
at the ballot box. And those indicating that their faith affected
their vote "a lot" checked Romney's box over Obama's 2 to 1.
Conversely, voters saying that faith had nothing to do with their
choices on November 6 voted for Obama 3 to 2.
Breaking it down by groups, 72 percent of evangelicals, 34
percent of non-evangelical born-again Christians, 19 percent of
Catholics, and 16 percent of Notional Christians told Barna that
their choice for a presidential candidate was affected by their
faith "a lot."
The survey also revealed that 30 percent of voters said they
picked their presidential candidate more because of his character
and personality than on his stance on issues. Not surprisingly, the
faith group least likely to vote accordingly was the evangelicals
at 26 percent. Conversely, Catholics were most likely to vote on
character traits, at 37 percent.
Approximately 25 percent of Protestant voters -- the largest
percentage of any other group -- said that their vote for a
presidential candidate was more strongly motivated by their dislike
for the other candidate than their approval of the one they
Honing in on voting trends, the Barna study revealed that 24
percent of all voters "always vote for the presidential candidate
that represents my party." Of the faith groupings that most
consistently vote this way were Notional Christians at 28 percent,
whereas evangelicals were least likely to always vote according to
party lines, at 17 percent.
When asked why they voted for Obama, the number-one reason given
by non-evangelical born-again Christians (18 percent) was their
distaste for Romney. Notional Christians said their main reason for
choosing Obama had to do with his plans for the future (12
percent), whereas this was the top reason given by the largest
proportion of the president's Protestant supporters (15 percent),
as well. Seventeen percent of Catholics said Obama's "character"
was the reason they voted for him (a higher percentage than any
A matter of faith?
Does religion play too large of a role in presidential
elections? Forty-eight percent said no, while 46 percent said yes
in the Barna survey. Fifty-three percent of Notional Christians
believe this to be true, while only 21 percent of evangelicals
agree. Twenty-seven percent of voters strongly believe that a
candidate's faith receives too much attention.
Concentrating on Romney's faith, only nine percent of voters say
his Mormonism strongly discouraged their support of him, and five
percent indicated that it somewhat affected their vote. On the same
note, 10 percent of evangelicals said Romney's Mormon faith
discouraged their vote for him -- a view shared by 14 percent of
other Christian groups.
Of little surprise, 71 percent of evangelicals self-proclaim
themselves as politically conservative, with just one percent
considering themselves politically liberal. They were the only
religious group where a majority didn't declare themselves
politically moderate. Thirty-eight percent of non-evangelical
born-again voters say they are politically conservative, while 27
percent of Notional Christian view themselves as such. Only 10
percent of the former group consider themselves politically liberal
-- a view shared by 14 percent of the latter.
When confronted with the statement, "Most people do not know
enough about the major issues to be well-informed voters," 82
percent of all voters agreed, with evangelicals being the most
likely to agree with this (90 percent). Evangelicals were also the
faith group most frustrated with the Electoral College, with 73
percent saying that the popular vote should be instituted in its
Media Obamania and 2016
When it comes to giving an objective view of the presidential
campaign, the media received failing marks from voters, as 65
percent of evangelicals strongly reject the notion that it covered
the race in a "balanced and unbiased" way. This same sentiment was
reflected by 64 percent of registered Republicans, 63 percent of
Romney voters and 62 percent of conservatives. Overall, only 16
percent of voters strongly believed that the media offered
"balanced and unbiased coverage of the presidential campaign."
When asked if the media was "too intrusive into the personal
lives of the presidential candidates," 54 percent answered yes,
with each Christian group surveyed producing a similar proportion
Looking into the future, Barna asked voters if "the United
States will be better off four years from now than it is today" --
and only 14 percent of evangelicals had an optimistic outlook.
However, 54 percent of Notional Christians and 53 percent of
Catholics saw better days in 2016 -- higher than the 48 percent
average of all voters.
With the data collected, one thing deems certain -- the more
biblically based the voter, the less likely he or she is to vote
for the candidate representing a leftist agenda.