Buoyed by voters concerned about the economy and jobs, Republicans won a historic amount of House seats and ousted a few Democratic heavy hitters, like Blanche Lincoln and Russ Feingold, in the Senate last week. But exit polls suggest some of their success may also be attributed to religious voters turning out to support the GOP in record numbers. And some show overlap between born-again Christians and the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement.
A poll data analysis by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a significant amount of Catholic voters, a group that supported Democrats in the past two elections by wide margins, voted for Republicans in 2010. Among Catholics, 54 percent voted for the GOP, a 12 point increase from 2008, reports Pew. And 59 percent of white Catholics supported Republicans while 39 percent backed Democrats. Though white Protestants traditionally support GOP candidates, 69 percent voted for Republicans in 2010, a six point increase from the 2008 election, according to Pew. [See photos from the campaign trail.]
A survey commissioned by the Faith and Freedom Coalition shows self-identified evangelicals comprising 29 percent of the 2010 electorate. Of this group, 39 percent are members of the Tea Party. And, hammering home the connection, 52 percent of self-identified Tea Party members consider themselves evangelicals. The majority of both groups say they cast their vote in opposition to President Obama and his policies, and identified spending reduction and restoring moral values as top priorities. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.]
The Coalition, a conservative organization founded and led by Ralph Reed, has been courting the faith based community throughout the election cycle, encouraging voters to choose anti-abortion rights candidates through mailings, phone calls and door-to-door calls. His group was successful throughout most of the country and especially in the South and in the Midwest, said Reed at a press conference Wednesday to explain the results of the group's poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies. He counts Senate winner Marco Rubio in Florida and Governor elect Susana Martinez in New Mexico among those who best embody his group's social and fiscal goals.
But their efforts fell flat in Nevada, despite their knocking on 2,000 doors and voicing their message over Christian radio stations for two weeks. The organization "fought the airwave war to a draw" there, said Reed. And in the end, the group was "outhustled." Reed imagines that when it came time to cast their ballots in Nevada, voters asked themselves, "Why throw out the Majority Leader, [Harry Reid]?"