Spoils of Victory
In the immediate aftermath of the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress, conventional wisdom said many evangelicals had abandoned the GOP.
News outlets and analysts eagerly described a "seismic shift" that pointed to the "end of the conservative pendulum swing" and a weakened Republican base. In a widely publicized Beliefnet poll, 30 percent of 771 evangelicals reported voting for fewer Republicans than in past elections. Early exit polls showed almost a third of white evangelicals had voted for Democratic Congressional candidates, some of whom touted pro-life views.
"The Religious Right's dominance over politics and evangelicals has come to an end," Democratic adviser and Sojourners/Call to Renewal leader Jim Wallis told Christianity Today the day after the election.
But a closer look at the results suggested something else: White evangelical Protestants, who have recently bolstered the GOP base, did not desert the party. Republicans actually captured 70 percent of their vote, while Democrats received 28 percent. Compared to the 2004 House races, when evangelicals cast 74 percent of their ballots for Republicans and 25 percent for Democrats, the small shift suggested the party's base had stayed homewith the GOP.
"We didn't really see a lot of change in the voting patterns of evangelicals," said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and co-editor of The Values Campaign? The Christian Right and the 2004 Election. Green said the bigger swings for Democrats involved white Roman Catholics, 55 percent of whom voted for Democrats versus 44 percent for Republicans, along with less religious and non-religious voters. "That's where Democrats had their biggest gains," Green said.
Nevertheless, evangelicals ...