Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

How Many Obamagelicals Are There?

The few of us who argued over the years that Democrats would be wise to court evangelicals were usually told that such a strategy was a waste of time and resources. Those pro-life, anti-gay “fundamentalists” would never vote Democratic.
Barack Obama has taken a more enlightened view courting evangelicals with a vengeance.
Time to get specific: how many would-be Obamagelicals are there?
Let’s start with the bad news for Obama. A recent Wall Street Journal poll had McCain winning 69% of evangelicals, Obama winning 21%, about as well as Bush did. The recent Pew Religious Landscape survey found that 52% describe themselves as conservative while only 11% describe themselves as liberal.
61% say abortion should be illegal all or most of the time versus 33% who say it should be legal, and more than twice as many say homosexualilty should be discouraged as said it should be “accepted.”
That’s a steep cliff for a pro-choice, liberal Democrat.
On the other hand, there’s much on the Christian landscape to give Democrats hope. In addition to the 11% who call thesmelves liberal, an impressive 30% of evangelicals call themselves politically moderate. And, according to Pew:


  • Only 29% of evangelicals believe the country is headed in the right direction.
  • 57% said we should go deeper in debt to help the poor.
  • 48% say they want bigger government (41% want smaller).
  • 54% want stricter environmental laws.

So how many evangelicals are really in play? Is this a small sliver of Jim Wallis clones or a massive Great Awakening of would-be Obamagelicals?
First, a few points of historical comparison. John Kerry won 22% of white evangelicals, while Clinton in 1996 won 32%. If Kerry had merely hit Clinton levels, instead of getting 5.8 million white evangelical votes, he would have gotten 9 million, a pickup of more than 3 million votes, giving him a popular vote victory.
That Pew number — the 41% of evangelicals who say they’re moderate or liberal — hints at an even bigger upside. If Kerry had gotten 41% of white evangelicals,* he would have pulled 11.5 million votes, an extra 5.7 million votes.
All of this is by way of saying that even if you assume that not a single conservative evangelical votes for Obama, he still stands to shift millions of votes into his column by working hard for evangelical support. He need not win over those who view Democrats as anti-Christian and pro-terrorist; he just needs to win those who dislike Bush, want bigger government and consider themselves moderate.
How hard can that be?
In my next post, I’ll discuss what he needs to do to attract them.
*Wonky footnote: the Pew survey used a different methodology than the 2004 exit polls. Specifically, they talk about membership of evangelical churches, which may include some African Americans (though most were classified as being in historically black churches)

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Charles Cosimano

posted June 30, 2008 at 10:17 pm

One of the most interesting statistical anomalies is that while the percentage of the population that is gay is probably about the same as the percentage that is Evangelical and the gay population, being pretty much exclusively adult in identification has a larger number of voters.
The difference is that while the gays are concentrated in urban areas where their votes actually count less in Presidential politics, the Evangelicals are more spread out and thus their votes, while actually fewer as their numbers include non-voting children, have more electoral clout. So while in theory the Democrat’s lock on the gays should give them a significant advantage in numbers, it does not work that way in reality.

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Brian Horan

posted June 30, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Mr. Waldman,
I wanna be a blogger on Beliefnet. David Kuo has profiled me. Most important, I enjoy the dialog and I respect people.
Yeah, this might be considered pretentious; but my heart is true.
I’m addicted to Beliefnet, even more than YAHOO! with which lies my email account.
I think that Beliefnet has a lot of integrity and I’d be proud to be included.
My credentials:
I am a public school teacher by trade. (Right now, I’m going into nursing.)
I am bilingual and have lived overseas.
I am a failed Evangelical Lutheran Seminary Candidate.
I am a follower of GOD; A COURSE IN MIRACLES; my babyboomer parents; Ralph Nader; Eckhart Tolle; Twilight Zone; Science of Mind/Ernest Holmes; Sci-Fi author, Douglas Adams; etc.
& I’m not an Obamagelical, even though I caucused with my heart and soul for OBAMA.
I believe in HEART & critical thought.
I’m a Lefty New Age agitator with an Evangelical Background.
(Not necessarily in that order)
My samples include my Kuo profile and my recent interactions with Michele (Reformed Chick Babbling).
Peace Out.
I can be reached at Currently, I’m offering my services to Course In Miracles afficianado & author D. Miller for his website. I PREFER bELIEFNET & all it’s lovely diversity.
Peace Out!
Only good vibrations!

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posted July 1, 2008 at 12:01 am

I come from a conservative Roman Catholic background but became a liberal/progressive Evangelical when I grew up. My Father who never voted for a Democrat in his life became a fan of Barbara Jordon and later voted for Bill Clinton.
Yes, the leopard can change his spots if motivated by current events. Today’s economy, the war in Iraq and the greed of the Corporations are causing people of all faiths to reevaluate the ideology of the Republican party and to question the broken promises of the Bush leadership.
We haven’t changed our ideals, we just don’t trust the GOP to live up to their pledges to the causes we endorse. The environment, the gas prices, the war and the failures of the Bushes have left us alone and disenfranchised. I am pro life, from the womb to the grave and the GOP has done nothing to save a single life. If I can’t find releif in my old age, my pention protected and the my health benifits secured, why should I trust the GOP any more?

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Brian Horan

posted July 1, 2008 at 9:20 am

Kind of embarrassed about my earlier post. I was a bit inebriated. I was checkin’ to see if it was deleted.
Just noticing Paul’s post and think he’s really got it.
My worry is that the Republican drumbeats for war with Iran are real. I saw an ABC news item about the Israelis fixing to strike Iran possibly before the year’s over.
Folks, if we have any kind of conventional war with Iran, I’m thinkin’ there’s gonna be a draft. McCain has said that he wouldn’t draft unless it’s WWIII. I think a war with Iran would trigger just that.
I hope Israel is contained.
My step grandad, the honorable guy that raised my dad from his childhood on because my dad was orphaned, was Jewish. I had a great Jewish childhood friend, and so did my sister. I’d have no problem with my future kids marrying Jews. Heck, I’d consider adopting a Jewish kid.
I feel like a big mistake in our history was not letting Jewish people settle here in the States. I don’t blame them for wanting their own land and don’t doubt that Europe, just after WWII, had plenty of antisemitism. Sadly it lay in our own country too (think about how folks feel about Latinos). Coulda woulda shoulda
I really hope and pray that we can have peace. Without it – it’s lookin’ like a bleak 21st Century. I gotta admit severe disappointment because when the Cold War ended, I really thought humanity had grown. I used to be quite paranoid of nuclear war.
Iran has the capability, according to our own intelligence, to rapidly lay mines in the Persian Gulf which could bring oil delivery to a halt. Just think what that would mean in the way of inflation. Think of what it would mean for folks like Paul and folks on a fixed incomes.
And seriously consider the prospect of kids being drafted, even out of the burbs. If we have a new draft, I think everybody ought to go so it’s fair – no deferments.
War is wasting us away.

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Rita Loo

posted September 1, 2008 at 10:11 pm

I have a hard time accepting the GOP’s intolerence for anyone who is not Christian – don’t other people of faith count. Never once, have I heard someone speak out and include other Patriotic individuals who do not share their religious beliefs mentioned. What about American’s who are Jewish, Buddist, Muslims, and so forth. America was founded on freedom of religion but it seems that only Protestant Christians are what really matter. I am so tired of Evangalical Christians telling me what I must believe. Hasn’t George W. Bush’s religious war taught us anything. I find it amazing that Mrs. Palin’s 17 year old daughter is pregnant and the Evangalicals are praising her – call me jaded but had that been anyone of the other party and it would have been a child “created in sin”
As with many of the GOP policies I have a real conflict with my faith being dictated. I too, as was Paul, was raised catholic and while I personally would not choose abortion, I believe that should be between the woman and god – not the woman and the GOP

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posted November 19, 2008 at 8:25 pm

We have started a page dedicated to news associated with Obamagelicals –

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