Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

Though the economy clearly was the defining issue of the election, Obama forged a new coalition by luring millions of religious voters who had avoided Democrats in recent years.
In short:
He narrowed the God Gap. Bush beat Kerry among weekly church-goers by 61%-39%. McCain beat Obama 55%-43% Most of that gain appears to have come from Protestants rather than Catholics
He won Catholics back. Early exit polls indicate he won 53% of the Catholic vote compared to 45% for John McCain. George W. Bush won the Catholic vote 52%-46%. Most of those gains came from Catholics who don’t attend mass weekly.
He also improved among white Catholics, according to the early exit polls. Bush got 56%-43% As of now, McCain lead by 53%-46% This was despite an aggressive push by more than 50 Bishops to encourage Catholics to focus on abortion as the central issue.
He gained among Evangelicals. Evangelicals and Born Again Christians made up a greater portion of the electorate this year than last election but that didn’t all accrue to McCain’s benefit, as predict. Obama improved slightly on a national level, getting 25% compared to Kerry’s 21%
But far more important, he made significant progress in the pivotal rustbelt states that won him the election. For instance, evangelicals flooded the polls in Ohio and Obama significantly improved on Kerry’s showing.
He attracted more Mainline Protestants — Though shifting toward the center in recent years, mainline Protestants — once a core of the Republican party — – still went for the Republicans in 2004. The exit polls didn’t ask specifically about mainline Protestants but it appears Obama improved slightly with this group.
He energized the lightly religious. Though secular voters already voted Democratic, they did so by an even bigger margin this year. Even more important, a quarter of the electorate says they go to worship services but only a few times a year. Kerry won that group with 54%-45%. Obama won 59%-39%
That’s what happened. Here’s HOW he did it.

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