The outspoken Rev. Franklin Graham claimed today that the “majority of Christians” did not vote.
“We know that from of the statistics that I’ve heard that the majority of Christians in this country just did not vote for whatever reason,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. “The vast majority of evangelicals did not go to the polls.” He added, “God is in control, and if Christians are upset, they need to be upset at themselves. We need to do a better job of getting our people- the church to vote. Now, I’m not trying to tell you how to vote, you can vote, but vote, my goodness, and vote for candidates that stand for Biblical values.”
But Graham’s assertion -- and implication that had white Christian evangelicals just showed up in bigger numbers, President Obama would have lost -- is off base.
In fact, white evangelicals/born-again Christians made up the same percentage of the electorate as they did in 2008 – 26%. They voted for Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, by a wider margin than they did for Sen. John McCain four years ago.
And, they made up a larger share of the electorate in 2012 than in 2004, when the Christian Right supposedly fueled George W. Bush’s reelection. They also voted for Romney with the exact same margin as for Bush in 2004, 78%-21%.
Not to mention, Obama won the 48 percent of the electorate that was Christian and not Protestant or Mormon -- 50%-48% among Catholics (25% of the electorate) and 50%-49% of "Other Christians" (23% of the electorate).
In Ohio, they were 1 point more of the electorate than 2008; in Colorado, 4 points higher; in Iowa, up 7 points; in Nevada, up 2.
White evangelical voters in select swing states
CO: 25%, 76-22 Romney; 2008: 21%, 76-23 McCain
FL: 24%, 79-21 Romney; 2008: 24%, 77-21 McCain
IA: 38%, 64-35 Romney; 2008: 31%, 65-33 McCain
NV: 18%, 69-28 Romney; 2008: 16%, 72-27 McCain
OH: 31%, 69-30 Romney; 2008: 30%, 71-27 McCain
They did decline as a share of the electorate in North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin. But the drops in states like North Carolina (Graham’s home state) and Virginia likely have less to do with apathy and more to do with demographic changes – transplants in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and growth in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Northern Virginia, for example.
The fact is, Virginia and North Carolina are looking less and less like the Old South and more and more like Mid-Atlantic states.
White evangelical voters in the South (where exit polls are available)
MS: 50%, 95-5 Romney; 2008: 46%, 94-6 McCain
AL: 47% , 90-10 Romney; 2008: 47%, 92-8 McCain
NC: 35%, 79-20 Romney; 2008: 44%, 74-25 McCain
VA: 23%, 83-17 Romney; 2008: 28%, 79-20 McCain
Are there Christian evangelicals who did not vote? Certainly. But that’s true every year and of every demographic group.
Evangelicals make up 26 percent of adults in the country, according to a major 2008 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey. They matched that this election.
The U.S. Census says there are more than 311 million people in the United States. If evangelical adults are 26 percent of them, then there would be 80 million potential voters.
So far, 123 million votes have been counted in this election – and that number will get higher by the millions as votes continue to be counted like in 2008. Evangelicals made up 26 percent of them, therefore, about 32 million evangelicals voted – less than half of their population.
But there’s a need for context here: (1) They make up just 14 percent of the registered-voter base in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. They outpaced that percentage in the presidential election, (2) This is true every other demographic group in the country as well.
Latinos, for example, according to the U.S. Census, are nearly 17 percent of the country, but only made up 10 percent of the 2012 electorate. They make up just 8 to 9 percent of the registered-voter base of the NBC/WSJ poll.
That would mean just 12 million of the 52 million adult Hispanics voted.
If this was Australia, and the U.S. had compulsory voting, Graham’s argument that evangelicals would have tipped the balance would not hold up very well.