Midterms reconfirm evangelical voters’ connection to GOP

In the midterm elections, evangelical Christians across the country reconfirmed their allegiance to conservative candidates and causes, while Catholic voters once again showed how divided they were, even on abortion.

On a successful and high-profile ballot measure in the battleground state of Michigan, proposing to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution, Catholic voters were split about evenly, according to AP VoteCast, an extensive survey of more than 94,000 voters across the country.

In Kentucky, a reliable Republican state, voters rejected a GOP-backed ballot measure aimed at denying any constitutional state protections for abortion. Of those who voted no, 60% of Catholic voters, according to VoteCast.


In contrast, about two-thirds of white evangelical voters in Kentucky and Michigan voted against protecting abortion access.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, said the rejection of the measure in his state was an “absolute disaster”.

He was less surprised by abortion rights amendments passed in more liberal Vermont and California and in centrist Michigan. But Kentucky’s vote was the “toughest loss” and followed a similar vote in August in another red state, Kansas.

Mohler said it was important for abortion opponents to be willing to translate their views into politics.

Voters “who voted for pro-life candidates turned around and voted against a pro-life constitutional amendment,” Mohler lamented.

On the other side of the fight, Catholics for Choice President Jamie Manson said abortion access protections were popular.

“In red states and blue states, with religious voters and secular voters, wherever abortion was on the ballot, abortion rights won out disproportionately,” he said. she said in a statement.

John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, said the Kentucky vote signals that many Americans seem to want the status quo envisioned by Roe v. Wade in 1973. He legalized abortion nationwide — with some limits — until it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

“Most of the country wants restrictions on abortion, but they don’t want bans,” Fea said. “The Christian right, despite getting what they wanted with the overthrow of Roe, is not getting the magnitude of victory they were hoping for.”

According to AP VoteCast, only about one in 10 voters nationally and in most states say abortion should be illegal in any case. Even among white evangelical voters, while most say abortion should generally be illegal, only about two in 10 say abortion should be illegal in all cases.

Voters voted Tuesday in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Michigan was one of five states to enshrine abortion protections in law, contrary to the wishes of about two-thirds of evangelical voters.
(Joel Bissell/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, file)

Despite setbacks on ballot measures, abortion opponents rejoiced at some other election results. Michael New, who teaches social research at the Catholic University of America, cited comfortable re-election victories for GOP governors. Greg Abbott in Texas, Brian Kemp in Georgia, Ron DeSantis in Florida and Mike DeWine in Ohio.

“All of these governors signed strong pro-life legislation and didn’t hide from the abortion issue,” New said.

According to VoteCast, about 4 in 10 Catholics voting in the midterm elections identified as Democrats; about half as Republicans. A breakdown of some high-profile races for governor and for the U.S. Senate illustrated what a very dynamic constituency these voters are.

In Wisconsin, Catholic voters slightly favored Republicans in both races.

In Pennsylvania, Catholics were slightly more likely to have voted for Republican loser in the Senate race, Mehmet Oz, but more likely to vote for Democratic winner in the race for governor, Josh Shapiro. Oz is Muslim and Shapiro is Jewish.

In Arizona, Catholic voters were evenly split between Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates, while about 60% backed Democrat Mark Kelly, seeking re-election to the Senate. Close races in Arizona are not called by the Associated Press.

In each of those three states, about two-thirds or more of white evangelical Christian voters backed the GOP candidates.

Another notable factor in these results: Large majorities of voters who describe themselves as non-religious voted for Democrats and supported abortion rights in their decisions on the Michigan and Kentucky ballot measures.

Although it remains unclear which party will control Congress, John Fea and other scholars said the election was a setback for at least some Christian nationalist candidates on the Republican side — those who merge identity, symbols, and Christian and American mission.

While some candidates associated with that view have been successful — like U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican re-elected in her predominantly red Georgia district — those facing a more mixed electorate have struggled.

Republican Doug Mastriano – whose campaign rallies were steeped in music and Christian symbols despite rejecting the label of “Christian nationalist” – lost decisively in the race for governor in Pennsylvania. Republican U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert, also associated with the movement, faced a tighter-than-expected race for re-election in Colorado.

Fea said Mastriano may have alienated people with his Christian nationalism but also with other factors, such as his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.


“I think it’s a vote against an extreme form of Christian nationalism, combined with election denial,” said Fea, author of “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.”

Mastriano won about 6 out of 10 votes from fellow evangelical Christians, according to VoteCast, but that seemed slightly behind the two-thirds who backed Mehmet Oz.

Overall, among voters nationwide, about 4 in 10 say they attend religious services at least once a month; about a third say they never attend. About a fifth say they go there once a week or more.


Democrats largely attend church services less frequently — about 7 in 10 attend for less than a month. Among Republicans, 46% go out at least once a month, while 54% go less often.

Barry F. Howard