Religion, marriage and the GOP's demographic challenge brought to the fore by 2012 election
If exit polls in the key swing state of Virginia are right, the white evangelical vote dipped from 2008 (28 percent of electorate) to 2012 (22 percent). This is somewhat surprising, since McCain was running a losing race and GOP turnout was depressed.
Romney did slightly increase his share of that vote. McCain only got 79 percent, which Romney bumped to 83 percent. The slight dip in the turnout, combined with bump in share, suggests that some evangelicals may have stayed home, despite the close race.
With Catholic voters, it appears that Obama did suffer only slightly for his spat with the church. In the key swing state of Ohio, Romney won Catholics by nine points, where McCain had only won them by five. Catholics comprised 25 percent of the vote in Ohio.
Obama's gamble appears to have paid off, as Democrats managed to remobilize much of their base from the 2008 election. Exit polls showed Democrats outnumbering Republicans 38 to 32 percent.
Prior to this year pollsters had not used marital status in exit polls. But with Obama banking his strategy on mobilizing unmarried women, and Romney scrambling to close the gender gap, this new question produced interesting results.
Married women comprised 29 percent of the electorate, and tilted narrowly to Romney by 2 points. Non-married women were a smaller 23 percent, but an overwhelming 66 percent of them went to Obama.
The only way Romney could win, said Joel Kotkin, a demography expert at Chapman University in Southern California, would be “the revenge of 'Ozzie and Harriet.'”
“What you have is a contest between a married American and a single or unmarried America,” Kotkin said. “It’s become a great divide in American politics.”
Kotkin has his eye on the “large-and-growing population of people who simply do not have children. They are going to be a very powerful political force in the next 20 years.”
And yet, Kotkin acknowledges the GOP does not have a lock on married people, surrendering huge chunks of ethnic voters with families, particularly Latinos.
“They don’t call it the 'stupid party' for nothing,” Kotkin said, noting that in the primary Romney was “forced to take a position on immigration that does not fly very well in the Hispanic community.”
Accordingly, the GOP weakness in the ethnic vote has undermined its claim to a larger share of the marriage vote, leaving them squeezed in the middle.
“The Republican party has lost the ability to communicate — not just with Hispanics, but also with gays and young people,” Kotkin said. “And the question now is whether they have to be so dependent on white mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.”
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