People of Faith and the Presidential Elections

The Christian Science Monitor recently ran a story on how the Democratic Party is outpacing Republicans in polls among people of faith [Hat tip, Ennis]. The article emphasized how norms have changed between generations, and how values have realigned towards inclusivity among younger voters who identify with a faith community:

…young adults are more open to religious diversity and cooperation, they are less likely to say that one has to believe in God to be moral…

Young voters are much more inclined to support a larger government that provides more services (57 percent versus 45 percent of the overall population).

Young adults support government involvement most in regard to helping the poor and the environment.

Does this mean we’re seeing a shift against the “Culture Wars” of the Reagan-era? Voters across the board ranked wedge issues — including mariage equality and abortion — at the bottom of their political concerns. In the context of today’s uncertainty, it’s not surprising that people would be more concerned about health care and the economy. That said, I wonder if this shift away from “values” debates indicates a permanent trend for young voters.

While the survey’s analysis focused on divergences between Catholics and Evangelicals, a part of me wonders how much increasing religious diversity in the country has pushed against absolutist morality. Younger voters have shifted their prescription for the government’s role (or non-role) in regulating morality. These voters are also re-opening the door for how we define morality, whether multiple meanings can co-exist, and whether or not these meanings must be rooted in a faith identity or context.


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23 Responses to “People of Faith and the Presidential Elections”

  1. Nepantla says:

    One of the really interesting questions for me on this issue is how we should conceptualize this 'shift'. Is it a shift away from the 'values' debates, or is it a deep transformation of the values debates? I prefer to think of it as the latter, because otherwise we end up re-affirming the notion (still championed by much of the right) that abortion, marriage, drugs, etc. are the true 'moral' issues, while things like the economy, health care, etc. are somehow value-neutral, merely 'political', debates. Thinking of things in this way is dangerous, because it prevents people of faith (and others) from recognizing the economy, health care, etc. as deeply moral issues, and from then deploying our moral traditions against the clear immoralities of our economy, health care, foreign policy, etc.

  2. Nepantla says:

    One of the really interesting questions for me on this issue is how we should conceptualize this ‘shift’. Is it a shift away from the ‘values’ debates, or is it a deep transformation of the values debates? I prefer to think of it as the latter, because otherwise we end up re-affirming the notion (still championed by much of the right) that abortion, marriage, drugs, etc. are the true ‘moral’ issues, while things like the economy, health care, etc. are somehow value-neutral, merely ‘political’, debates. Thinking of things in this way is dangerous, because it prevents people of faith (and others) from recognizing the economy, health care, etc. as deeply moral issues, and from then deploying our moral traditions against the clear immoralities of our economy, health care, foreign policy, etc.

  3. sizzle says:

    cheers to nepantla for PROVIDING AN ACTUAL ANALYSIS. to comment further, political divisions are cyclical and and constantly redefine themselevs. modern day political parties almost wholly lack principles of any sort – often, they are reactionary and adopt a platform or stance that might exploit a populist sentiment to their benefit (immigration is the recent example that comes to mind, guns, etc., and if you go back a few more decades, new deal, tax stance, etc.) hence, all the common sense contradictions (or maybe not so common sense). parties, pundits, talking heads might often define our "morals" and our "values" aside from the tangible issues we can define ourselves – health care, so, wait for the major issues – war, economy, impending social security doom – to die down a tad. then we'll get back to our internal "us v. them" attitude that is the bread and butter of a two party system. it will be curious to see how they may be defined. as much as i like obama generally (if not on every issue), i am disturbed by the emerging and more powerful class warfare arguments – the 95% v. 5% bullsh*t.

    also, you cite the reagan era as a time of "culture wars" even though reagan won in massive landslides by mobilizing broad, mainstream coalitions, if not certain political and cultural elites or generally ostracized segments. plus, the article you link focuses on the culture wars that emerged after the reagan era, those precipitating the electoral and political divisiveness of the last 4 election cycles, which may have served as better examples and truly epitomized the "moral" v. "issues" debates (BILL CLINTON v. the GOP FOR EIGHT+ YEARS?!?? SWIFT BOATS? PALLING AROUND WITH TERRORISTS?). but nice try on the unnecessary reagan barb. how old were you? 5? i bet you know all about those there culture wars when reagan's cronies were curb stomping gays and air-dropping crates of crack into the ghettos. high five!

  4. sizzle says:

    oh, and i forgot to even touch on religion. as has been discussed on this site in the past, the emergence of the chrisitan right, evangelicals, as a YOUNG base is noteworthy, mostly because of the strong marketing tactics that megachurches and organizations have adopted in order to ensure they don't lose a generation (and later generations) to the secularists. while they are highly visible and fairly powerful, and are the epitome of "absolutist morality," i don't think they are necessarily as much of a "block vote" for the republicans as their parents. the internet and media has made the world a smaller place and introduced the "others," the "heathens" to everyone, and it's harder to dehumanize the opposition along religious lines.. that's not to say they're not going to be a block and certain sentiments won't continue – they will. but in the scope of national politics, even if 10% of "religious absolutists" don't vote based on their religious values because they're introduced to the plethora of other issues, there's a shift.

    meanwhile, the jews are split amongst the "cultural progressives" and those interested in israel's safety. the indians (sikhs/hindus) are split amongst the "cultural progressives" and their fat wallets. the catholics are split amongst the cultural progressives and The Church. the muslims WERE kind of split, the big organizations and more religious supported Bush in 2000 in part because of his religiosity, but now they're playing a whole different ball game (oops on their part). blacks – the most religious people in this country – vote democrat and won't soon change. latinos – up for grabs! and on, and on.

  5. sizzle says:

    cheers to nepantla for PROVIDING AN ACTUAL ANALYSIS. to comment further, political divisions are cyclical and and constantly redefine themselevs. modern day political parties almost wholly lack principles of any sort – often, they are reactionary and adopt a platform or stance that might exploit a populist sentiment to their benefit (immigration is the recent example that comes to mind, guns, etc., and if you go back a few more decades, new deal, tax stance, etc.) hence, all the common sense contradictions (or maybe not so common sense). parties, pundits, talking heads might often define our “morals” and our “values” aside from the tangible issues we can define ourselves – health care, so, wait for the major issues – war, economy, impending social security doom – to die down a tad. then we’ll get back to our internal “us v. them” attitude that is the bread and butter of a two party system. it will be curious to see how they may be defined. as much as i like obama generally (if not on every issue), i am disturbed by the emerging and more powerful class warfare arguments – the 95% v. 5% bullsh*t.

    also, you cite the reagan era as a time of “culture wars” even though reagan won in massive landslides by mobilizing broad, mainstream coalitions, if not certain political and cultural elites or generally ostracized segments. plus, the article you link focuses on the culture wars that emerged after the reagan era, those precipitating the electoral and political divisiveness of the last 4 election cycles, which may have served as better examples and truly epitomized the “moral” v. “issues” debates (BILL CLINTON v. the GOP FOR EIGHT+ YEARS?!?? SWIFT BOATS? PALLING AROUND WITH TERRORISTS?). but nice try on the unnecessary reagan barb. how old were you? 5? i bet you know all about those there culture wars when reagan’s cronies were curb stomping gays and air-dropping crates of crack into the ghettos. high five!

  6. sizzle says:

    oh, and i forgot to even touch on religion. as has been discussed on this site in the past, the emergence of the chrisitan right, evangelicals, as a YOUNG base is noteworthy, mostly because of the strong marketing tactics that megachurches and organizations have adopted in order to ensure they don’t lose a generation (and later generations) to the secularists. while they are highly visible and fairly powerful, and are the epitome of “absolutist morality,” i don’t think they are necessarily as much of a “block vote” for the republicans as their parents. the internet and media has made the world a smaller place and introduced the “others,” the “heathens” to everyone, and it’s harder to dehumanize the opposition along religious lines.. that’s not to say they’re not going to be a block and certain sentiments won’t continue – they will. but in the scope of national politics, even if 10% of “religious absolutists” don’t vote based on their religious values because they’re introduced to the plethora of other issues, there’s a shift.

    meanwhile, the jews are split amongst the “cultural progressives” and those interested in israel’s safety. the indians (sikhs/hindus) are split amongst the “cultural progressives” and their fat wallets. the catholics are split amongst the cultural progressives and The Church. the muslims WERE kind of split, the big organizations and more religious supported Bush in 2000 in part because of his religiosity, but now they’re playing a whole different ball game (oops on their part). blacks – the most religious people in this country – vote democrat and won’t soon change. latinos – up for grabs! and on, and on.

  7. Camille says:

    sizzle, not really sure where your animosity is coming from (aside from the usual pace of your reactions to my posts), but I've enjoyed reading Nepantla's and your posts.

    I think it's fair to situate the rise of "moral values" debates in the context of the "Reagan Revolution." Part of this is because of the unique framing and campaign organization/tactics formulated under Reagan (and to a certain extent, right after Nixon). Reagan really shifted the conversation as Democrats struggled to figure out how to express "values" in "secular" terms (and they still don't do a great job of it). Reagan did a remarkable, and paradoxical, job of picking messages that resonated with many subsets of voters. Both he and G.W. had fascinating and interesting campaigns that really curried favor by using "wedge" issues to bring dissimilar voting demographics out in their elections. I would argue that through the last 20 years, voters older than the 18-34 bracket have had their identities, voting patterns, and ideas of political affiliation shaped by where they situate themselves in, or how they react to, these messages.

    However, in the 2000 and 2004 election there was also an attempt to consolidate disparate ideas/messages and shift them to the right. I think a lot of moderate voters — on both sides of the aisle — felt alienated by this process. If we then apply this to young voters, many of whom grew up with some of the most polarized Congresses in the past 50 years, I can understand why there would be a shift away from more contentious or divisive issues.

    I think what's notable is that, except for young Evangelicals (who, from this poll, have a very different expectation of the role of government in managing morality), this shift applies across communities of faith, including those who have been appealed to to vote on narrow "morality" questions instead of on broader platforms. I think there are two factors at play: 1. There's a reaction towards cooperation among individuals who, for most of their conscious lives, are weary of the reductionist rhetoric of the U.S. having only two extremes to affiliate with; and 2. There is a genuine belief that a person can vote his/her values and morals through their policy positions on issues that fall out of the "values debate" as it's been framed the past 12 years. I think part of this is push back to the image of a uniform Christian identity, particularly a uniform political identity, and part is because of the growing religious diversity, and diversity in general, in the country.

  8. Camille says:

    sizzle, not really sure where your animosity is coming from (aside from the usual pace of your reactions to my posts), but I’ve enjoyed reading Nepantla’s and your posts.

    I think it’s fair to situate the rise of “moral values” debates in the context of the “Reagan Revolution.” Part of this is because of the unique framing and campaign organization/tactics formulated under Reagan (and to a certain extent, right after Nixon). Reagan really shifted the conversation as Democrats struggled to figure out how to express “values” in “secular” terms (and they still don’t do a great job of it). Reagan did a remarkable, and paradoxical, job of picking messages that resonated with many subsets of voters. Both he and G.W. had fascinating and interesting campaigns that really curried favor by using “wedge” issues to bring dissimilar voting demographics out in their elections. I would argue that through the last 20 years, voters older than the 18-34 bracket have had their identities, voting patterns, and ideas of political affiliation shaped by where they situate themselves in, or how they react to, these messages.

    However, in the 2000 and 2004 election there was also an attempt to consolidate disparate ideas/messages and shift them to the right. I think a lot of moderate voters — on both sides of the aisle — felt alienated by this process. If we then apply this to young voters, many of whom grew up with some of the most polarized Congresses in the past 50 years, I can understand why there would be a shift away from more contentious or divisive issues.

    I think what’s notable is that, except for young Evangelicals (who, from this poll, have a very different expectation of the role of government in managing morality), this shift applies across communities of faith, including those who have been appealed to to vote on narrow “morality” questions instead of on broader platforms. I think there are two factors at play: 1. There’s a reaction towards cooperation among individuals who, for most of their conscious lives, are weary of the reductionist rhetoric of the U.S. having only two extremes to affiliate with; and 2. There is a genuine belief that a person can vote his/her values and morals through their policy positions on issues that fall out of the “values debate” as it’s been framed the past 12 years. I think part of this is push back to the image of a uniform Christian identity, particularly a uniform political identity, and part is because of the growing religious diversity, and diversity in general, in the country.

  9. My brother's wife is Chilean and lived through some pretty horrific times in Chile under Pinochet. This person was supported/encouraged by Reagan, so I have very little tolerance for any discussions about Reagan and his "morals." The most notorious villain of modern times is Hitler, who I see as little different from Pinochet or Reagan. People in power, who don't care about massive killings to keep what they have.

  10. sizzle says:

    sizzle, not really sure where your animosity is coming from (aside from the usual pace of your reactions to my posts),

    camille, ti is the nature of our online relationship. in my head, i have a good reply. but, i have no time to post…i am here now only because prabhu's post DEMANDS a reaction and my 2 minutes of time.

    The most notorious villain of modern times is Hitler, who I see as little different from Pinochet or Reagan.

    Prabhu – we have a winner! godwin's law! that is an unbelievably moronic post. anyone who has any ability to reason, contextual knowledge, historical perspective, and able to step back from emotional knee jerking would be hard pressed to not find that post absolutely moronic. and insulting.

  11. My brother’s wife is Chilean and lived through some pretty horrific times in Chile under Pinochet. This person was supported/encouraged by Reagan, so I have very little tolerance for any discussions about Reagan and his “morals.” The most notorious villain of modern times is Hitler, who I see as little different from Pinochet or Reagan. People in power, who don’t care about massive killings to keep what they have.

  12. Nepantla says:

    sizzle,

    Sorry, but something needs to be said here. Instead of lecturing others on emotional knee jerking, i would suggest that it might be more effective for you to lead by example and through your own practice, and to check the vitriol. Not only are you caught in a performative contradiction when your practice betrays the content of your words, but such interventions are as unhelpful and unproductive as any posts that you might find lacking in substance. Recall that in our tradition, truthful living–that is, our conduct and practice–is higher than truth itself.

  13. sizzle says:

    sizzle, not really sure where your animosity is coming from (aside from the usual pace of your reactions to my posts),

    camille, ti is the nature of our online relationship. in my head, i have a good reply. but, i have no time to post…i am here now only because prabhu’s post DEMANDS a reaction and my 2 minutes of time.

    The most notorious villain of modern times is Hitler, who I see as little different from Pinochet or Reagan.

    Prabhu – we have a winner! godwin’s law! that is an unbelievably moronic post. anyone who has any ability to reason, contextual knowledge, historical perspective, and able to step back from emotional knee jerking would be hard pressed to not find that post absolutely moronic. and insulting.

  14. sizzle says:

    wait wait wait wait – you compare my admittedly very abrasive and debate inducing writing style, sometimes tongue and cheek to those who might have come to learn my positions and humor from reading my formerly frequent posts, posts often backed up with my best effort at reason, logic, history, etc., posts that have spurred and led to quite a few fun debates and discussions in the last year to………….someone comparing ronald reagan to hitler in the most asinine way possible? via knee jerk "the wife of my brother suffered through a horror and the US didn't help and maybe funded the government that perpetrated violence" emotionalism?

    you're funny.

  15. "People in power, who don’t care about massive killings to keep what they have."

    That seems like enough logic and reason for me to compare the two!

    [Changay Bachay, keep it civil and keep it on subject, or thread gets closed. Mamaji is watching….Admin Singh]

  16. Nepantla says:

    sizzle,
    Sorry, but something needs to be said here. Instead of lecturing others on emotional knee jerking, i would suggest that it might be more effective for you to lead by example and through your own practice, and to check the vitriol. Not only are you caught in a performative contradiction when your practice betrays the content of your words, but such interventions are as unhelpful and unproductive as any posts that you might find lacking in substance. Recall that in our tradition, truthful living–that is, our conduct and practice–is higher than truth itself.

  17. sizzle says:

    wait wait wait wait – you compare my admittedly very abrasive and debate inducing writing style, sometimes tongue and cheek to those who might have come to learn my positions and humor from reading my formerly frequent posts, posts often backed up with my best effort at reason, logic, history, etc., posts that have spurred and led to quite a few fun debates and discussions in the last year to………….someone comparing ronald reagan to hitler in the most asinine way possible? via knee jerk “the wife of my brother suffered through a horror and the US didn’t help and maybe funded the government that perpetrated violence” emotionalism?

    you’re funny.

  18. “People in power, who dont care about massive killings to keep what they have.”
    That seems like enough logic and reason for me to compare the two!


    [Changay Bachay, keep it civil and keep it on subject, or thread gets closed. Mamaji is watching….Admin Singh]

  19. My second comment wasn't uncivil – lol. The third comment wasn't much different than him calling me moronic, but I'm glad it was removed – hehe.

    Clearly "sizzle" thinks differently than me, so his/her "logic" is different from my own. For me, on issues of morality, it only takes ONE long term relationship with, and support of, a murderous dictator (i.e. Reagan's relationship with Pinochet) to write them off as immoral.

    So I started from that perspective, it might be moronic for "sizzle" but to me it makes a lot of sense. If Reagan had supported and encouraged Indira Gandhi (who didn't kill as many as Pinochet) I think "sizzle" or other Sikhs, might see the relevance between discussing Reagan's morality and your, or your family's, direct experience of atrocities linked to Reagan's support.

  20. My second comment wasn’t uncivil – lol. The third comment wasn’t much different than him calling me moronic, but I’m glad it was removed – hehe.

    Clearly “sizzle” thinks differently than me, so his/her “logic” is different from my own. For me, on issues of morality, it only takes ONE long term relationship with, and support of, a murderous dictator (i.e. Reagan’s relationship with Pinochet) to write them off as immoral.

    So I started from that perspective, it might be moronic for “sizzle” but to me it makes a lot of sense. If Reagan had supported and encouraged Indira Gandhi (who didn’t kill as many as Pinochet) I think “sizzle” or other Sikhs, might see the relevance between discussing Reagan’s morality and your, or your family’s, direct experience of atrocities linked to Reagan’s support.

  21. Camille says:

    I think it's valid to question Reagan's application of "morality" to different policies, but I'd like to steer the conversation back to the shift on domestic issues, if that's ok. I didn't mean for the post to be about Reagan, but rather, to talk about trends in attitudes among (the very diverse, amorphous group of) young people of faith.

  22. Camille says:

    I think it’s valid to question Reagan’s application of “morality” to different policies, but I’d like to steer the conversation back to the shift on domestic issues, if that’s ok. I didn’t mean for the post to be about Reagan, but rather, to talk about trends in attitudes among (the very diverse, amorphous group of) young people of faith.

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