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The Great Omission:
The Disappearance of the Evangelical Vote
Dr. Joseph B. FuitenAn analysis by Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten

September 6, 2007

It has been noted for some time that religion is an exceptionally important indicator of voting habits. Exit polling in the 2006 election came to the same conclusion. A newly released study by Dr. Joseph Fuiten Senior of Pastor Cedar Park Church and the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) has given sharper focus to the religious voter in Washington State.

Pollsters have frequently chosen the religious categories of Protestant and Catholic when making religious inquiries. With the rise of the Evangelicals, this older categorization has proved to be of limited value because it fails to segment the highly diverse "Protestant" vote. The Protestant vote runs from ultra-liberal to staunch conservative. The study released by Pastor Fuiten and the FPIW, gives the first insight into the vote of conservative Christians in 2006. The study provides comparison to the non-religious voter as well as "Protestant" voters.

Bob Moore of Moore Insights was the only polling organization that did exit polling in Washington State in 2006. He reported the percentage who voted that were not affiliated with any religion was higher in 2006 than in 2004. (It was 22% of all voters in '06 versus 16% in '04.) In real numbers, there were 461,565 non-religious voters in 2004. Even though their percentage increased, the actual number of non-religious voters in 2006 decreased slightly to 458,421.

As a percentage, Catholics voted in consistent numbers in the last two elections. What was different in 2006 was that among Protestants the percentage fell from 59% to 54%. In real numbers the drop from 2004 was 1,702,021 down to 1,125,216 in 2006. Protestant voters declined by 576,804 when comparing the last two elections. The study gives greater insight into the Evangelical portion of the severely diminished Protestant vote.

Non-religious people voted overwhelmingly for Christine Gregoire in 2004, 71% for Gregoire vs. 27% for Dino Rossi. They liked Maria Cantwell even more in 2006, 75% for Cantwell vs. 19% for McGavick.

Mike McGavick won among Protestants by only 50% to 49% for Maria Cantwell. This compares rather unfavorably with the vote Dino Rossi received in 2004 when he won among Protestants by 58% to 40%.

These numbers suggest that the non-religious voters were more motivated to vote, virtually sustaining their Presidential year numbers in an off year election. Catholics continued their usual pattern. It was among Protestants that the most dramatic shift occurred. The study indicates that it was particularly among the conservative Christian voters where the most intense falloff occurred.

Unlike 2004, the study has concluded that Republicans did not benefit from the "moral values" aspect of the Evangelical vote. Various polls suggested the 2006 election was largely driven by national issues of war and scandal in Washington D.C. Washington voters didn't like an incompetently managed war in Iraq or the response to Hurricane Katrina. Americans apparently love efficiency and the Republicans who were in power did not demonstrate it. It appeared that any candidate with an (R) behind their name paid a price for the perception of poor management of the war in Iraq.

What the normal exit polling failed to capture were the opinions of those who did not vote. As it turns out, the study reveals that Evangelicals didn't vote in 2006.

The study started with some 20,000 names of conservative Christian adults. The names were gleaned from R-65 petition signers, participants in 2004 voter registration efforts within churches, church voting coordinators, and those involved in various conservative Christian action groups. Of the 20,000 adults, roughly 8,000, or 40%, were not registered to vote or did not have current addresses.

In the 2006 election the voting pattern of the remaining 12,000 known conservative Christians was monitored. Of the 60% who were registered to vote, only 14% of that group voted in the 2006 General Election.

Out of the original 20,000 conservative Christians in Washington State only 1,680 actually voted in 2006, a mere 8.4%. The results of hundreds of thousands of non-voting conservative Christians in Washington State is evident by the election results.
The Way Ahead

Remobilizing and re-energizing the Evangelical vote in 2008 will require multiple activities. First, a statewide effort should be mounted to register church voters.  This activity should take place within the church. If the figure of 40% is anywhere near correct, there are hundreds of thousands of church member who are not registered to vote.

Voter registration is particularly important because it is a non-partisan activity in which the Pastor can take the lead.  Pastoral leadership sends the signal that it is desirable for church members to be engaged in the political process.

Every conservative candidate for the state legislature or the United States Congress should be motivated to assist  evangelical voter registration efforts with money and personnel.

Like-minded private organizations should support these efforts by providing money and personnel as well.

In the last month before any election people engaged in voter registration and identification should quickly refocus their efforts to getting out the vote.
Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten is the senior pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington, and he is the former president of Positive Christian Agenda. Currently, Pastor Fuiten serves on the Board of Directors for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, an associate organization of Focus on the Family.
Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten | 16300 112th Ave NE | Bothell | WA | 98011