Evangelicals Power Republicans to Senate Victories
Results in a handful of House races are still being counted. The Democrats returned to power in the House. And the GOP expanded its power in the Senate. The GOP holds in the Ohio, Florida, and Iowa governor races also loom large for 2020.
Much has been made about the inroads Democrats made with suburban women. But another key base of support for the president flexed their muscle last Tuesday: evangelical Christians.
They voted overwhelmingly for GOP Senate candidates.
Going into the night, Republicans controlled the Senate by a razor thin 51-49 majority. They had hopes of flipping seats in states that President Trump previously won. Although the GOP lost Nevada, they won Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Florida is also a possibility, where Rick Scott is clinging to a small lead.
Exit polls reveal these wins were propelled by strong support from evangelicals. This was very similar to the Trump’s win in 2016.
The Past Two Elections
Consider these numbers:
Nationally, 75 percent of evangelical or born-again Christians supported GOP House candidates.
In the states with close Senate races, evangelical support was decisive for GOP wins.
- In 2016: evangelicals were 21% of turnout. Trump captured 85% of them.
- In 2018: evangelicals were 29% of turnout; Scott captured 80% of them
- In 2016: evangelicals were 35% of turnout. Trump captured 83% of them.
- In 2018: evangelicals were 38% of turnout; Hawley captured 75% of them.
- In 2016: evangelicals were 39% of turnout. Trump captured 75% of them.
- In 2018: evangelicals were 41% of turnout; Braun captured 71% of them.
- 2016: No exit poll data available
- 2018: Evangelicals were 37% of turnout. Cramer captured 72% of them.
Indiana, Missouri, Florida, and North Dakota were all states that flipped to the GOP. Republican Senate candidates won in those states, on average, 74.5 percent of the evangelical vote. Trump captured a higher percentage of them in 2016 than in this election. But turnout among this group as a percentage of the electorate was higher in 2018.
What do these results mean? What do they indicate for the president’s hopes of a win in 2020?
First, the results show that evangelicals remained loyal to the GOP this year. The president kept his promise to ban U.S. funding for foreign abortion groups. He signed a bill that allows states to withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood. He got rid of President Obama’s transgender order. Previous presidents promised to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Donald Trump actually delivered. So evangelicals stuck with the president’s party in the midterms.
Moving forward, keeping their support will be crucial for the President. In 2016, evangelicals made up 26 percent of all voters and they overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump. The president will need their support again in 2020.
The People’s Priorities
Second, exit polling reveals social conservative policy priorities are important to the American people. In a FRC-commissioned survey, 1,000 Americans were asked their opinion on issues such as abortion, marriage, and religious liberty.
Of those surveyed, 60 percent said they opposed government policies that opened private places like bathrooms and showers to the opposite sex.
On abortion, 56 percent support the Hyde Amendment which prevents the federal government from using funds to pay for abortion. Only 28 percent said yes to repeal.
On religious liberty, 70 percent believe the government should leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage between one man and one woman. They also agreed this freedom extends to how they live their daily lives at work.
Look at the Numbers
Finally, three groups should look at these numbers.
First, even though Democrats won the House, the majority of Americans still do not support many Obama social policies. Those include Obama policies on abortion, bathroom bills, and the redefinition of gender. House Democrats should take note and not pursue radical social policies that strike at basic American liberties.
Second, Republican Senators should also review these numbers. And then, they should refuse to back off their party platform’s values on abortion, marriage, and religious liberty. The support GOP candidates gave to these values helped drive evangelical Christians to support them in the 2018 election. Evangelicals helped them capture key Senate seats in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and (likely) Florida.
Third, as 2020 approaches, President Trump should note that his evangelical base strongly supported GOP Senate candidates who stood up for social conservative values. For the President to maintain evangelical support, he must stay the course on appointing good judges. He must also continue supporting religious liberty at home and abroad. And of course, that also means standing for the unborn. If he does, a second term is a strong possibility.
David Closson serves as the Research Fellow for Religious Freedom and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council. He is also a Ph.D. student in Christian Ethics (Public Policy) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.