Ahead of the 2008 election, a lot of political organizing happened in traditional African-American churches. And 95% of Black voters pulled the lever for Obama. What impact has the president’s endorsement of marriage equality had on that base? How have other events during the intervening years affected this support? Public Religion Research Institute Founder and CEO Dr. Robert P. Jones brings us the latest data.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT: Dr. Robert P. Jones, Founder and CEO, Public Religion Research Institute[REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY, HOST]: As the summer drags on, it seems there are almost as many theories as to what will determine this fall’s election results as there are voters. Will the stock market rise? What about Romney’s taxes? Will states suppress turnout with unprecedented voter ID laws? And how about jobless numbers and new housing starts and whether the moon will be full and whether the oysters will be in season? You know.
Many analysts have concluded that in fact, this November’s election will hinge on the continued loyalty of the African-American community to Barack Obama. Let’s get an overview of this highly-prized bloc of voters from Dr. Robert P. Jones, Founder and President of Public Religion Research Institute – you know him! This is the Institute that we call on all the time for accurate information, and Robby explains it to us so well. The Institute recently released the results of a new survey asking minority voters about the importance of social issues in their decision-making process… And as you will hear later in the show, the GOP is counting on these issues being key to the success of a divide-and-conquer strategy.
Robby Jones, thanks for joining us again on State of Belief Radio![DR. ROBERT P. JONES, GUEST]: Thanks Welton, I’m very happy to be here. [WG]: So what did you ask in this new survey? [RJ]: Well, in this most recent survey we surveyed both African-American and Latino voters, and we’re trying to get a sense of where they are on cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. And for African-American voters, in particular, we wanted to know whether or not there’d been much impact on president Obama coming out for marriage equality, and whether this was going to have any impact. There’s been a lot of speculation about this, and one of the challenges has been that with most traditional polls you get very small samples of African-Americans and Latinos in those polls. It’s hard to make really definitive conclusions from those polls; so this poll surveyed 800 African-Americans nationwide, and gives us a really solid sense of where the community is on these issues. [WG]: So if I were building an election year strategy on social issues and minority voters, would I find this new PRRI survey encouraging or discouraging? [RJ]: I think you might try to look for a different strategy. What the poll really reveals is that these issues rank very, very low on minority voters’ radar screens. We had, for example, less than one in five, so only 18% saying, for example, that the issue of same-sex marriage among African-Americans was a critical issue facing the country today. And you compare that to more than seven in ten saying that the economy is the critical issue. So like most Americans, actually, in this election cycle, minority voters are just very tightly focused on the economy, and these other social issues are really not things that they’re likely to really bring with them, in any significant way, to the ballot box in November. [WG]: Are there any of the social issues that represent an exception to that? [RJ]: You know, the two we looked at, really, were abortion and same-sex marriage; and among Latinos, abortion is a little more resonant – but it’s still only about three in ten who say it’s a critical issue facing the country. So still far, far behind things like the economy and healthcare and other issues that are, really, more economic in nature. [WG]: Robby, some commentators have suggested that the Obama campaign is taking the African-American vote for granted. Are there any signs in this survey that Democrats may have problems with this constituency come November? [RJ]: Right. Now, we’ve seen this, I think, this week actually, there were some African-American ministers who were claiming exactly that, that the administration – precisely because of President Obama’s stand supporting allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in the country – was taking the African-American community for granted. What our survey finds, really, is no evidence that there’s really any slippage in support. I’ll give you just a couple of examples: among African-Americans, Obama still enjoys an overwhelming advantage over Romney, so nearly nine in ten, 87% of Black voters in the country say they continue to support President Obama. Only 3% say they’re planning to support Mitt Romney, there’s a ten percent still out saying that they don’t know, they haven’t made up their minds yet. But still, nine in ten to 3% is a pretty overwhelming advantage. It also shows up in favorability: Obama enjoys a 90% approval rating among African-Americans – and this is three months after his stance supporting same-sex marriage. Romney only has a 14% approval rating – so it’s a very stark difference when you look at the two candidates here.
One other thing I would say is this: we asked people directly, also, about whether they knew about Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, and if they knew, whether they support it. And I think the most powerful indicator of how little an issue this is going to be at the ballot box in November is this: that nearly seven in ten, 68% actually know that Obama has come out and supported same sex marriage; and among those who do, 60% said that they approve of his stance.[WG]: Hmm, you’re right. Is there anything else in this survey revealed that might help predict what happens in November? [RJ]: You know, what we see is a very strong support among minority communities, as Obama enjoyed in 2008; we see that support continuing, really, into this election cycle. So I would expect, you know, very, very overwhelming support among African-Americans and very, very strong support – two to one support for Obama over Romney – among Latino voters as well. [WG]: That’s Dr. Robert P. Jones, founder and president of the Public Religion Research Institute. You can read the full survey for yourself and see its findings at publicreligion.org.
Robby, as always, excellent work. Keep on asking people questions and telling us what they say and forecasting how this thing is going to go, you’re really good at it. And thanks for…[RJ]: Oh, thanks Welton, it’s always a pleasure to be with you. [WG]: Great to have you again on State of Belief Radio. [RJ]: Thanks a lot.
State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America – the most religiously diverse country in the world – while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion.
Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world.
Author of more than 20 books, including First Freedom First: A Citizen’s Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy leads the national non-partisan grassroots and educational organization Interfaith Alliance and serves as Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana.
In addition to being a prolific writer, Dr. Gaddy hosts the weekly State of Belief radio program, where he explores the role of religion in the life of the nation by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America, while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.
Dr. Gaddy provides regular commentary to the national media on issues relating to religion and politics. He has appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and Hardball, NBC’s Nightly News and Dateline, PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, ABC’s World News, and CNN’s American Morning. Former host of Morally Speaking on NBC affiliate KTVE in Monroe, Louisiana, Dr. Gaddy is a regular contributor to mainstream and religious news outlets.
While ministering to churches with a message of inclusion, Dr. Gaddy emerged as a leader among progressive and moderate Baptists. Among his many leadership roles, he is a past president of the Alliance of Baptists and has been a 20-year member of the Commission of Christian Ethics of the Baptist World Alliance. His past leadership roles include serving as a member of the General Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, President of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Chair of the Pastoral Leadership Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100. Rev. Gaddy currently serves on the White House task force on the reform of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Prior to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Dr. Gaddy served in many SBC leadership roles including as a member of the convention’s Executive Committee from 1980-84 and Director of Christian Citizenship Development of the Christian Life Commission from 1973-77.
Dr. Gaddy received his undergraduate degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and his doctoral degree and divinity training from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.