WASHINGTON — Republican victories in key Senate races would not have been possible without the strong turnout of conservative Christian voters, according to data reported by Ralph Reed, president of the conservative activist group Faith & Freedom Coalition.
A post-election survey conducted by Greg Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies found that nearly one-third of the total electorate in the 2014 midterms identified themselves as conservative Christians, Reed told attendees of a Faith & Freedom Coalition press conference on Wednesday announcing the poll. And, faith-based voters proved to have an even greater impact in the election of key Republican Senator-elects and helped the GOP take control of the Senate for the first time since 2006.
Reed highlighted Joni Ernst's victory in Iowa, where she replaced retiring Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, and David Perdue's victory in Georgia as two Senate elections that could not have been won without the help of the evangelical vote. Both candidates won by garnering just over 52 percent of the vote and both candidates benefited from campaign support from prominent social conservative Political Action Committees.
"The [evangelical] vote was critical in 2010, it was critical in 2012 and it was critical in 2014. If you look at where the Republican Party was on election night 2008 and you look at where it is today, without a muscular turnout of evangelical voters in these kinds of margins, it just simply does not happen," Reed said. "Joni Ernst just does not beat Bruce Braley. David Perdue does not avoid a runoff in Georgia yesterday."
Christian voters across the county largely supported Republican candidates. According to the Public Opinion Strategies exit poll, 60 percent of Protestants voted for Republican Senate candidates, while 56 percent of Catholics voted for Republicans.
But among weekly churchgoers, those numbers are even higher. Eighty-two percent of weekly churchgoing evangelicals voted Republican, while seventy percent of the weekly Catholic churchgoers also voted for the GOP candidate.
"Conservative voters of faith were the largest constituency in the electorate in 2014," Reed said. "Their share of the electorate exceeded that of the African-American vote, Hispanic vote, and union vote combined. Religious conservative voters and the issues they care about are here to stay. They will be equally vital in 2016. Politicians of both parties ignore this constituency at their peril."
The Faith & Freedom Coalition played a large part in getting many protestant and Catholic voters to turn up to the polls, especially in states with key Senate and gubernatorial races, Reed said.
Although Faith & Freedom Coalition had presence in 46 states, Reed said the focus was greater in states with key Senate races. Coalition representatives made contact with over 102 million voters in key battleground states.
Reed said the coalition focused the most on the Senate elections in Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina. In all three of those races, the Republican candidates won.
"We made the biggest effort on the Senate front in Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina and we are pleased today that we have three new Senators elect, who we think are going to go to the U.S. Senate and vote for traditional values and lower taxes and limited government," Reed said.
Reed said the Faith & Freedom Coalition distributed over 20 million voter guides in over 117,000 churches nationwide. The coalition also made over 10 million "get out to vote" phone calls, knocked on 400,000 doors, mailed over 6 million voter guides, and emailed or texted over 4.6 million additional voters.
Although Reed considers the Catholic vote to be the "swing vote" among Christian voters, he said the Coalition was not able to distribute voter guides in Catholic churches because that would have required approval of the Archdiocese. However, Reed said the coalition was able to reach Catholic voters by using online Internet advertising that is specifically targeted toward them.
"What we are able to do is, through the advances in big data and microtargeting, is we can find these faithful Catholic voters through their buying habits and things of that nature," Reed said.
The Coalition reached over 16 million views with its online video advertisements.
"Those videos were viewed in their entirety by over 80 percent of the voters of faith who watched them," Reed said.
Correction: Nov. 6, 2014
An article on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, referred to the organization led by Ralph Reed as the "Faith & Family Coalition." It is the Faith & Freedom Coalition.