The 2020 election will be remembered as the first presidential election to take place during a global pandemic, a record turnout that brought to the polls the largest number of eligible voters since 1900, and recounts and legal challenges not seen since the Florida recount of 2000, which wasn’t resolved until the Supreme Court ruled in December.
But whatever else will be remembered about 2020, one fact is clear: evangelical Christians voted in the largest numbers in modern American political history, and they gave President Donald Trump more votes than any presidential candidate had ever received. According to network exit polls, self-identified evangelicals comprised a record 28 percent of the electorate, or a total of 44.8 million voters, 9.2 million more than voted in 2016. If one adds frequently Mass-attending Roman Catholics (who comprise another 9 percent of the electorate, devout Christians total 37 percent of the entire vote – larger than the union vote, African-American vote, and the Hispanic vote combined.
According to a post-election survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, Trump won 81 percent of the evangelical vote to Joe Biden’s 14 percent. Biden won a smaller share of the evangelical vote than Hillary Clinton did (16 percent), and the smallest percentage ever recorded for a major-party presidential nominee. (A separate exit poll conducted by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago also showed Trump winning 81 percent of the evangelical vote.)
Some are claiming Joe Biden made serious inroads among voters of faith. But this is not supported by much of the data or election results in key states, which show astonishing margins for Republicans among evangelical voters. In North Carolina, evangelicals totaled 34 percent of all voters, and Trump won 85 percent of their votes. In Texas, Trump won 86 percent of the evangelical vote; in Ohio, Democratic plans to flip the state were undone by Trump winning 82 percent of evangelical votes to Biden’s 17 percent.
The network exit poll shows Biden won the overall Catholic by a 52 to 47 percent margin, a switch from 2016, when Trump won the Catholic vote with 50 percent to Clinton’s 46 percent. But the Associated Press survey has Biden and Trump splitting the Catholic vote right down the middle, 50 percent Trump to 49 percent for Biden. These small gains, reflected in both polls, may have made a difference in Biden’s narrow margins in the upper Midwest.
Meanwhile, self-identified evangelicals cast 81 percent of their votes for Republicans for Congress and U.S. Senate, making the difference in critical races in North Carolina, Iowa and Montana. Voters of faith prevented a predicted “Blue Wave” from swamping the GOP in Washington and state legislatures. In fact, the election was largely a bust for the Democrats.
Media darling Nate Silver of the news site FiveThirtyEight gave the Democrats a 75 percent chance of flipping the Senate, and at one point suggested they could pick up 13 Senate seats. Instead, Democrats gained one seat. (Two seats – and control of the U.S. Senate – will be decided in Georgia on January 5.) Meanwhile, Democrats are on track to lose as many as 14 House seats, a stinging rebuke to Nancy Pelosi and The Squad, the far-left Democrats who have pushed the Green New Deal, socialized health care and defunding the police. Most of the new Republican members of Congress are women, minorities, and veterans.
Liberal groups also poured $500 million into flipping Republican-controlled state legislatures and have nothing to show for it. The Democrats failed to flip a single state legislative chamber, and actually lost two chambers themselves. Now Republicans will control the redistricting process in 2021, making it more likely they will regain control of the House of Representatives in 2022.
My organization, Faith & Freedom Coalition, knocked on 5,226,000 doors in the key states, making 10 million phone calls, sending out tens of millions of peer-to-peer text messages, distributing 30 million voter guides in 127,000 churches, and sending approximately 30 million voter education mail pieces to voters. Many other pro-family and Christian groups undertook similar massive voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Contrary to popular myth, which predicted that evangelicals are fading as a constituency in the electorate and the larger culture, evangelicals in 2020 demonstrated a robust commitment to marrying their faith with a commitment to effective citizenship. This was less a partisan act than a commitment to civic life as a witness of their faith, and to advancing critical issues, including abortion, religious freedom, and support for the state of Israel, that they believe derives from their faith.
Napoleon once observed, “There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” So it is in our time. When so many nations have known nothing but bloodshed and civil unrest, America remains a healthy and resilient democracy. This is in no small measure to the contributions of people of faith, animated by spiritual concerns and committed to the common good.