UNITY, Ohio – In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, a stark billboard sat on the edge of a cornfield in this small eastern Ohio town. White letters on a black background proclaimed “I saw that. God.”
Candidate Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in 2008 captured 43 percent of voters who attend religious services regularly, up from the 39 percent who supported John Kerry four years earlier, according to exit polling by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life.
That “God vote” support helped them to win in Ohio, as well as in Indiana and Florida.
This year, Democrats have a “God vote” deficit, despite the hard work of Burns Strider, founding partner of the Eleison Group and former religious outreach director for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
“I am not surprised by the polling in this cycle,” said Strider, pointing to a Pew report showing an overall drop in support of Democrats by religious voters. “It isn’t Armageddon yet, but it is the task of party activists to keep having broad, open and honest dialogue with the faith voters.”
Polls across the board show that the more religiously observant people are, the more likely they are to disapprove of the president's job performance, says Mark Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University.
Many of these values voters believed Obama was different from others in his party, Rozell explained. “In 2008, he really seemed to understand ‘God talk.’ His evangelical style of discourse made him seem authentic to many of the religious voters who supported him.”
Values voters are not the only “God vote” the president is losing: His support among Jewish voters has dropped into dangerous territory.
Jewish voters are less than thrilled with the Obama administration and its foreign policy, “which could translate into discontent with the Democratic Party in the midterm elections,” said Jeff Brauer, a Keystone College political science professor.
“What is at issue is the administration's new openness to the Muslim world while maintaining a very icy relationship with and directing harsh criticism towards the government of Israel,” he explained.
America’s Jewish vote is small – Jews make up less than 3 percent of the population – but its concentration in California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts makes it an important voting bloc in key House and Senate races, he said.