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Evangelical voters turn out in record numbers

By: EDMOND — State Question 755, the president’s rocky relationship with Israel and his position on the so-called “ground zero mosque” were some of the issues that drove a record number of evangelical voters, observers said. Edmond has a large, active faith community, evidenced by various ministries and high attendance at numerous churches of various denominations. Generally speaking, evangelicals are individuals who believe in the Bible’s inerrancy and stress the need for personal conversion and sharing of the Christian gospel. Nationwide, the largest single voter block in Tuesday’s midterm election was self-identified evangelicals who made up 29 percent of the vote, and cast 79 percent of their ballots for Republican candidates, according to a post-election survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “I think that’s clearly an eye-popping number,” said Gregg Keller, the coalition’s national executive director. In fact, the evangelical turnout, a 5 percent increase over 2006, was the largest ever recorded in a midterm election, the survey found. Additionally, Roman Catholic voters constituted 12 percent of the vote and cast 58 percent of their ballots for Republican candidates, as opposed to 40 percent for Democrats, according to CNN exit polling. Keller said before the election his organization made 58.8 million voter contacts to social and fiscal conservatives, including 16 million voter guides, 8 million pieces of mail and 15 million get-out-the-vote calls. The Faith and Freedom Coalition, founded by Ralph Reed, targeted key races, contributing to the GOP taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Keller said. The health of the economy, government spending, immigration reform and national security were among the primary issues in the election. However, Oklahoma evangelicals were also interested in SQ 755, and a variety of issues all wrapped up in one person — President Barack Obama, said University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie. Gaddie said at this time he does not have specific numbers about Oklahoma, but he is willing to wager that evangelicals in the state turned out in big numbers, especially in affluent suburbs. Tom Vineyard, senior pastor at Oklahoma City’s Windsor Hills Baptist Church, has been an outspoken critic of many of Obama’s policies. Vineyard said he estimates that close to 100 percent of the voting age members of his church cast ballots on Tuesday. Before election day, many members volunteered in various local campaigns in a variety of ways, he said. Issues that drove evangelicals to the polls included mounting national debt, government spending, President Obama’s perceived ill-treatment of Israel, Obama’s stance on a number of social issues and his tolerance of the controversial “ground zero mosque” planned to be built in lower Manhattan, Vineyard said. Regarding Israel, Vineyard cited Genesis 12:3, in which God says he will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel, and that all people on earth will be blessed through the nation. Evangelicals and Israelis criticized Obama for walking out of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Later, Obama extended an olive branch to Netanyahu, and the U.S. president made an effort to show American support for Israel. Obama, along with New York City leaders, supported the right of Muslims to build the controversial community center and mosque a couple of blocks from where the World Trade Center stood before Sept. 11, 2001. A Time poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose the project. Vineyard said the project is a slap in the face to the families of those who died when radical Muslims flew two airliners into the towers, and a mosque should not be built there. The Faith and Freedom Coalition survey found that 52 percent of all self-identified members of the Tea Party movement are conservative evangelicals. Keller said before the general election, it was believed that the Tea Party and evangelical conservatives were two separate groups. The survey shows that the election resulted in an historic realignment.

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