NOVEMBER, 2016 – In the last three presidential elections 17 million Evangelical Christians were either not registered to vote (about 9 million) or were registered but did not turn out to vote (roughly 8 million). Evangelicals make up approximately 26% of eligible voters in the U.S., or about 52 million. Yet in both 2008 and 20012 only about 63% (33 million) voted. In 2016 Lift the Vote focused on increasing the number of Evangelical voters in November, 2016 in key battleground states where Christian voter participation could have the biggest impact on public policy decisions (MI, OH, PA, CO, NV, NC, FL and VA.) As it became clear that there were opportunities to increase the turnout among the broader Christian population, of which approximately 40 million did not vote in the last two presidential elections, the Lift the Vote effort expanded outreach to Catholic churches/communities in the targeted states.
Lift The Vote had three wrapped buses that toured the key states September 16 through November 8. During that time period paid staff and local activists/volunteers distributed stickers proclaiming “I’m A Christian. I’m Voting!” to over 400,000 people as a crucial part of the “high touch/boots-on- -the-ground” voter turnout initiative. Regular citizens joined celebrities, Christian music artists, political leaders and others in proclaiming “I’m a Christian. I’m Voting!” with video declarations, photos, social media posts, community events and GOTV rallies across the country. In less than 7 weeks, Lift the Vote videos were viewed by over 1.2 million people on Facebook. The page generated over 100,000 “Likes” and a reach of over 10 million! Additionally, Lift the Vote partnered with Christian radio network WAY-fm nationally (over 900,000 listeners with most in Florida and Colorado) to promote the Lift the Vote project with their on air talent. Partnerships and radio buys with Christian radio stations in Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida also reached over a million listeners in the final four weeks of the 2016 election.
The results? Preliminary exit poll results from Pew Research Center indicates that Trump carried the Evangelical vote by an overwhelming 81-16 margin. That represents a three point increase for Trump over Romney’s percentage four years ago, and a five point decline in support for Clinton versus Obama…a total eight point swing!
The overall vote totals are important, but Christian voter turnout in the battleground states is even more important to understanding the results of the 2016 election. In battleground states the Trump margin among Evangelical voters was greater than the overall percentage, with Trump winning Florida Evangelical votes by a margin of 85-13, for example. In other battleground states, the increased percentage of support for Trump among Evangelicals was dramatically higher than results in 2012 and 2008. Thus, the raw vote increase among Evangelicals in the key targeted states was critical to the Trump victory. (The narrow vote margins that produced huge Electoral College impact in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, can be traced to increases in Christian votes.)
Exit polling also reveals that Trump won Catholic votes by a seven point margin, 52-45.Trump is the first Republican candidate to win the Catholic vote since 2004. Traditionally, Catholic voters reflect an almost identical percentage to the national vote totals. Yet, Trump outperformed the national numbers by about a five point margin among Catholic voters in 2016. Those votes were particularly significant in swinging battleground states like OH, FL, PA and MI. Again, the increased Christian vote in those key states – fueled in part by Catholic voters — produced the victory for Trump.
Finally, the focus of the Lift the Vote effort was on POLICIES rather than PERSONALITY. Voters were NOT urged to vote for any particular candidate but rather to pray, discern and vote based upon BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES. The prospect of the next President appointing three or more Supreme Court Justices was a critical issue to most Christian voters and motivated both the decision to vote as well as whom they chose to support. Unborn Life and Religious Liberty were also important to the targeted voters, with both being seen as tied to the Supreme Court issue.
National media attention for Lift the Vote included CNN, Breitbart, national and local television and radio stations and other media outlets.