In 2014 midterm election, Obama voters more likely to defect and to sit out the election than Romney voters, religion vote remains stable
WASHINGTON — Despite months of employment growth and the lowest unemployment rate since July 2008, more than 6-in-10 Americans think that the country is on the wrong track (62 percent). This negative judgment is fueled by continued economic concerns, coupled with more recent anxieties about the threats of Ebola and terrorism.
The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute conducted the 2014 Post-Election American Values Survey of 1,399 Americans between November 5 and November 9. In this survey, PRRI re-contacted respondents to the September American Values Survey and asked Americans about their ballot choices, motivations for voting, and what both voters and non-voters see as priorities and challenges for lawmakers through 2016.
“While pre-election data depicted a gloomy electorate with substantial economic concerns, the post-election survey reveals that the midterm elections were also impacted by worries about terrorism and Ebola,” noted Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “Overall, the midterms were decided by an unsettled public who either stayed home or cast votes against the party in power.”
Anxiety about Economy, Terrorism and Ebola
The survey found significant worries about personal harm from terrorism and the Ebola virus. One-third of Americans say that they are somewhat (22 percent) or very (11 percent) worried that they or someone in their family will be a victim of terrorism. While 32 percent of Democrats are at least somewhat worried that someone in their family will be a victim of terrorism, 38 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of those who identify with the Tea Party are at least somewhat worried.
Americans are less concerned about contracting Ebola, but still more than 1-in-5 say that they are somewhat (15 percent) or very (7 percent) worried that they or someone in their family would get sick from Ebola. Nearly one-third of those who identify with the Tea Party say that they are somewhat (18 percent) or very (14 percent) concerned about their families contracting Ebola.
Americans who express greater fears about contracting Ebola or being harmed by terrorism were more likely to support Republican candidates in the election. A majority (55%) of voters who are very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family would get sick from Ebola voted for the Republican candidate in their district, while 34% supported the Democratic candidate. Similarly, more than 6-in-10 (61%) voters who are worried that they or their family member would be the victim of terrorism supported the Republican candidate in their district, while less than one-third (32%) voted for the Democratic candidate.
Health Care and Economy Favor Democrats, National Security and Immigration Favor Republicans
Voters who indicated in the Pre-election American Values Survey that health care was the most important issue affecting their vote ended up supporting the Democratic candidate in their district over the Republican by a wide margin (65% to 26%). Voters who reported that the economy was the most important issue when determining how to vote were slightly more likely to favor Democratic candidates (50%) over Republican candidates (43%). In contrast, voters who said immigration or national security were the most important issues for their vote strongly favored Republican candidates over Democrats (62% vs. 28% and 65% vs. 27%, respectively).
Obama Coalition Fractures, Obama Seen as Increasingly Liberal; Viewed More Liberal than Clinton
Eight percent of Americans who voted for Obama in 2012 say that they supported a Republican candidate in this election, while half the number of Romney voters (4 percent) report switching to support Democratic candidates. Notably, 20 percent of those who report having voted for Barack Obama for president in 2012 did not vote in 2014, compared to 14 percent of those who report having voted for Mitt Romney for president.
Considerably more Americans identify Barack Obama as liberal today than did so in 2012 (64 percent vs. 57 percent). Additionally, more than one-third (34 percent) of Americans believe that Obama is very liberal. Only slightly more than half (52 percent) of the public believes Hillary Clinton is liberal, 12 points less than Obama.
“In the 2014 elections, Republican candidates tried very hard to tie President Obama to Democratic candidates,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. “There is some evidence that this strategy was effective. Americans increasingly view both Obama and the Democratic Party as liberal.”
Religious Voters’ Preferences Remain Stable
The religion vote was largely unchanged from patterns seen in national elections over the past decade. Eight-in-ten (80 percent) white evangelical Protestant voters supported the Republican candidate in their district, while only 14 percent supported the Democratic candidate. Half (50 percent) of white mainline Protestant voters also supported the Republican candidate, while fewer than 4-in-10 (39 percent) say that they voted for the Democratic candidate. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) white Catholics report casting a vote for the Republican candidate in their district compared to one-third (33 percent) who supported the Democratic candidate. Catholics overall were more evenly divided between Democratic and Republican candidates (46 percent vs. 47 percent). Religiously unaffiliated voters, by contrast, strongly favored Democratic candidates, supporting them over Republican candidates by a wide margin (65 percent to 26 percent).
Difficulties Voting, Concerns About Voting Fraud, Fox News Effect
Overall, approximately 1-in-10 (12 percent) Americans report that they had some difficulty in voting. Among those who had difficulty voting, a majority report having difficulty finding or physically getting to their polling place (28 percent), or say they had difficulty getting off of work to vote (24 percent). Women, younger adults, and nonwhite Americans are more likely than other Americans to report having difficulties voting.
The way that Americans perceive the biggest problems facing U.S. elections differs widely across demographic groups. White Americans believe that voter fraud is a bigger problem than voter disenfranchisement by a margin of 49 percent to 33 percent. Conversely, non-white Americans believe that disenfranchisement is a bigger problem than fraud by a margin of 63 percent to 22 percent. Views on this issue also vary with age. Younger Americans (age 18 to 29) see disenfranchisement as the bigger problem (63 percent vs. 29 percent), while seniors (65 and over) believe that fraud is a greater concern (49 percent vs. 25 percent). Americans for whom Fox News is the most trusted source of TV news believe that voter fraud is a bigger problem than disenfranchisement by a margin of 76 percent to 12 percent.
Race and Equal Treatment in the Criminal Justice System
A slim majority (51 percent) of Americans do not believe blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment to whites in the criminal justice system, compared to 46 percent who believe that they do, a modest downward shift from August 2014 when 56 percent said blacks do not receive equal treatment as whites.
Americans’ views about the fairness of the police force largely mirror views about the fairness of the criminal justice system. Most Americans (52 percent) do not believe that police officers treat blacks and other minorities the same as whites; close to half (45 percent) say that they do. There are notable divisions among the public in their view on this issue by race, political affiliation, and trusted media source.
These findings, as well as demographic breaks by religion, political affiliation, race and more are available below and online at the following link: http://publicreligion.org/research/survey-2014-post-election-american-values-survey-what-motivated-voters-during-the-midterm-elections
The 2014 Post-Election American Values Survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and funded by the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Results of the survey were based on 1,399 callback telephone interviews (654 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone) with respondents from the pre-election American Values Survey that was fielded July 21, 2014 through August 15, 2014 among a national random sample of 4,507 adults 18 years of age or older in the United States. For the post-election survey, interviews were conducted in both Spanish and English between November 5, 2014 and November 9, 2014 by professional interviewers under the supervision of SSRS. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3.6 percentage points for the general sample and +/- 4.1 percentage points for voters at the 95 percent confidence interval.
Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.