For decades the GOP has been able to count on evangelical Christians to turn out on election day due to their opposition to hot button cultural issues like abortion and gay rights but with, church attendance collapsing, Republicans are faced with either ginning up new controversies to keep Christians who are tuning out in their camp.
According to NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, "For the first time, a majority of Americans are not church members, Gallup found this spring. Over the last decade, the share of Republicans who are church members fell from 75% to 65%, according to Gallup. That's a solid majority but also a sizable fall. The key bloc of white evangelicals is also shrinking as a share of the population, while the share of religiously unaffiliated Americans grows."
That should worry Republicans, explained Republican pollster Whit Ayres.
"Republicans clearly have a stronger hold among the religiously affiliated, especially evangelical Protestants. And consequently, any decline in evangelical Protestant affiliation is not good news for the GOP," he stated before admitting that the GOP's focus on cultural issues still has some appeal with some like-minded voters.
According to Sarah Posner, who has written two books on links between evangelicals and rightwing ideology, those who are left behind in the churches are more ardent in their belief in both the teachings of the Bible and how the GOP represents those values, but it may not be enough to provide the Republican Party with the voter base firewall they have depended upon for years.
"These kinds of data about the shrinking share of the population of white evangelicals or declines in church membership actually intensify the relationship [between the GOP and conservative Christians]," she remarked. "As those numbers shrink, the demography is not in [the GOP's] favor. And so intensifying their relationship becomes ever more important, in terms of winning elections and so forth."
Jackson Avery, president of the College Republicans at George Mason University, said he still appreciates the connection between the party and evangelicals while also acknowledging it won't be like the old days.
"There's this idea where like they go back to Ronald Reagan, where he gets like 60% of the popular vote,. Republicans will never, never get that, at least in our lifetimes. I don't think so," he said.
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