GOP Losing Its Hold on Evangelicals

One reason: Popularity of overseas missions to see poverty up close
By Dave Arnold,  Newser User
Posted Aug 22, 2008 4:43 PM CDT
In this March 5, 2008, file photo, John McCain and President Bush are in the Rose Garden. McCain isn't faring as well with evangelicals.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Republicans can no longer bank on the evangelical vote. Most still tilt toward the GOP, but the Wall Street Journal reports that a sizable number—40% by one estimate—are open to voting Democrat. Reasons vary, but one factor in particular seems to be paramount: overseas missions. More evangelicals are traveling abroad, seeing poverty first-hand, then returning home with a zeal for social reform long associated with Democrats.

"Evangelicals are not turning into liberal Democrats, but they are becoming more loosely moored to the religious right and the Republican Party," said Michael Gerson, an evangelical himself and former Bush speech writer. The repercussions could be big. "Elections are won at the margins,” said one professor. “Even if it's 5% of the evangelicals shifting 5%, that will have tremendous impact.”