Does the South care more about Race than Religion??

I know that you are all tired of hearing about the latest presidential election but I wanted to point something out that, as a race scholar, makes my ears perk up bout the trend of voting in America as of 2012.

As any political scientist will explain, the American South has traditionally been a region that voted based on conservative values, which often reflects traditional Christian religious beliefs and morals. Therefore, it was really no surprise to the world that almost every southern state once proud members of the Confederacy (except Virginia and Florida) were drenched in red come election night and voted for Mitt Romney to be our next president – hands down. I should also note that almost every rural area in America and much of the Midwest, voted for ole’ Mitt and what really won the election for Obama was, as we’ve heard over and over, urban and suburban voters who were non-white and female. Of course, this also should be no real surprise since much of the Republican party is made up and targets older, wealthy white males (better change your strategy).

However, I noticed an interesting trend that really never bubbled to the surface with all of the slammin’ that when back and forth between Mitt and Obama – No ever questioned Mitt Romney’s tireless faith to the Mormon religion. Yes, I know, maybe I’m suggesting a prejudice view as well but let’s face it, the U.S. has overwhelmingly voted in clearly Christian and very much Protestant followers into the White House and only a few seemed a little different from that norm (aka JFK the Catholic). Now, I know that the Mormon faith is a Christian faith but do conservatives who live in the South see it as a legitimate denomination or a still in the realm of a “cult?” Interestingly, Gallup Polls pointed out that most Americans didn’t even know Romney was a Mormon and even more interesting is that they didn’t even care. Why? (And, here is where the race question comes in.)

As noted by Adia Wingfield and Joe Feagin’s book, Yes We Can?, race mattered in the 2008 election of Barack Obama. More important, it is what drove millions of white folks in the American South (and the Midwest) to vote against Obama and voted for McCain. The question still remains here, did that same trend show up in 2012? Right now, based on my view of how religion, particularly strong evangelical denominations, impact the thoughts of many Southerners, I would say absolutely yes. Why would any of these very devoted and faithful Southern Baptists or Pentecostals vote for Mitt Romney who, for them, belongs to a cult? Moreover, we have to remember that much of America still question Obama’s true faith and consider him a is a “secret” Muslim (Check out these Gallup Polls). Thus, if religion matters so much in the South why didn’t it impact the election rates or is there something else?

I would point out that the convictions of faith usually championed in the South and many rural areas of the U.S. were overshadowed by the question of racial allegiance. As suggested by a recent article focusing on the youth votes, those non-white youth who voted for Obama saw this as a personal challenge to KEEP a black man in the White House. However, throughout Romney’s campaign, issues of removing a black man (which has been disputed in so many ways as whether Obama is really black) kept bubbling to the surface, as can be seen in the picture below and the article it links to (By the way, this was in Ohio).

Interestingly though, we never heard anything about Romney’s faith from all of those Red states and regions. Did many of these citizens simply ignore the various differences in Christian faith¬† because having a black man in office was possibly worse? Of course, I understand that there were other reasons why people voted for Romney, he was “anything but,” or “he could get the country going in the right direction, again.” However, I think what may support my notion that race matters in the South falls to an event on election night. As you may have heard, college students at the University of Mississippi rioted when they heard about Obama’s victory. What makes this about race is the fact that it was white college students and they were screaming racial epithets to make their point (use your imagination). So, is this a sign of conservatives disregarding their religious convictions and acting out their racial frustrations to make sure a white Mormon man became president over a black man? And, I want to mention that for all those people who think liberal education makes college students liberal, you might want to think about that statement with this event. Anyway, it is for you decide but I wanted to make sure you at least pondered that race still matters even when the economy is tanking and religiosity is rising.


About lippardcd

Assistant Professor of Sociology at Appalachian State University.
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3 Responses to Does the South care more about Race than Religion??

  1. Scott says:

    This election had everything to do with race, but not the way you described. Try to get 90+% of any demographic group to agree on anything. Christian blacks disagree with the liberal left agenda on many points but supported this president soley based upon race. They did this by not only nearly unanimous votes but huge turnout. And as for religion, the South threw out a life long southern baptist in 1980 for a western Hollywood movie star whose wife was into astrology. Why? The policies of the president were detrimental to the country. So I agree that race played a huge part in this election, but you are way off on how. As for religion, the public policy of a Mormon is much closer to Biblical truth and the black liberation theology from the Reverend Wright.

  2. Elaine says:

    I have to agree with Scott on this. Looking back a few months later it is increasingly obvious to me that a LOT of factors are at play and, while race was undeniably one of them, to assert that race is the defining factor marginalizes the other issues and people you’re analyzing. Sociologists must always, always, ALWAYS remember that correlation does not equal causation. I’m seeing a lot of sweeping statements with little evidence being offered to support them other than assumptions about on region, religion and race that frequently falter under close scrutiny. The South is also the region most likely to elect statewide representatives of various races so long as they support conservative values which many race sociologists fail to explain about the region’s obsession with race.

    • lippardcd says:

      Elaine, this was a post to get folks thinking and as a sociologist, I’m not suggesting causation but reminding folks that race matters in the South, as well as in other regions.

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