Ryan Burge on the Democrats’ Continuing ‘God Problem’ With Christian Voters

Democratic presidential candidates participate during the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on June 26, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Democrats still have a God problem.

Despite being a party that includes Black Protestants, who are some of the most religious Americans, and Hispanic Catholics, one of the few religious groups in the U.S. to be growing, Democrats still have troubles when it comes to talking about faith.

They have struggled to mobilize the religious left into a voting block and have troubles connecting with white Christian voters, the majority of whom supported President Trump in the last election.

And while Democrats do have the support of the so-called “Nones” — the growing group of Americans who have no religious affiliation — that group does not include particularly enthusiastic voters.

Pew Research found that only 17% of voters in the 2018 midterms were Nones, despite the group making up about a quarter of the US population.

While the Nones have grown dramatically over the last 20 years, it’s still important to realize that more than six in ten Americans identify as a Christian, according to the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study.

If Democrats want to win back the White House, it would behoove them to reach out to those Christian voters.

However, at least on social media, Democratic candidates fail to do so.

Instead, they occasionally tweet about Muslims or about religion in vague and inclusive terms.

Recently, I scraped the Twitter accounts of the twenty Democrats who qualified for the first Democratic debate, collecting a total of 58,851 tweets.

I wanted to just look at the most generic religious term: “God.” Given that nearly 90% of Americansbelieve in a higher power, mentioning “God” shouldn’t alienate many potential voters. However, what I found was surprising.

“Mentions of God by Primary Candidates on Twitter.” Graphic by Ryan Burge

In total, just 147 tweets contained the word “God.” That’s .2% of all tweets from the candidates. And the candidates that used the word “God” were not the front runners.

In fact, Marianne Williamson, the self-help guru, mentioned God more often than any other candidate. By contrast, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, two candidates who have made it a point to talk about their personal faith on the campaign trail, seem reluctant to talk about God in their tweets.

For instance, Booker’s only mention of God was a retweet, and Warren’s was a mention of a “god-given right.” Neither would likely come across as incredibly genuine by devout Christians.

But what about explicitly Christian language?

If at least 60% of Americans have a belief in Jesus Christ (including Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and Mormons), one would assume that mentioning Jesus in a tweet would appeal to a large swath of the electorate.

However, those mentions are nearly non-existent.

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Source: Religion News Service