Last night, Rick Santorum finished second in the Iowa Republican caucuses, a mere eight votes behind Mitt Romney, propelled by strong support from Evangelical voters. According to entrance polls, Santorum received the votes of a third of Evangelical voters. You might say that’s not a big deal, since two-thirds of Evangelical votes went to other candidates. The thing is, Santorum is a Roman Catholic, and the Evangelical/Catholic divide was traditionally a strong one in American politics. The idea that a Northeast Catholic would get strong support from Midwest Evangelicals — far more than Evangelical candidates in the race like Michele Bachman and Rick Perry — shows how much the politics of American religion has changed in the last two generations. On many politically-salient issues, Evangelicals and Catholics today make common cause. The results from Iowa offer more evidence that the ┬ádivide in contemporary American politics is not so much between religions, as between voters who have traditional religious commitments and voters who don’t.

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