Richard Flory, at Trans/Missions:

Early efforts to tease out the patterns of this election’s vote among religious people seem to confirm PRRI’s findings; the percentage of Protestants and Catholics who voted Republican increased by several percentage points in this election, as compared to 2008. In general, the more a person goes to church, the more likely they will be to vote Republican. But at the same time, most people say that their faith doesn’t shape their positions on such important issues as immigration, the environment, or poverty.

This raises a pair of important questions: What exactly were people voting for? What role does religion play in how they cast their ballots? Most commentators suggest that the shaky economy and the increasing influence of the government in society drove the election toward the Republicans. Formulated this way, values were trumped by economic concerns, regardless how important “values” are to voters.

But if the membership of the Tea Party is largely made up of Republican values-voters, reporters should be asking questions about how values, economics and religion are related. Does economics really trump values, or are values really about “me” and my beliefs as opposed to “them” and their needs? Was the apparent economic vote of the 2010 midterm election really a proxy for underlying values concerns, or even prejudices, whether racial, religious or class-oriented? Reporters should keep an eye out for how these shifting concerns and political alliances play out as the economy recovers and we head toward the 2012 presidential election.

Read the entire piece here.