Republican leaders in Pennsylvania are becoming nervous that citizens who supported Donald Trump in 2016 are considering voting for Democrats in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. Donald Trump, Jr., attended a state Republican gathering in Hershey on September 21 and tried to reassure the faithful in the crowd about the accomplishments of his dad. Party supporters have even revived the Amish PAC in the state to appeal to that small, but highly conservative, minority group.
A political action committee called the Amish PAC worked in 2016 to broaden support for Trump among the plain people and it has resumed its activities for the 2018 midterm elections. According to a news report in LancasterOnline, the Amish PAC is renewing its advertising campaign in Amish Country, especially Lancaster County, in hopes of convincing the Amish to turn out and vote for Republicans on their ballots. The ones who have registered to vote have overwhelmingly registered as Republicans. But do they support Trump and what he stands for?
The Amish PAC is running ads in newspapers and on billboards that the Amish are likely to see, intending to “unlock the Amish vote” for Republicans. One ad urges the Amish to vote, and pray for, Republicans in the midterm election in less than five weeks. “Our nation and our way of life are still in mortal danger,” it says. The ad continues that if they don’t vote Republican, then the Democrats might impeach the president that the Amish helped elect in November 2016 “to preserve our religious freedoms.”
The news story continues, however, by describing a recent report from scholars at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College that questions the overall effectiveness of the Amish PAC. It evidently was not as effective in getting out the Amish vote for Trump in 2016 as the Republicans have been claiming.
The Elizabethtown researchers found that there were fewer registered Amish voters in 2016 than there were in 2004, the last time Republicans made a concerted effort to get out the Amish vote. Despite the fact that the number of Amish adults eligible to vote in Lancaster County has increased by 50 percent over that 12 year period, the number who are registered has declined a bit. The number who actually voted in November 2016 was significantly less than the number who voted in 2004.
The study, led by Prof. Kyle Kopko, reported that nine out of ten Amish who do register to vote sign up as Republicans. Kopko, a professor of political science at the college, was the co-author with Donald Kraybill of a published study of the earlier effort to get out the Amish vote for the reelection campaign of George W. Bush in 2004.
The Amish PAC two years ago raised nearly $169,000 from 41 states, most of which they spent on newspaper advertisements and billboards in Pennsylvania and Ohio Amish communities. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, they have raised another $25,000 over the past year and have spent twice that amount on advertising.
Over the coming weeks, the group will not endorse particular candidates but it will advocate that people register and get out to vote for Republicans. Billboards and published ads will be appearing in Lancaster County in the weeks leading up to the election. When asked about the recent findings by the Elizabethtown study, the local coordinator of the Amish PAC, Ben King, replied that he was not discouraged by the study’s findings. He sees the effort of the PAC as “an ongoing process of changing the culture and the mindsets.”
LancasterOnline approached Steve Nolt, a senior scholar at the Young Center at Elizabethtown, who said that the Amish in the county, conservative as they are, have little interest in influencing the wider “English” society. However, though most of them are not interested in getting involved in voting, there have always been a minority of Amish families in which the men, rather than the women, do vote. Between 2004 and 2012, the percent of voting Amish who are men has increased from 72.1 percent to 77.6 percent.