Social conservatives are also natural allies in any expand-the-base political operation because many of them are Evangelicals with a proselytizing mindset. Certain habits and methods developed to win people to Christ can easily be adopted for political mobilization.
Research by University of Connecticut sociologist Bradley Wright found that Mainline Protestant churches, which tend to be more liberal, were less welcoming to non-whites than Evangelical churches. This makes sense, Wright wrote, when you consider that Evangelical churches "strongly emphasize spreading their faith across cultural boundaries."
Similarly, a recent Pew Research Center study found that Evangelical denominations tended to be more racially diverse than Mainline Protestant denominations. While some Mainline denominations scored higher than some Evangelical denominations on a racial diversity index, the top four most racially diverse Protestant denominations were Evangelical. And, not including historically black denominations, five of the bottom six Protestant denominations were Mainline.
The potential for social conservatives to diversify the Republican Party is also evident when looking at Latino Evangelicals.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation's largest association of Latino Evangelicals representing 40,000 churches, is clearly fed up with both political parties.
In a 2013 interview with The Christian Post, he said the "anti-life platform" of the Democratic Party on abortion is "morally reprehensible," and the Republican Party has "totally denied ... the justice component" with regard to race issues.
In a January op-ed, Rodriguez added, "Latinos — and particularly Latino evangelicals — are eager to vote for a pro-life, pro-immigrant candidate in 2016, but the GOP's recent actions [on abortion and immigration] in the House of Representatives convey to Latino voters that it is uninterested in either label."
With a Republican Party currently divided on immigration reform, social conservatives have been among those advocating pro-immigrant policies. The NHCLC has partnered, for instance, with the ERLC and National Association of Evangelicals on immigration reform efforts, and Russell Moore was recently added to the NHCLC board.
After celebrity billionaire and presidential candidate Donald Trump made disparaging remarks about immigrants, Moore and Rodriguez co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed condemning Trump.
To be fair, sometimes Evangelical leaders can be part of the problem, rather than the solution, to the Republican Party's demography problem. Some opponents of immigration reform are also social conservatives, for instance. Plus, Franklin Graham called for a ban on immigration for all Muslims, but even then, it was also Evangelicals who condemned Graham's remarks.
The Republican Party will not be able to expand its base through economic conservatives, however. A 2013 study by Brookings Institution and Public Religion Research Institute found that economic conservatism was less popular that social conservatism in the American public as a whole, and social conservatism was better positioned than economic conservatism to attract Democratic defectors to the Republican Party.
If the Republican Party is to solve its demography problem, it should highlight, not diminish, its social conservative wing.