Conservative Christians Send a Message to Candidates: Rewrite America’s Foreign and Defense Policies

America’s policies regarding national defense and its relationship with Israel are multi-faceted and complex. However, a new survey from the American Culture & Faith Institute, conducted among Christian conservatives, provides a clear direction in which they want such policies to move.

97% are Pro-Israel

While President Obama continues to distance the US from Israel, SAGE Cons – conservative Christians who are spiritually active and politically engaged – are wholeheartedly in favor of giving the nation’s full support to Israel against the Palestinians. A total of 97% of the religious conservatives threw their support behind Israel; only 1% backed Palestine, and 3% said they do not support either side. More than three-quarters of the SAGE Con respondents said America should be “intimately involved” in the Israeli battle against Palestine. One out of six (16%) waffled, saying “maybe we should be intimately involved” while just7% said we should not be so engaged. Those in favor of American involvement were twice as likely to say they “absolutely” believe we should be intimately involved (53%) as said we “probably” should be intimately involved in the conflict (24%). Protestants were notably more likely than Catholics to say the US should absolutely be intimately involved (55% versus 40%, respectively). The same questions were asked of SAGE Cons in August of 2014. At that time only 90% of SAGE Cons were in favor of the United States supporting Israel. The largest growth in support is evident among Protestants, whose support increased from 87% in 2014 to 98% now. An even bigger jump in support for Israel occurred regarding whether the US should be intimately involved in its conflict with Palestine. In 2014, 59% of SAGE Cons said either “absolutely” or “probably” so; currently, 77% believe the US should be engaged. Most of that increase came among people who shifted to saying we “absolutely” should engage, rising from 40% in 2014 to 53% today. The largest increase, demographically, was among conservatives in the 30-to-49 age group.

Pro-Military Funding

Seven years of the Obama administration has significantly reduced the size, scope, and capacity of the US military. SAGE Cons are fed up with the direction taken by the president. According to the survey more than four out of five of these people (82%) believe we are spending “too little” on the military. About one out of every eight (13%) said we are spending the right amount, and just one out of every twenty (5%) complained that we are spending too much on the military and national defense. The survey showed that the older a person was, the more likely they were to say that we are not spending enough on military and defense. The survey also revealed that more than three-quarters of the group (77%) said they would give “a lot of support” to efforts to restore the diminished military funding, with another one-fifth (18%) offering “some support.” Among the Christian conservatives the highest levels of support for restoring the funding came from women, people 65 or older, and registered Republicans. When compared to the results of the same questions asked of SAGE Cons in the second quarter of 2014, there are notable differences. The proportion of Christian conservatives who say the US is spending too little on military and defense has jumped from 60% to 82%. The proportion who would give a lot of support to restoring the military funding that the president has reduced rose from 64% to 77%.

Progress with ISIS

SAGE Cons make no bones about it: they are not satisfied with the nation’s war against terrorism. Less than 1% was very satisfied and a mere 8% were somewhat satisfied with the government’s performance regarding terrorism. One-third (34%) are not too satisfied, with a majority (57%) describing themselves as not at all satisfied. That profile is undoubtedly influenced by people’s thoughts about how we are faring against ISIS. Asked to judge how well the US is doing in its battle with ISIS, only 5% said we are doing very or moderately well. In sharp contrast, almost nine out of ten (88%) said we are failing badly in the battles in Iraq and Syria. The question of strategy was posed to respondents and there was no lack of clarity in their answer. More than three-fourths (77%) said the United States should combat ISIS “with overwhelming military force” because it will be “more likely to help end the terrorist threat.” Less than one out of ten respondents (6%) said the United States should not hit ISIS with overwhelming military force because such a strategy would be “more likely to create additional terrorist threats in the future.” The balance of the respondents (17%) said they did not know which approach made the most sense.

Seeking a Strong Military

“One thing is certain,” commented George Barna, Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute. “National defense is of paramount interest to these people, and they are willing to pay the price for a stronger military. SAGE Cons want smaller government and lower taxes, but they are willing to reallocate more of the tax dollars they give the government to a stronger defense. The military is one of the relatively few government functions for which SAGE Cons can justify paying taxes.” Barna pointed out an interesting shift in perspectives over the past two years. “SAGE Cons who are registered Republicans have consistently been in favor of increasing the budget for defense spending. SAGE Cons who do not have a party affiliation – that is, Independents – were less willing to support increased defense spending. That reticence has diminished substantially over the past two years, though. The number of Independents who believe we are spending too little on defense has skyrocketed from 48% in 2014 to 80% today. The proportion who feel we are spending too much or an appropriate amount has plummeted from 52% to just 21%. This will be a significant issue in the coming evaluation by voters of which presidential candidate they will support. SAGE Cons have clearly made up their minds on this issue.” About the Research The survey was conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute among 3,000 individuals whose faith views and political activity qualified them as SAGE Cons. The survey was conducted online from March 30 through April 12, 2016. American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process. The organization does not support individual candidates or political parties. SAGE Cons are qualified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population. The survey questions reported on in this summary were as follows:
  • Thinking about some current world issues, in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which side do you, personally, support?
  • Should the United States be intimately involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict?
  • How much do you, personally, support the federal government restoring military funding that has been reduced?
  • Think about the amount of money the federal government is spending for national defense and military purposes. Do you think we are spending too little, about the right amount, or too much?
  • In general, how would you say things are going for the U.S. in its military action against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria: very well, moderately well, moderately badly, or very badly?
  • Do you think that combating ISIS with overwhelming military force will be more likely to help end the terrorist threat, or do you think that combating ISIS with overwhelming military force will be more likely to create additional terrorist threats in the future?
  • How satisfied are you with the way things are going for the U.S. in the war on terrorism: very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not too satisfied, or not at all satisfied?
Additional information about this and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com.]]>