Little Disagreement among Christian Conservatives on Major Social Issues

Christian conservatives who are politically and spiritually active have very clear and consistent views on most of the high-profile social issues facing the nation. A new national survey among such voters by the American Culture & Faith Institute reveals that overwhelming majorities of the group possess similar perspectives on each of four issues studied.

Abortion Still Critical

A recent survey among SAGE Cons – i.e., conservative Christians who are spiritually active and politically engaged – found that the position of the presidential candidates on abortion policy remains one of the two most important issues that will influence who these voters support in the November election. What abortion-related policies are they seeking from the candidates? More than nine out of ten (93%) said that they would be highly supportive of ending all federal funding for abortions. That support was consistent across all of the demographic segments evaluated among SAGE Cons. The survey discovered that if there is any difference of opinion on abortion policy among Christian conservatives it relates to the circumstances under which an abortion is permissible. SAGE Cons were nearly unanimous in their contention that abortion should not be legal regardless of the circumstances: 99% embraced that view. However, the group was somewhat divided regarding special situations. A slight majority (54%) said abortion should only be permitted under special circumstances, such as when the life of the mother is endangered. The rest of the segment (45%) said abortion should never be legal. Surprisingly, this was a reversal of the beliefs of SAGE Cons two years ago. At that time, interviews with 3,000 respondents indicated that half (50%) believed abortions should never be legal, while 47% said they should be permitted if the mother’s life was in jeopardy.

Same-Sex Marriage

Although the Obama Administration has successfully championed the legalization of homosexual unions, according them all the rights and benefits available to heterosexual marriages, 93% of SAGE Cons agree that such unions should not be validated as marriages. The youngest voters in the segment were slightly less prone to dismiss homosexual unions as legitimate marriages, although a large majority does regard them as invalid. Similarly, conservative Catholics were notably more likely than conservative Protestants to accept homosexual unions as legitimate marriages. The new research results represent a small increase in the proportion of Christian conservatives who believe that gay and lesbian unions do not constitute valid marriages. Two years ago an ACFI survey among SAGE Cons revealed that 85% of the group believed such unions were not valid marriages.

Religious Freedom

As might be expected, religious freedom is very dear to Christian conservatives. Evidence of that united perspective is reflected in the 95% of SAGE Cons who said they would be highly supportive of the federal government protecting existing religious freedoms. The near-unanimity of SAGE Cons in expressing substantial support for federal protection of religious liberties constitutes a small uptick in such support over the past two years. The 2014 study revealed that 90% of SAGE Cons were highly supportive of federal protections. The current survey also indicated that conservative Catholics were slightly less likely than conservative Protestants to be highly supportive of federal protections of religious liberties.

Laws and Biblical Morality

One of the most intriguing outcomes of the ACFI survey was the fact that while most SAGE Cons would prefer to see existing laws and policies related to individual moral behavior changed to more closely reflect biblical principles, there is less enthusiasm for such changes than might be expected. Just less than two-thirds of the group (64%) said they were highly supportive of making such changes in federal laws with another one-quarter (22%) being somewhat supportive of such a shift. The survey data showed that the younger the respondent was, the less likely they were to support such a retooling of our nation’s laws. Barely half of the SAGE Cons under 50 supported the idea (55%), compared to seven out of ten in the 65-plus age bracket. There was a similarly large gap in the opinions of Protestants (67%) and Catholics (52%) on this matter, with Protestants fifteen percentage points more likely to be highly supportive of this shift.

Social Issues Matter

“These are the kinds of issues that will determine whether SAGE Cons will bother to vote in November,” explained George Barna, Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute, and the researcher in charge of the study. “When you examine the issues that SAGE Cons say will influence their voting behavior the most, the list is packed with moral and spiritual issues like abortion, marriage, religious liberty, moral standards, and support of Israel. “While we have seen some evidence of issue burnout on these matters,” he noted, “the reluctance of these religious conservatives to continue talking about them does not mean that their vote will not be affected by the candidates’ stands on those matters. Over the last four years our surveys have shown that this group has remained of one mind on such issues. The importance of these issues to the major candidates, and the positions they embrace related to these matters, will substantially dictate if and how Christian conservatives will vote.” Barna pointed out that this is an unusual election for Christian conservatives. “In the past few presidential elections, this group has had the highest turnout rate of any voting bloc. But the enthusiasm they displayed during this year’s primary elections may not persist. The early indications are that they are not particularly excited about either of the major-party candidates this time around. They dutifully backed Sen. McCain and Gov. Romney, but they seem relatively much less willing to offer their support to Mr. Trump this year. For some it is because they are tired of supporting candidates who do not truly represent their views, for others it is because of concerns about character. “Turnout will be a big challenge for the Republicans,” continued the researcher. “How Mr. Trump conducts himself and his campaign between now and the election could affect turnout big-time – potentially a difference of millions of votes. His policy statements concerning abortion, marriage, immigration, religious freedom, and the like will go a long way toward either motivating or suppressing the Christian conservative vote. And that outcome will go a long way toward determining who will occupy the White House for the coming four years.” 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. The 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. In the research 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:
  • How much would you, personally, support the federal government ending federal funding of abortions: a lot, some, a little or none?
  • How much would you, personally, support the federal government changing existing laws and policies to more closely reflect biblical principles related to individual moral behavior: a lot, some, a little or none?
  • How much would you, personally, support the federal government protecting religious freedom: a lot, some, a little or none?
  • Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?
  • Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?
Additional information about this and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com.]]>

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