Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want the federal government to have more control over peoples’ lives. But a new survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute among religious conservatives shows that the group has a very different dream for the country: one that features a federal government that leaves them alone and stays out of their business.
What They SupportThe national survey among SAGE Cons – i.e., conservative Christians who are spiritually active and politically engaged – revealed that overwhelming majority said they would strongly support several changes in how the federal government operates. Reducing the federal debt is a major concern of religious conservatives. Nine out of ten (91%) said they would give “a lot of support” to efforts to reduce the federal government’s debt. That debt load is currently estimated to be in excess of $19 trillion. Among SAGE Cons, those who are affiliated with a Protestant church were somewhat more likely to indicate “a lot of support” for reducing the federal debt than were those aligned with the Catholic church, by a 92% to 86% differential. Nine out of ten SAGE Cons also stated that they would offer “a lot of support” toward efforts to eliminate the federal government’s budget deficit. That deficit currently stands at more than $500 billion. Once again, conservative Catholics were slightly less likely than conservative Protestants to offer strong support to eliminating the budget deficit (83% versus 89%, respectively). Thinking about the big picture of the kind of government they desire, 85% of SAGE Cons offered “a lot of support” to efforts that would reduce government intrusion into the lives of American citizens. Another 12% said they would lend “some support” to such efforts. Three-quarters of the SAGE Cons (75%) said they would provide “a lot of support” for steps by the federal government to reduce its regulations and taxes on businesses, with another 20% offering “some support.” Men were substantially more supportive of this action than were women (80% and 69%, respectively). Religious conservatives who are strong supporters of the Tea Party movement were notably more supportive of this concept, with 80% of them registering “a lot” of support for such a shift.
A Clear VisionThe survey respondents also showed that religious conservatives gave near-unanimous backing to four other ideals concerning the nature and scope of the federal government. Overall, 98% of SAGE Cons said that the federal government “is doing too many things better left to business and individuals.” The same proportion – 98% – indicated that they believe the federal government “has too much power.” A statistically equivalent number – 97% – believes that the federal government “should be required to balance its budget.” Rounding out their perspective, 95% maintained that there are “too many government regulations on businesses and individuals.”
Conservatives Know What They WantAfter reviewing the survey results, George Barna, who is the Executive Director of the institute that conducted the research, summarized his takeaway. “The consistent and unified pattern of these responses provides a clear vision of the federal government that SAGE Cons are seeking: one that is responsible and limited,” he noted. “In no uncertain terms they are saying that they insist that the federal government live within its means in the same manner that they, as responsible adults and citizens, must. And they are emphasizing that despite the views proffered by Hillary and Bernie, the federal government exists to serve the people, not to be served by the people.” Barna indicated that surveys also show that millions of Americans have never developed a clear vision of how government should operate. “One of the intriguing aspects of SAGE Cons is that they have blended their philosophies of faith, politics, and personal responsibility into a comprehensive understanding of the unique but interwoven roles of the individual, families, government, business, and church. Because of that investment of time and thought in developing a broader view of how various life factors best work together, there is an intensity behind their statements that suggests a deep-rooted commitment to limited and responsible government. They are not likely to be satisfied until such a government is in place.” 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 taking steps to reduce the federal debt: a lot, some, a little, or not at all?
- How much would you, personally, support the federal government reducing its intrusion into citizen’s lives: a lot, some, a little, or not at all?
- How much would you, personally, support the federal government reducing federal regulations and taxes on businesses: a lot, some, a little, or not at all?
- How much would you, personally, support the federal government eliminating the federal budget deficit: a lot, some, a little, or not at all?
- Which one of these two statements comes closer to your point of view: Government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people, or government is doing too many things that would be better left to businesses and individuals?
- Do you think the federal government today has too much power, has about the right amount of power, or has too little power?
- Do you think the federal government should be required to balance its budget or that it is acceptable to not balance the budget?
- In general do you think there is too much, too little, or about the right amount of government regulation of business and industry?