Survey Examines Perceptions of Evangelical Christians
Special Report - September 10, 2008
Over half of Americans in a new Barna survey say they believe that Evangelical voters will have a significant impact on the upcoming election and will cause the political conversation to be more conservative. The Barna Group questioned 1,003 randomly selected American adultsincluding non-Christians, Evangelicals and self-identified non-Evangelicalsin an August 2008 telephone survey about their perceptions of Evangelical voters and their potential impact on the upcoming elections. Barna defines “Evangelicals” as “born-again Christians” who also meet seven other conditions, which include the following beliefs: religious faith is very important to their life today; they have a personal responsibility to share their faith in Jesus with others; Satan exists; eternal salvation is only possible through grace, not works; Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; the Bible is accurate in all it teaches; and God is an all knowing, all powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Barna did not ask participants to describe themselves as Evangelical or born-again.
Among all adults (includes Evangelicals, self-identified non-Evangelicals, and self-identified non-Christians), the Barna survey found that:
- 59 percent said it was very or somewhat accurate that “evangelicals will have a significant effect on the election outcome;”
- 56 percent agreed that it was very or somewhat accurate that Evangelicals would be “misunderstood or unfairly depicted by the media;”
- 85 percent said it was very or somewhat accurate that Evangelical voters would focus primarily on abortion or homosexuality;
- 47 percent said Evangelical voters will “minimize social justice issues, such as poverty and immigration;”
- 59 percent said evangelicals will cause the political conversation to be more conservative.
The Barna survey also sheds light on how Evangelical voters perceive themselves. According to the findings, an overwhelming majority of Evangelical voters believe they will have a significant influence on the upcoming election (84 percent), and that they will be misunderstood and unfairly depicted by the media (81 percent). Less than half (48 percent) agreed that Evangelicals “will focus primarily on abortion or homosexuality,” compared to 45 percent who disagreed with this characterization. In addition, only 28 percent of Evangelicals in the survey agreed that Evangelical voters will “minimize social justice issues, such as poverty and immigration,” while 69 percent disagreed.
“One 2007 study we completed showed that more than 9 out of 10 evangelicals believe abortion is a major problemeasily making it their top concern. And nearly 8 out of 10 evangelicals say that homosexuality is a major challenge facing the nation,” David Kinnamon, president of The Barna Group, who directed the latest survey, said in a statement. “So the fact that many evangelicals are reluctant to describe their voting as primarily focused on these issues seems to reflect their self-awareness rather than their stances on the issues. Like anyone else, many evangelicals care about their image and do not want to be pigeon-holed as one- or two-issue voters, even though these social and moral issues remain very significant for many evangelicals.”
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