Survey Dispels Conservative Evangelical Stereotypes

A new Baylor Religion Survey contradicted commonly held views about Evangelical Christians and their political, social and cultural views, which are stereotyped as conservative.

The survey found a large number of evangelicals holding liberal views on certain matters while maintaining conservative views on such issues as abortion and gay marriage. Conversely, many nonevangelicals were found to hold not just liberal views on some cultural issues.

Among evangelicals, the Baylor survey revealed that 50 percent think the government should not fund faith-based organizations; 50 percent indicate that the government should distribute wealth more evenly in this country; 74 percent of evangelicals believe that it is very important to seek social and economic justice; and 76 percent of evangelicals believe that the government should do more to protect the environment.

"Such findings should not go unnoticed by Republican officials," said Dr. Byron Johnson, co-director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and professor of sociology, in a released statement.

"What the data shows is that while evangelical Protestants tend to vote Republican, there are certain key policy issues that divide them politically," said Dr. Paul Froese, assistant professor of sociology and one of the researchers on the Baylor Religion Survey.

An earlier Newsweek Poll had shown how Americans and evangelicals, in particular, would vote in midterm elections. According to the results, white evangelicals are tending towards a more even divide between voting Republican or Democrat compared to previous years. The Oct. 19-20 poll showed that 60 percent of white evangelicals say they would support the Republican candidate while 31 percent would back the Democrat. In 2004, the divide was wider with 74 percent of white evangelicals saying they would support the Republican.

Despite the increasing numbers for the Democratic party, Froese reinforced that the liberal views of the evangelicals do not indicate their leaning toward the liberal party altogether.

"Regardless of these specific liberal tendencies, evangelical Protestants currently do not appear moved towards the Democratic party," he said. "However, heading into the midterm elections, Democratic strategists should take note of the fact that a substantial portion of evangelicals express what have long been believed as liberal views on certain social issues."

Along with liberal tendencies cited among evangelicals, Baylor reported some conservative views among nonevangelicals, especially on church-state issues.

For nonevangelicals, Baylor found that 39 percent of them feel that the government should "advocate" Christian values; 52 percent of nonevangelicals feel that the government should "defend" Christian values; 61 percent of nonevangelicals believe that the government should allow religious groups to display religious symbols in public spaces; and 64 percent of nonevangelicals believe that the government should allow prayer in public schools.

The Baylor Religion Survey, funded by the John Templeton Foundation and conducted by Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, was completed by 1,721 respondents.