Many View Evangelical Voters as Influential, but Complainers

The majority of Americans believe evangelical voters will have a significant impact on the November election, but also say the faithful tend to complain too much.

Nearly 60 percent of American adults said the statement "evangelicals will have a significant influence effect on the election outcome" was "very" or "somewhat accurate," the new study from The Barna Group found.

But on a less positive note, the same percentage (59 percent) felt that evangelicals spend too much time complaining and not enough time solving problems.

Surprisingly, evangelicals have a somewhat similar self-perception in regards to these two descriptions.

A full 84 percent of evangelicals believe their voting bloc will have significant impact on the presidential election. And surprisingly, 50 percent of this group agreed they complain too much.

Also, only 48 percent of evangelicals believe it is accurate that their voting peers will focus primarily on abortion and homosexuality despite the wide attention such moral issues have received. In contrast, 85 percent of all American adults agreed with this description about evangelical voters.

David Kinnaman, who directed the Barna study, pointed out that a 2007 study by Barna showed that 9 out of 10 evangelicals believe abortion is a major problem. Similarly, nearly 8 out of 10 evangelicals say homosexuality is a major challenge facing the nation.

"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," Kinnaman commented.

"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."

Meanwhile, 47 percent of all adults said evangelical voters will minimize social justice issues, like poverty and immigration. Only 28 percent of evangelicals agreed with that statement.

And while more Christian leaders have stressed that evangelicals are not a monolithic voting bloc, 74 percent of evangelicals believe their tribe will vote overwhelmingly Republican. Forty-seven percent of all adults said the same.

In other findings, American adults believe evangelicals will cause the political conversation to be more conservative, and be misunderstood and unfairly described by news media.

The Barna study was conducted on a random national sample of 1,003 adults in August 2008.