Poll Suggests Evangelicals Favor Redistribution of Wealth

Though a national poll suggests that a slim majority of evangelicals desire an equal distribution to solve the socioeconomic inequities plaguing many Americans, a national group clarified that evangelicals favor equality access to resources rather than wealth for the poor.

While few conservatives – only 38 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Tea Party members-believe that people currently do not have an equal chance at achieving the American dream, evangelicals were evenly split over the issue and were more willing to consider wealth distribution according to a recently published survey.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey, 53 percent of white evangelicals agreed that society would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal. Only 35 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Tea Party members agreed that society need a more equal distribution of wealth.

Among mainline Protestants, Catholics and black Protestants, support for equal wealth distribution was much higher. White mainline Protestants supported wealth distribution by 55 percent, 61 percent of Catholics supported redistribution and 79 percent of black Protestants favored distribution.

During the 2008 presidential election, a Gallup poll shows that 99 percent of African Americans voted Obama to be the nation’s first African-American president. Protestants, by contrast, favored 2008 GOP nominee John McCain by 53 percent.

National Association of Evangelicals Vice President of Government Relations Galen Carey explained evangelicals’ interest saying, “I think there’s been a real resurgence in evangelical focus and interest on justice, and justice requires that all people have access to the basic needs of life in order to provide for themselves and their families.”

Carey says evangelicals' justice focus is one that has building for years, but has peaked amid the current economic downturn.

The U.S. jobless rate has hovered at and around 9 percent since the summer, meaning nearly one out of every 10 Americans are unemployed. In some demographics, such as recent graduates ages 20 to 24 years, the unemployment rate is higher. The unemployment among recent graduates is 15 percent according the Labor Department.

Evangelical leaders such as NAE President Leith Anderson, Evangelicals for Social Action Ron Sider and Northland Senior Pastor Joel Hunter have formed coalitions with clergy from Methodist; Episcopal Baptist and Catholic churches to urge politicians to save entitlements such as the supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) and international aid programs help those in poverty.

Their alliance called The Circle of Protection emerged during spring budget talks. “We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms, and to speak out for justice,” the group expressed in statement.

While evangelicals want an equality of resources for the poor, Carey said, “They’re not asking the government to take up everything and to divide it up equally among everyone because we know that doesn’t work.”

“Having a concern about poverty doesn’t mean that one has to advocate a strict equality, especially material equality,” he clarified. Carey noted that material equality has not worked for some European countries which have tried to legislate it.

Greece, under the leadership of former Socialist International head George Papandreou, is facing economic crisis due in part to uncontrolled government spending. In 2009, The Economist reported that country’s budget deficit reached 12.7 percent of its gross domestic product. The European Union is currently engaged in talks to rescue Greece and stabilize its currency, the euro.

Carey said freedom is an important biblical value and that any effort to increase access to resources should also embrace freedom.

“So putting together freedom and equality – equality of opportunity – is something most everyone can subscribe to,” he said

A clear majority of Americans (60 percent) also believe society would benefit if wealth were more equally distributed.

Additionally, 70 percent of American also favored President Barack Obama’s Warren Buffett rule which would increase taxes on Americans earning more $ million per year if implemented. The survey did not provide any data about how many evangelicals, Protestants or Catholics also preferred the Buffett rule.