Report: Young Evangelicals, Progressives Have Connection Points

There are "significant opportunities" for young white evangelicals and progressives to find common ground on hot-button social issues, a new report shows.

Young white evangelicals under the age of 35 are less likely than older evangelicals to identify themselves as conservative and are more supportive of government solutions to social problems, according to the report "Beyond the God Gap: A New Roadmap for Reaching Religious Americans on Public Policy Issues" by Third Way and Public Religion Research.

They are also more supportive of legal recognitions for gay and lesbian couples.

"We do not pretend that bridging these divides will be easy. But there is more commonality than is often expected, and with commonality, there is opportunity," said the report's authors.

Third Way is a moderate think tank of the progressive movement based in Washington, D.C., that tries to find new approaches to difficult problems, including how religious conservatives and progressives can find ways to work together.

The group, along with PRR, found that there was a significant generational difference among white evangelicals on gay and lesbian issues.

Young white evangelicals were more than twice as likely as the overall white evangelical population to support same-sex marriage, 24 percent to 10 percent. The portion of young white evangelicals that support allowing gay and lesbian partners to marry is still relatively small but shows significant changes compared to their predecessors.

They were slightly more supportive of civil unions for same-sex couples (28 percent) than they were of gay marriage. Notably, however, there is no real difference in support for civil unions between young white evangelicals and the overall white evangelical population (27 percent).

Overall, a majority (52 percent) of young white evangelicals support either civil union or marriage between people of the same sex. By comparison, only 37 percent of the overall evangelical population share the same view.

Both the overall white evangelical and young white evangelical population showed a significant jump in support of same-sex marriage if given religious liberty assurance that "no church or congregation would be required to perform marriages for gay couples."

The white evangelical support jumped from 10 to 20 percent, and the young white evangelical support from 24 percent to 35 percent.

While evangelicals of all ages are still overall opposed to legal recognition of same-sex couples, less than half of young white evangelicals would identify themselves as politically conservative (47 percent), according to the Pew Forum Religious Landscape Study in 2007. The majority of evangelicals as a whole (56 percent) identify themselves as politically conservative.

PRR and Third Way also found that unlike older evangelicals (age 65 or older), the younger generation (age 18 to 29) is more likely to support bigger government (58 percent to 25 percent).

And because of their faith emphasis on individualism in terms of personal relationship with God and responsibility for sins, evangelicals tend to carry that outlook over to their political view. Most evangelicals as a whole still prefer a small government (53 percent).

Young white evangelicals are more likely than older evangelicals to support government providing more social services.

The report, released Wednesday, also includes studies on the views and attitudes of mainline Protestants, African American Protestants and Roman Catholics with the aim of helping those unfamiliar with people of faith to move beyond stereotypes and find common causes on policy issues.

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