Survey results published before last month’s election indicate no relationship between evangelical Christian beliefs and political party affiliation. The extensive research project calls into question the Religious Right’s claims of mobilizing a monolithic bloc of Christian voters.
The report was based on a survey conducted for the Institute for Government and Politics, an affiliate of Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Research and Education Foundation. Factors such as income, race, education, and occupation appear to influence voting and political activity to a greater extent than religious belief or practice. However, on specific moral issues, support may be “activated” among evangelicals by political candidates who make a straightforward appeal on religious grounds.
The report, The Evangelical Voter, was written by Stuart Rothenberg and Frank Newport. It looks beyond 1984 to assess whether evangelicals constitute a special interest group, similar to organized labor or minorities. If there is cohesion among evangelicals, and if they are easily reached via the pulpit or through religious broadcasting, then political organizers would do well to appeal to them. If not, the efforts of conservative groups to do so may be a colossal waste of time and resources.
In fact, the report points out, massive voter registration drives may have the opposite effect of what groups like Tim LaHaye’s American Coalition for Traditional Values expect. “Mass registrations of people who can be identified as fundamentalist Christians bring to the polls more Democrats than Republicans, if nothing else is done,” Rothenberg and Newport conclude. This is particularly true for congressional and local races, in which voting behavior is less likely to be influenced ...1
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