Monday, 17 March 2008

Left evangelicals

It’s been assumed for so long that white evangelicals in the US vote Republican that none of the major pollsters even bothers counting those who back the Democrats. But a recent post-primary poll in Missouri and Tennessee, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress Action Fund and conducted by Zogby International, suggests that abortion and same-sex marriage aren’t necessarily the evangelical vote-clinchers they’re usually seen to be. And there are a lot more left-leaning evangelicals than you might think.

One in three white evangelicals in Missouri and Tennessee voted in Democratic primaries. In both states their number is equal to or greater than all African-American voters, all voters over 65 or all voters who said the Iraq war is the most important issue facing the country. What’s more, white evangelicals in both parties back a broader agenda that includes ending poverty, protecting the environment, and tackling HIV/AIDS by large majorities.

In the Zogby poll, far more white evangelicals ranked jobs and the economy as more important than abortion and same-sex marriage (30 against 14 per cent in Missouri, 34 against 19 per cent in Tennessee). Other issues also ranked highly. In Missouri, 12 per cent chose Iraq as the most important, 11 per cent health care, 7 per cent immigration, 6 per cent terrorism, 4 per cent taxes and 4 per cent education. In Tennessee, 8 per cent chose Iraq, 8 per cent health care, 6 per cent education, 6 per cent immigration, 5 per cent terrorism and 4 per cent taxes.

The poll doesn’t exactly put white evangelicals in the ideological vanguard, but it does suggest that they may be a lot more amenable to progressive argument than is generally assumed.

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