Friday, March 04, 2016

Defining Evangelicals in an Election Year

These days, everyone wants to know what evangelicals believe—especially about political issues.

Researchers have asked evangelicals what they think about same-sex marriage, science, the death penalty, immigration, and, especially, whom they plan to vote for in the upcoming election.

That’s understandable. Americans who identify as white evangelicals remain a powerful voting bloc in the United States—representing 1 out of every 5 voters in recent presidential elections, according to The Pew Research Center. And most—about 8 in 10—have voted Republican in at least one election. So it’s no surprise that Donald Trump recently proclaimed, “I am an evangelical.”

But who is an evangelical? Many pollsters and journalists assume that evangelicals are white, suburban, American, Southern, and Republican, when millions of self-identifying evangelicals fit none of these descriptions.

One of us (Leith) has led the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) for a decade. The other (Ed) leads LifeWay Research, one of the largest Christian research groups in the world. We think there is a more coherent and consistent way to understand who evangelicals are—one based on what evangelicals believe. Read More

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