Evangelical Voters: Lift Every Voice
CONSIDER three young religious-minded people of the left. The first is Andi Sullivan, who set up a charity to distribute mosquito netting to Africa and Asia during her first year at university. The second is Gabriel Salguero, a pastor who advocates immigration reform and better funding for public schools in New York. And the third is Drew Hansen, a legislator who is trying to get gay marriage allowed in his home state of Washington. All three of them are devout evangelical Christians.
Viewed against the broad current of contemporary American evangelical politics, these three examples are outliers. The vast majority of evangelicals oppose gay marriage. They are more likely than non-evangelicals to oppose extra funding for public education, unemployment benefits and aid to the poor, both within and outside America. And a poll taken by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2010 showed that nearly half of all white evangelicals favour deporting illegal immigrants. Ever since they deserted Jimmy Carter—a Southern Baptist generally considered America’s first evangelical, or “born again”, president—for Ronald Reagan in the election of 1980, evangelical Christians have been among the most reliable Republican voters.
Determining just how many evangelicals there are is tricky. Asking people to label themselves in a poll often yields different answers than theological questioning does. That is largely because the word “evangelical” tends to repel blacks, most of whom would describe themselves as “born again”. They share much doctrinally, but little politically, with whites who call themselves evangelicals. But it is safe to say that over one-third of Americans, more than 100m, can be considered evangelical, with the greatest concentration in the South.