Thursday, September 20, 2018


I've edited the word "evangelicals" out of this post in response to a commenter who notes that many of the religious conservatives who were subjects of the survey under discussion were not evangelicals. Otherwise, I stand by what I've written.

For the past few days I've been reading reports about a survey conducted by Emily Ekins, the polling director at the Cato Institute, that draws surprising conclusions about religious conservative voters. Today Ekins discusses her findings in a New York Times op-ed titled "The Liberalism of the Religious Right."
In a Democracy Fund Voter Study Group report, I found that religious conservatives are far more supportive of diversity and immigration than secular conservatives. Religion appears to actually be moderating conservative attitudes, particularly on some of the most polarizing issues of our time: race, immigration and identity.

Churchgoing Trump voters have more favorable feelings toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims and immigrants compared with nonreligious Trump voters. This holds up even while accounting for demographic factors like education and race.

Churchgoing Trump voters care far more than nonreligious ones about racial equality (67 percent versus 49 percent) and reducing poverty (42 percent versus 23 percent)....

Religious participation also appears to pull Mr. Trump’s supporters away from the administration’s immigration policy. The more frequently Trump voters attend church, the more they support offering citizenship to unauthorized immigrants and making the immigration process easier, and the more opposed they become to the border wall.
The survey also says that frequent churchgoers who are white are less invested in their own whiteness than infrequent churchgoers.

Is this true? I haven't seen similar results in any other survey, but the work seems serious, and it doesn't seem to be tailored to push an obvious agenda.

Ekins draws one set of conclusions from the numbers:
Since the early 1990s, as record numbers of Americans began leaving organized religion, the percentage of white Republicans with no religious affiliation has tripled, according to an analysis of the General Social Survey. Today, only 31 percent of the president’s coalition attends church regularly. Forty-eight percent never or rarely attend services.

Some on the left might applaud such trends. Because of the L.G.B.T. culture wars, many incorrectly assume that if conservative churchgoers are less accepting of sexual minorities, they are also less accepting of racial and religious minorities....

Many progressives hope that encouraging conservatives to disengage from religion will make them more tolerant. But if the data serve as any guide, doing so may in fact make it even harder for left and right to meet in a more compassionate middle.
But I'm coming to different conclusions. It's been obvious for a while that Donald Trump isn't a devout Christian -- he doesn't go to church, he knows nothing about the Bible, and he's lived a life in which he hasn't followed the Christian moral code (most obviously in the area of sex). And yet religious conservatives are his most fervent backers.

Now we're told that religious conservatives are more tolerant and welcoming of people from other ethnic groups and other nations. So how many of their core beliefs are religious conservatives violating when they offer their support to Trump? And what does that say about their priorities?

Trump is giving them the judges they want. Brett Kavanaugh, or whoever might be nominated in his place if he withdraws from consideration for the Supreme Court, will almost certainly vote to effectively ban abortion in much of America. That clearly matters to religious conservatives, as do policies that hurt gay and transgender people, and policies that push religion into public schools and employer-employee relations.

We knew these issues mattered more to religious conservatives than how Trump lives his life -- but now we know that they matter more to religious conservatives than how Trump treats blacks, Hispanics, and immigrants. We knew that religious conservatives think it's a sin to be a pussy-grabbing dirty old man, but they voted for a pussy-grabbing dirty old man anyway. Now we're told that they don't like xenophobic racism -- but they voted for a xenophobic racist anyway.

So what good are these values if hatred gays, abortion, and breaking down the church-state wall of separation are always more important? Why should we try to make common cause with them on other issues if sex and their own status are the only issues they vote on?

No comments: