How Will Evangelicals Vote? image

How Will Evangelicals Vote?

The Anglican church has been in the news this week with its pre-election comments, but here is an extract from a press release by the Evangelical Alliance, revealing the results of a large survey of evangelical voting intentions.

A survey of evangelical Christians has revealed that nearly double the national average intend to vote in this year’s general election. Four in 10 say they will change their vote from 2010. The government parties have lost significant support while smaller parties and Labour gained.

The Faith in Politics? report follows a survey of 2,020 evangelical Christians, conducted by the Evangelical Alliance between August and September 2014. It shows many concerns ranging from the credibility of politicians to the issues that they think political parties should be pursuing for the common good of society, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable.

There are an estimated two million evangelical Christians in the UK and the Evangelical Alliance draws together evangelicals from across 79 denominations.

The major findings are:
• 94 per cent say they are “certain” or “likely” to vote (80 per cent certain, 14 per cent likely), however 24 per cent are undecided which way they will vote.
• Poverty and inequality is the single most important issue for evangelicals. Some 32 per cent ranked it top whereas only four per cent of the population say it is the most important issue facing the UK (Ipsos Mori Aug 2014). Race and immigration, which is the most important issue for over a fifth of the UK population, was only chosen by six per cent of evangelicals.
•      When asked what policy positions/issues are important and will affect their vote, the top five were:
1. Policies that ensure religious liberty and freedom of expression (71 per cent)
2. Policies that are likely to make a positive difference to the poorest people in the UK (61 per cent)
3. Policies to eliminate human trafficking (59 per cent)
4. Opposition to same-sex marriage legislation (46 per cent)
5. A pro-life stance on euthanasia (45 per cent)
• Less than one in 10 (six per cent) think that politicians can be trusted to keep their manifesto promises.
• Half of the respondents say they are less likely to believe what a politician says today than five years ago.
• Evangelicals are seven times more likely than the national population to have contacted a politician or taken part in a public consultation and 14 times more likely to have taken an active part in a campaign.
• Comparing how evangelicals voted in 2010 and how they intend to vote today, there has been a fivefold increase in support for both UKIP (12% in 2014) and The Green Party (6% in 2014). Support for the Conservatives declined by nearly a third (to 28%), while the Liberal Democrats lost over half of their support (to 11%). The Labour Party now has the highest level of support, backed by 31 per cent of evangelicals.

I completed the survey last year, and as always with surveys of this kind, think the answers given are in large measure shaped by the questions asked. The question about policy positions, for instance, was a tick-box choice. I happened to think ‘none of the above’ and gave a non-prescribed answer, as I have previously described here. However, the results of the survey probably are a pretty good read of evangelical feeling. The most notable result is the decline in support for the Conservative Party, which I would guess is very closely tied to the significant opposition to same-sex marriage revealed in the survey – though as every other party was equally committed to changing the law on this issue, I’m not really sure how much of a factor it should be in deciding how to vote in May.

What is perhaps more interesting is how closely the EA survey tallies up to the latest polling figures for the general population, released yesterday. These reveal current voting intentions to be: Conservative 28%, Labour 35%, LibDem 6%, UKIP 18%, Green 7% – which would suggest that evangelical Christians will vote no differently from anyone else come May, except perhaps a little more LibDem and a little less UKIP.

So, evangelicals are more likely to vote than non-evangelicals, and their ‘single issues’ may fall on different emphases, but their voting patterns are essentially the same as non-evangelicals. And what that tells us about the state of evangelicalism, politics, or British society in general, I’m not entirely sure!

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