Baylor Religion Survey Latest Findings: The Liberal Politics of Evangelicals; the Conservative Politics of Nonevangelicals

Oct. 25, 2006

Media Contacts: Julie Carlson, senior staff writer, (254) 710-6681 and Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, (254) 710-6275

(Click here to download a PDF of the Baylor Religion Survey.)

(Read "Losing My Religion? No, Says Baylor Religion Survey" about the initial release of the findings on Sept. 11, 2006:)

New data from the Baylor Religion Survey contradicts the stereotypical view that Evangelical Christians hold only conservative views on cultural and social issues. Similarly, the survey dispels the notion that nonevangelicals hold liberal views regarding the same cultural and social issues.

According to survey findings, while evangelicals are conservative on issues relating to abortion, gay marriage, the death penalty, prayer in schools and other issues dealing with morality, large numbers hold "liberal" views on matters relating to protection of the environment, funding faith-based initiatives and distributing wealth more evenly.

Conversely, while a majority of nonevangelicals hold these same similar "liberal" views, a majority of these same people will hold conservative views on hot-button cultural issues such as abortion, prayer in schools, gay marriage and the death penalty.

"Such findings should not go unnoticed by Republican officials," said Dr. Byron Johnson, co-director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and professor of sociology.

"What the data shows is that while evangelical Protestants tend to vote Republican, there are certain key policy issues that divide them politically," said Dr. Paul Froese, assistant professor of sociology and one of the researchers on the Baylor Religion Survey. "Regardless of these specific liberal tendencies, evangelical Protestants currently do not appear moved towards the Democratic party. However, heading into the midterm elections, Democratic strategists should take note of the fact that a substantial portion of evangelicals express what have long been believed as liberal views on certain social issues."

For instance, the survey found that many evangelical supporters of President Bush (40%) can be categorized as "liberal" on economic issues. This means that they believe the government should do more to redistribute wealth and seek economic justice. Nevertheless, these evangelicals remain conservative on other social issues and tend to support the Iraq War and the Patriot Act more than nonevangelicals.

Initial findings from the Baylor Religion Survey were released last month in a research report titled American Piety in the 21st Century. New information being released today from the Baylor Religion Survey illustrates that significant percentages of evangelicals and nonevangelicals hold views that have not been captured by social scientists as well as others predicting election outcomes.

Among these new findings, the Baylor Religion Survey reveals that:

  • 50 percent of evangelicals think that the government should not fund faith-based organizations.
  • 50 percent of evangelicals indicate that the government should distribute wealth more evenly in this country.
  • 74 percent of evangelicals believe that it is very important to seek social and economic justice.
  • 76 percent of evangelicals believe that the government should do more to protect the environment.

While evangelicals indicate certain liberal tendencies on key policy issues, many nonevangelicals hold conservative views on church-state issues.

The Baylor Religion Survey documents that:

  • 39 percent of nonevangelicals feel that the government should "advocate" Christian values.
  • 52 percent of nonevangelicals feel that the government should "defend" Christian values.
  • 61 percent of nonevangelicals believe that the government should allow religious groups to display religious symbols in public spaces.
  • 64 percent of nonevangelicals believe that the government should allow prayer in public schools.

Funded by the John Templeton Foundation and conducted by Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion and the department of sociology, the Baylor Religion Survey is a project focused on improving understanding of American religion and is the most extensive and sensitive survey of religion ever amassed.

In a national random sampling, the mailed questionnaire was completed by 1,721 respondents and covers varied facets of American religion and spirituality. Analysis of responses to the nearly 400 items paints an initial portrait of American religious life in the early 21st century.

The research group for the study includes Johnson, professor of sociology and co-director of the ISR; Dr. Rodney Stark, University Professor of Social Sciences and co-director of ISR; Dr. Christopher Bader, assistant professor of sociology; Dr. Kevin Dougherty, assistant professor of sociology; Froese; Dr. Carson Mencken, professor of sociology; and Dr. Jerry Park, assistant professor of sociology.

To arrange an interview contact Julie Carlson, senior staff writer, at (254) 710-6681 or Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, at (254) 710-6275.

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