The Common Good

Amy Sullivan: 'Are Evangelicals Really Sold on Palin?'

I saw a column this weekend in Time magazine by Amy Sullivan in which she asks, "Are Evangelicals Really Sold on Palin?" It's well worth reading.

Lost in the stampede of social conservatives to embrace Palin this past week is the fact that she is culturally outside the mainstream of Evangelicalism. Over the past few years, a growing number of Evangelicals have been consciously distancing themselves from the more extreme stands of the Christian Right. They live in the suburbs, hold graduate degrees, and while they might not want their children reading certain novels, would be embarrassed by attempts to ban certain books from libraries, as Palin is reported to have briefly considered while Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. They don't attend churches where speakers charge that violence against Israelis is divine punishment for the failure of Jews to accept Jesus, as happened at one of Palin's churches two weeks ago (though Palin has now issued a statement saying she does not agree with those views). And they would disagree with Palin's decision to use her line-item veto as Governor to slash funding for an Alaska shelter that serves teen mothers.

That goes double for younger Evangelicals. These voters tend to be even more pro-life than their parents, but abortion isn't always a priority that moves their votes -- it wasn't when McCain was alone on the ticket, and there's no reason for that to change with the addition of Palin. More important, Palin has problematic stances on many of the issues that do motivate young Evangelicals. Her insistence that global warming is not man-made, for instance, is unlikely to appeal to those Evangelicals who have embraced so-called "creation care" in the past few years. This is particularly relevant to the current race, as young Evangelicals account for much of that demographic's undecided bloc. No one knows what the size of their impact may be in November because young Evangelicals are consistently underrepresented in polls of white Evangelicals. (Even a TIME poll of likely white Evangelical voters conducted last month used a sample in which just 10% of respondents were between 18 and 35. That age group made up 22% of the total electorate in 2004, and its share of the electorate is expected to increase this year.)

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