The Common Good

Young Evangelicals, Election 2012, and Common Ground

What culture war? At a survey release of young evangelicals and proceeding panel discussion, common ground was the pervading theme. 

Alycia Ashburn / Sojourners
Panelists discuss the Young Evangelicals in the 2012 Election study. Alycia Ashburn / Sojourners

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While panelists ranged in religious and political backgrounds — representing groups like Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, World Relief, Family Research Council, USAID, World Vision, the Manhattan Declaration, and Feed the Children — there was an overarching agreement that while young evangelicals are largely pro-life, life issues now extend to beyond the typical to things like creation care and immigration. 

“There is still a lot of tension that many young people feel in trying to identify with one political party or the other,” Adam Taylor, vice president of advocacy for World Vision. “… There is a real deep commitment to a pro-life agenda, but that agenda has now expanded and includes a core and strong commitment to addressing issues of poverty.”

In fact, an overwhelming 73 percent of those surveyed reported hearing about the issue of poverty from their church pulpits in the last year. Both the economy (jobs, gas prices) and the budget (spending, deficit, and taxes) scored at the top (61 percent) of issues that will influence their votes.

But across the board, panelists say that their generation tends to view these issues more broadly, see where they are interconnected, and act on them. About 3-in-4 utilize social media to advocate for causes; 71 percent have signed an online petition; 89 percent have prayed for elected officials. 

“It’s really exciting that we’re seeing a holistic approach to addressing issues of our faith,” said Jayme Cloninger, manager of public policy for Feed the Children.

From a political perspective, young evangelicals again lack the polarization so evident in our current campaigns. 

“The tapestry of what is the evangelical role in America is really shifting,” Christopher LaTondresse, adviser for faith based and community initiatives for USAID, adding that many young evangelicals have supported both Democrats and Republicans based on their stance on the issues they care about.

“[Young evangelicals] are people who have voted based on their conscience on issues like abortion, but have also voted their conscience on issues like global poverty and climate change and immigration,” LaTondresse said. 

Jim Wallis, Sojourners President and CEO, said he was encouraged by the findings.

"This survey is finally putting some numbers to a phenomenon we’ve been talking about for 40 years over at Sojourners," Wallis said. "Young people—those Matthew 25 Christians—are engaging in serious, meaningful ways in their communities, but also in the national policy priorities of this country." 

Other findings from the study: 

  • 92 percent “strongly agree” or “agree” that America was founded on the idea of religious freedom for everyone
  • 52 percent “strongly disagree” or “disagree” that America is a Christian nation
  • 88 percent “strongly agree” or “agree” that it is important for Christians to vote
  • 91 percent “strongly agree” or “agree” that it is important for Christians to volunteer for charities
  • 42 percent would rank same-sex marriage and abortion among their top two most important issues affecting their votes.
  • Mean confidence score for institutions among young evangelicals: 
    - Faith-based nonprofits: 77
    - Churches: 72
    - Humanitarian organizations: 64
    - Police: 64
    - Government: 38
    - Media: 26
    - Political parties: 26

Read the full report HERE.

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor at Sojourners. Follow her on Twitter @Sandi.

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