If you have read books like Drew Westen’s The Political Brain, you might be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at this headline. A large body of work has emerged over the past few years that suggest that we vote with our hearts, rather than our heads. Policies, this body of work says, matter far less than our gut reaction to a candidate, their character and the party we naturally align ourselves with.
So to those who agree with this research, the results of a new report from the Barna Group might be surprising. Across the board, a candidates’ position on issues is overwhelmingly more important than their character, their party affiliation or their religious faith.
Among evangelicals, three-in-four stated that a candidate’s position on issues was the most important factor in deciding who to vote for, with the most important issues for evangelicals being health care, taxes, abortion, foreign oil and gay marriage.
Although ‘position on issues’ was the most important factor for those interviewed, half of all evangelicals also rated a candidate’s religious faith as a very important factor in considering who to vote for. This figure is made even more significant when it is placed alongside the numbers for other faith groups. Just 2 percent of those interviewed from non-Christian faiths saw a candidate’s religious faith as an important factor, compared with 7 percent of Catholics and 11 percent of mainline Protestants. Nowhere else within the faith community does a candidate’s religion matter as much as it does to evangelicals.
The significance of this year’s election in comparison to previous Presidential elections is another noteworthy aspect of the report. Almost three-in-four evangelicals see the 2012 Election as one of the most significant in the past 50 years, which would suggest that we can expect to see large turnout amongst the evangelical population in November.