Is a Christian’s choice of political party really neutral?
Two years ago I had a theory, and several of my friends were gracious enough to help fund a poll to study something I had never seen evaluated through a public survey. What is the correlation between one’s voting propensity and one’s theological views?
The survey actually got a tremendous amount of traction.
Well, we went back into the field this election cycle, and conducted a very similar poll and I’m going to overview what our methodology is like, how it differs from that of other public opinion polling you see done on “evangelical voters” and how someone’s voting choices remain a significant indicator of the theological viewpoints they hold.
Most polling you see about “evangelical voters” or “Christian voters” are polls where the only measured criteria is that you identify as a Christian. There is no further test to assess the validity of the claim. This leads to inaccurate conclusions on what Christian voters believe.
With our poll we first ask if a person identifies as a Christian and intends to vote, then how often that person attends church services. If someone attends less than once a month, that person is not allowed to participate in this survey. In theological terms, we aren’t including those who are “forsaking the assembly”, which sadly makes up an increasing number of those who simply say “I’m a Christian,” but gave next to nothing of their time, talent or treasure to the church.
Secondly, we wanted a poll that could address the claim that voting is neutral from a Christian standpoint. While a poll itself cannot answer this question, it can provide data that will be helpful in addressing this question. The basic question is this: is there a correlation between voting patterns and beliefs about God, the authority of the Bible, and so on?
You can view the full results here.
Let’s break down some of what we found.
First, we had to survey a much larger sample of Democratic voters to actually get enough of them to participate in this study. To give you a little window into methodology: if a participant does not complete 100% of a poll, they aren’t included in the results. Normally, after someone gets past the initial questions, they will stick through the remainder of the poll. But this time, after our first round, we had very few completions from Democratic voters. When we looked into the data, we found that a very high number of them would end the call upon being asked about their theological views. This required us to spend more money and time calling a much larger set of Democratic voters to get a sample that was significant enough to draw conclusions from.
This was not what we experienced two years ago, and I don’t have anything in particular I can attribute it to, but the data showed that Democrats in church pews are very hesitant to talk about their theological views.
This poll was conducted in Texas. Since we don’t have the presidential ballot to test, we asked about the voters’ choice for Governor.
After that we asked a series of theological questions and compared the answers of the respondents to their voting preference. For those of you not from Texas, keep in mind that Greg Abbott is a traditional Republican candidate and Beto O’Rourke is largely seen as a very liberal Democratic due to taking some far-left stances during his presidential campaign.
Let’s look at some of the results:
The first theological question can be interpreted as a pure presentation of the gospel. The second is an essential doctrine, and the third is a practical church policy based on clear biblical teaching.
On each of these questions you can see that a solid ⅓ of Beto voters who are regularly sitting in church pews hold views that are fundamentally out of accord with classical Christian teaching. These numbers also show us that 7-9% of Abbott voters fall into this same category.
One other data point worth discussing is that this trend has held true from our poll in 2020. Black church goers have the easiest time separating their politics and theology, while white voters are most affected by their political choices as shown in the graph below.
We added one question to this year’s survey that I’m sure many will appreciate and that is church goers’ opinion of Christian Nationalism. The results show that a significant portion of respondents don’t have a strong opinion either way. Democrats have a pretty solid opposition to the idea, while Republicans favor it more than they oppose.
When we look at the political viewpoints of voters they are largely unsurprising. There is an encouraging number of churchgoers who are casting Democratic ballots and believe we shouldn’t sexualize children. This however is not an anomaly since a majority of independents and strong plurality of Democratics in other public polling oppose sex change surgeries on kids.
It is disturbing that these voters are actually casting votes for people who want to promote this child abuse, but their personal views are more conservative than some might think.
Lastly, on the issue of abortion there is a real need to educate those in the pews about our Creator’s heart for unborn children, whom he knitstogether in the womb.
Interestingly enough, we polled this question in an exclusively Republican-voter poll earlier in October using more theological terms. The encouraging thing is that theological terminology seems to pull voters into a more biblical alignment on this issue.
In this previous poll we asked “Do you believe that a child conceived by a rapist should be punished under our laws for the sins of their father?” A super majority of Republicans opposed punishing the child when it was presented that way, while 55% of Abbott voters who are sitting in churches claim to support an exception for rape and incest.
The sad indictment of this poll is that the church is supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. Yet, when you poll the world’s terminology for discriminatory policy that ends the life of a child, they fall for it.
With Democratic voters in church, they have largely come in line with the national Democratic Party in supporting legal protection for those who take the life of unborn children.
We should not neglect the issues of culture in our churches. Regardless of how uncomfortable it is for church leaders, I would argue that this poll helps us see how we can’t divorce one’s political decisions from the theological views the data shows they potentially hold.
Ultimately, our hope is in the cross. No political figure or party will save our nation, or our souls. While this is true, it is naive to assume that political views and the decision of who to vote for are neutral decisions for the church.
To conclude, I’d like to go beyond what a poll can tell us, although the conclusions of this polling data lead me to be very concerned. Allowing these issues to be addressed in the church could be fostered in several ways.
Don’t avoid the current cultural issues when the biblical text is relevant in addressing them, and make room for boldly and lovingly dealing with these issues from the pulpit.
I was very encouraged several months ago when a pastor of one of the largest churches in my city decided to take several weeks to preach on these difficult cultural topics. Ed Newton, with community Bible Church lovingly proclaiming what the bible says about gender is the kind of sermons we should be increasingly present in our pulpits.
Encourage book studies or Sunday schools to equip believers on these topics.
One example of this would be that at my church, one of our men’s book studies this year was “For the Body”, which is one of the first protestant amplifications of John Paul II’s extended commentary on the Theology of the Body. Books like this equip Christians on what the positive message of truth is regarding many of these issues.
Share this poll with your fellow church leaders and pastors.
I by no means have all the answers but truly believe that if men and women in the church will open their eyes to truth before us, we can more boldly and lovingly equip one another to be salt and light to a world that is increasingly darkening.
As a Lutheran I can appreciate that voting recommendations don’t fit into the traditional liturgy, and I believe the biggest problem in our churches today is a lack of gospel proclamation and application, not political participation. It’s sobering when the gospel is purely presented and some, who have been attending church their entire lives, say they have truly heard the truth of who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross for the first time.
However, that reality cannot lead us into the political fantasy of pretending that who you vote for is in our day neutral. Foundational matters of right and wrong, good and evil, are at stake.
*Image Credit: Unsplash