Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Young White Evangelical Protestants Turning Away From President Bush (But What Does it Mean?)

Taking a break from writing a paper this morning, I saw a link to this study by the Pew Forum at Arkansas Democrat-Gazette religion editor Frank Lockwood's blog, the Bible Belt Blogger. It notes the precipitous drop in President Bush's approval rating among young (18-29 years old) white evangelical Protestants:

In 2002 (at the height of his popularity among all voters) Bush's approval rating among young white evangelicals was a whopping 87%, compared to a still incredible 67% approval rate with the total population.

In 2007, however, only 45% of young white evangelicals approve of president Bush. While that is still considerably stronger than his approval rating among the entire population (33%), it is significant to note that not even a majority of those who were once his strongest supporters approve of the Bush presidency.

But, the important question to ask - and the question I can't answer - is this:

What does this mean?

What it doesn't seem to mean, at least according to the Pew Forum, is that young white evangelicals are growing more liberal. A disturbing number of the population to which I nominally belong (60%) still believe that it was right for the US to invade Iraq. An even more disturbing number, given that we all claim allegiance to one who was unjustly executed by the state, (72%) favor capital punishment. While those numbers are not compared to numbers from 2002 (when Bush was at the height of his popularity among both young white evangelical Protestants and the general population), they are compared to the numbers for all Americans between 18 and 29. And, no surprise, only 56% of young Americans (compared to 72% of young white evangelicals) favor the death penalty, and only 41% of young Americans (compared to 60% of young white evangelicals) think that it was right to invade Iraq.

Abortion is a separate issue, because it can easily be made part of a comprehensive pro-life philosophy that opposes wars and state-sanctioned killings. However, it was also a part of the Pew Forum's study, and no surprise, young white evangelicals differ from their peers on it, too. 70%, according to the Pew Forum, believe that it should be "more difficult for a woman to get an abortion," compared to just 39% for young Americans in general.

The study did not, as far as I could tell, ask questions about the actual prosecution of the war in Iraq, nor did it seem to ask about other important issues for young white evangelicals, such as global climate change. It is possible that many young white evangelicals disapprove of president Bush for these reasons - the war is going badly, and the natural environment is becoming more important for young white evangelicals shaped by a kind of "stewardship" theology. And, of course, there are many, many more reasons to oppose the Bush presidency, stemming from corruption, incompetence, and cronyism (and boy, aren't those three related!).

So, I'm not sure what to make of these numbers. While, as a liberal Democrat who takes my faith seriously, I hope that they signal a seismic political shift; as a rational human being I just don't see the numbers reflecting that. Rather, I think the numbers simply reflect what a bad president George W. Bush has been. Even the bulk of his base has left him.

5 comments:

brian beech said...

Naturally, I have some differing thoughts, but I think you left out one very large issue to the group you speak of--Immigration. Now, I'm not sure what religious ties the 'young white evangelical voters' can tie to their beliefs on this issue, but I think a lot of them have strong feelings on this. If you asked me whether or not I approved of President Bush's job - I may say no because of this issue and this issue alone. So, I think this one issue, in particular, could swing a LOT of those polled in the direction it possibly would have/is pushed/pushing me.
And I really wanted to comment on some of the earlier blogs, but...time time time escaped me. But I still read! ;)

Sandalstraps said...

Brian,

Thanks for your comment.

You're right, I left that one out. I didn't even do it on purpose, I just missed it altogether. It didn't show up in the poll, and I didn't think of it when I was compiling issues the poll left out.

Immigration is a pretty large issue in my church, and we do tie it to our theological commitments. We (though, of course, we aren't all of one cloth) believe that America should be considerably more open to immigrants, and should be more hospitable to the immigrants who make their way here. We tie this to the Biblical commitment to share the heart of the stranger. If my brain weren't dead from a day full of school and church (I just got home, and put Adam to bed, and am now headed there myself) I'd probably wax poetic about that, or at least offer some more comprehensive position.

Where do you see young white evangelicals on the issue of immigration? And, since it is an important issue for you, what are your own views? Obviously this is a complicated issue - the sort of issue that defies the general thumbs up or thumbs down that general characterize our political dialogue. But, if you can find the time (and boy do I ever know that is tough) could you comment some on the issue of immigration, and its connection to faith?

brianbeech said...

My thoughts on immigration. Well, I'm against illegal immigration because it is illegal and I'm of the opinion that these illegal immigrants should use the legal paths; if that system is broken, then there should be pressure to fix it. I think we need to cut off the border to the south because we do face a new threat of terrorism and we need to know what is being brought into this country(I won't go into the whole drugs thing, but I have some thoughts there too). I think everyone wants to look the other way, but I think we're quite vulnerable by way of the southern border.

Things heard a lot by my 'group':
-illegals take jobs from Americans
-illegals take tax money from Americans

These are two highly disputed charges. Across the board, I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I do know my experience. I know two illegal immigrants. Both of them are the type of people America should yearn for - hard working - honest - very very nice people. But, I do see both of them in jobs that American's should have. These aren't jobs that no one would want. These are jobs that pay decent - probably better than my wife's job.

I know these two, being illegal, do not pay taxes on anything but the money they spend – in the form of sales tax. This really gets me. If the normal American looks at the Net and Gross pay and sees what taxes are being paid, it should outrage him/her. Normal people end up paying 18-25% in taxes – this is significant. Now we have two illegal immigrants that are making (for the sake of argument) the same as I am. He/She now has about 20% more money than I do. I pay for health care out of my pocket and He/She does not, but they still get medical attention. That really gets me too.

The lady we know that is illegal had a surgery for an implanted birth control thingy – technical term. I wonder who paid for that surgery. She recently had very bad pains and went to the emergency room and was admitted. I wonder who paid for that bill. Then she underwent another surgery to have the birth control ring replaced – I wonder...you get the idea. I see a lot of outflow of money and this is from someone who is not giving back to the system. I recently went for a checkup and just got a bill after insurance for over $100. Now, if I were illegal, I would not have to pay this because there is no way to track this. I have no social security number (except the one I may have made up) so there is no way to 'assign' this bill to me. The we look at the field your wife and my wife have made their way in. I'm sure you know of the hassles of families trying to get services for their children. We hassle these families when we treat illegals for free?

Sorry, I have a lot of gripes with illegal immigrants, but I'll stop that nonsense babbling.

Spiritually speaking, I think it is my duty as a Christian to help anyone I am able to; including illegal immigrants. We aren't charged to help only American's, only white's, or only asian's; We are charged to help all we can. So, I feel that is my duty as a Christian. But, I do not feel as if I am to encourage the breaking of laws; I do not think that is what Jesus taught. The law is set and if we fight for the people who are breaking the law, we are essentially saying that we agree the law should be broken and these law breakers should be rewarded. I don't think that is what we should do either. So, if an illegal immigrant is in my path that needs help; I will give it – as much as I can. But, I will continue to vote for the people that want to uphold the law. If they wish to change the law, that is another story. Sorry, no proof-reading; I have to run. Sorry about the free-writing.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

The poll showed a completely uninformed electorate. Most thought that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards were "not very religious" although all 3 are frequent churchgoers and have written books which describe the role of faith in their lives. Clinton is the most regular Democrat in the Senate Prayer meetings.

It was a very startling poll in what it revealed about how uninformed most people are. Scary.

Sandalstraps said...

Annonymous comments designed only to insult will always be removed from this blog.