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What voters value

Lisa Misner —  November 5, 2018

Evangelicals choose issues over candidates

Vote Yeah

With a day to go before the U.S. mid-term election, new research may shed light on how evangelicals will vote. The Billy Graham Center Institute at Wheaton College and LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn., released an extensive study in October on how evangelicals voted in 2016, and how they feel about their decisions today.

The study explored the voting habits and political motivations of three groups of Americans: evangelicals by belief, self-identified evangelicals, and those who are not evangelical by belief or self-identity. (Evangelicals by belief are those who hold to four key theological statements developed by LifeWay Research and the National Association of Evangelicals.)

Among the findings: 53% of evangelicals by belief characterized their vote in the 2016 presidential election as being for a candidate, while smaller percentages said they cast their vote against Hillary Clinton (18%) or Donald Trump (15%). That only half of evangelical voters said they voted for their candidate in 2016 led researchers to conclude that evangelicals are “more issue-oriented than candidate-focused,” Christianity Today reported.

“I see no reason that focus on issues won’t be repeated next month,” said Ed Stetzer, referencing the Nov. 6 election. The executive director of the Billy Graham Center Institute detailed the research in a press release. “In 2016, many evangelicals chose to look past a candidate as an individual to vote for a specific issue, platform, or party a candidate represented, seeing the candidates more like objects of representation than as individuals whose values and ideals fit theirs.”

According to the research, two-thirds of evangelicals by belief agree committed Christians can benefit from a political leader even if that leader’s personal life does not line up with Christian teaching.

The 2016 election
In the 2016 presidential election, 9 in 10 evangelicals agree they felt strong support for their preferred candidate, with 69% strongly agreeing. And little has changed two years later. Today, 88% agree they feel strong support for who they voted for in 2016, with 70% strongly agreeing.

Among evangelicals who voted, most did so for Donald Trump. More than half of evangelicals by belief (58%) and self-identified evangelicals (53%) cast their ballot for the Republican nominee, while 36% of evangelicals and 38% of self-identified evangelicals voted for Hillary Clinton.

African-American voters with evangelical beliefs overwhelmingly voted for Clinton (86%), while more than three-quarters of white voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (77%).

Around half of younger voters with evangelical beliefs cast their ballot for Clinton—47% of those 18 to 49. A majority of voters 65 and over who have evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (72%).

The survey also measured the issues at play in the 2016 presidential election. Both evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals said an ability to improve the economy was the most important reason for voting the way they did, followed by positions on health care and immigration.

Few evangelicals by belief (5%) and self-identified evangelicals (4%) said abortion was the most important issue in deciding their 2016 vote. And 7% of evangelicals by belief and 6% of self-identified evangelicals chose likely Supreme Court nominees as the most important reason.

Working across divides
Most evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals say the 2016 election brought to the surface some underlying divisions among Christians. Yet, most evangelicals also believe someone in the opposing party can be a devout Christian.

When evangelicals encounter someone using biblical beliefs to justify political views that are opposite of their own, few question their political opponent’s faith. Evangelicals by belief are most likely to say they are hopeful they can find common ground biblically.

“Jesus is not coming back on a donkey or an elephant,” said Stetzer. “We have to acknowledge that people vote for different and complex reasons and that Christians can differ on politics and agree on the gospel.”

– From LifeWay Research, with reporting by Christianity Today

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

As Americans (at least, those who didn’t vote early) head to the polls, here’s a sampling of the latest politics news and commentary:

CNN’s Belief Blog looks at the faith of both presidential candidates – how they’ve been shaped by their beliefs, and how their faith has been shaped by the campaign. President Barack Obama’s spiritual advisors say his time as president has “significantly deepened his faith,” according to CNN, while former Governor Mitt Romney has faced questions about his Mormon faith for his entire political career. Click on the links to read both stories, or go to

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler shares specific ways to pray for the country and its future president today.

Christianity Today calls 2012 “the year of the personal endorsement,” citing numerous evangelical leaders who have spoken publicly in favor of a particular candidate. Billy Graham, Richard Land, and more than 1,500 pastors voiced their preferences this year, even as a Pew Forum survey found two-thirds of Americans believe church leaders should not endorse candidates. Read the full story.

Amidst the politics, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to cause big trouble on the East Coast. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers are among those working to help meet basic needs for thousands of people displaced by the storm. As of Friday, November 2, more than 450 volunteers from nine Baptist state conventions were working in at least six states affected by the storm, including a chainsaw team of Illinois Baptists serving in New Jersey. Read the latest on the relief effort at

COMMENTARY | Stephen Nyberg

Today, we find ourselves in a great conflict to determine whether this nation shall continue to be “One Nation Under God” or, as President Ronald Reagan so aptly said, “If we ever stop being one nation under God, we will be a nation gone under.”

God has given us the privilege of determining the direction of our country by exercising our right to vote. But in the 2006 non-presidential election, 20 million evangelical Christians did not vote even though they were registered, according to voter records from Tufts University. And 10 million evangelicals weren’t even registered to vote.

The numbers didn’t change in 2010, and just two years prior to that, the presidential election was decided by 10 million votes!

Our Creator has blessed us with this precious way of life called America. And the Bible teaches that we are to be good stewards of our gifts.

God birthed this great nation as surely as He wrote the Bible. He used faithful, godly men who came of age during “The Great Awakening” to implant the ideas and create the documents to form a government and a freedom that would cause His Gospel to flourish. And it has, at least until recently.

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and author of “The Federalist Papers” said, “We have as our duty and privilege in this Christian Nation, to prefer and select Christians as our leaders.”

In his “History of the United States,” Noah Webster (of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) expounded on Jay’s words:

“The preservation of [our] government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded.”

We must prayerfully consider each candidate – local, state and national – and the record of each, to determine whether their actions and decisions are consistent with the teachings of Holy Scripture, for these people will determine our future culture. It is our Christian duty to choose for leaders those who will make policies that will invite God’s blessing, as opposed to His judgment.

Make sure you’re registered to vote in the presidential election Nov. 6. And vote for those who support God’s commandments and Jesus teachings.

Your turn: In five words or less, describe how you feel about voting in this fall’s election.