For Religious Voters, Risk Is Good Like God

Republicans Target Believers’ Sensibilities – and Not Just Through Social Issues


When August's Republican National Convention embraced people of faith, the love fest went well beyond a few social issue planks in the platform or a benediction from a cardinal critic of ObamaCare.

Sure, opposition to gay marriage and abortion struck chords with some of the devout. But a wider segment likely resonated with a broader, more foundational message that says in effect: we share your trust in a provider God. Hence we share your disdain for “nanny” state programs that aim to remove risk and foster reliance on Caesar.

Critics on the left have assailed GOP budget proposals as abandonment of professed Christian commitments to the vulnerable and as capitulation to the allegedly unchristian approach of self-reliance guru Ayn Rand.

But sociological research from Baylor University shows that highly religious people see no such dichotomy. They’re certain it’s better to trust in God than in government, and nothing – not even a socially conservative agenda – signals a politician’s sympathy for that worldview better than celebration of risk-taking, in business and elsewhere.

In a 2010 survey of more than 1,700 respondents, Baylor researchers explored how people of faith view factors contributing to financial success. They also looked at religious beliefs and practices of political conservatives, liberals and entrepreneurs.

Their discoveries chart how faith and small government philosophies often go hand-in-hand. Conservatives and risk-taking entrepreneurs tend to exhibit more confidence in God’s provisional ways than liberals and non-entrepreneurs. And die-hard believers are far more likely than religious skeptics to expect success will come to those who have ability and work hard.

Consider a few findings. Entrepreneurs, who according to Baylor are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats, are also more likely than non-entrepreneurs to pray several times a day or meditate. More than 30 percent of entrepreneurs carry out these practices, versus fewer than 25 percent of non-entrepreneurs. It seems those who opt for a risky career path are a bit more inclined to seek guidance from above, too. It seems when GOP rallies emphasize, “We did build it,” many could finish the thought by adding, “with the help of God.”

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G. Jeffrey MacDonald
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