A second study in Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout’s study, The Truth about Conservative Christians, is about the politics of Conservative Christians (CCs). What do they think and practice? It might surprise you.
Here’s an opening claim: “Conservative Christians [CCs] are the center of attention when the [political] discussion turns to values. But their voting priorities and internal divisions are widely and wildly misunderstood” (39). At the bottom “economic interests sharply divide CCs” (39). “So-called values voting has not flattened the relationship between income and how people vote” (40). “Since the Reagan era began in 1980, incomes has influenced CPs’ votes even more than it affected other American votes” (40). But, “values and income both affect how CPs and other Americans vote” (40).
Now here’s a conclusion: “in party preferences they [CPs] are less partisan than most; a sizable minority think of themselves as politically independent and moderate” (41). Now to some numbers:
Conservative Protestants are “a modest 6.3 percentage points more Republican than Mainline Prots (51.7% vs. 45.4%). They offer some stats and say that it is only 1.6 %points in impact score and that therefore “claims that CPs have hijacked the nation’s politics are greatly exaggerated” (42). My own observation here is that both the Democrats fears and Evangelical claims may be off base.
Why the fuss? Because religion has come out of the closet for public and media debate. We talk about it more, but its impact is the same as it has always been (44). “Reporters who ask us [the authors] to comment on trends seem to have mistaken a trend in how they cover elections for a trend in how Americans actually vote” (44). Pretty good insight, don’t you think?
“CPs are somewhat more politically conservative than other Americans, but, first, only a minority of CPs identifies as politically conservative, and second, differences between CPs and Mainline Prots are marginal” (46-47).
More significantly for statistics: “family income and economic issues are far more significant than moral values for the trends in both voting and party identification” (48). “The Republicans’ real base is not the the religious right but the affluent” (50).
They do not believe evidence suggests that one’s view of evolution, prayer in schools and choosing to end life impacts elections. What about racism? “Are the CPs racist? The evidence here acquits them of the charge” (61). What about civil liberties?
“The US has a civil liberties problem; it is just a bigger problem among CPs” (64).
Conclusion: “almost anything that affected voting behavior in the past matters more for presidential politics in the current era than it did prior to the Regan era. These are partisan times” (65). “All groups defined by their religious affiliation … follow their pocketbooks these days, but the economic cleavage was deepest for CPs — the group most identified with values voting” (66).
“If you insult a real opponent you have to face his answer; if you insult a mythical opponent you get the floor all to yourself. Is that fairness to the values voter? Probably not” (66).
Next chp is on how evangelical theology shapes politics … and the authors explore the incredible difference between evangelical Afro-Americans and whites. CPs are made up of Cons white Prots and Cons Afr-Am Prots. Do they vote the same? Why or why not?