Pew set to parse the young believers

clbannerFor those who closely watch the state of religion and American politics, there is going to be a fascinating press briefing this week at (surprise) the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. There has been some early coverage (click here for a Washington Times report), but we will not know the fine details until the end of the week.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick summary from a blog at The Atlantic that ran with a headline that left the tensions intact: “Young Evangelicals Are Less Republican, Still Quite Conservative.”

Well, duh. The early details:

Pew’s latest microsurvey picks up some interesting juts.

• Pres. Bush’s popularity has fallen precipitously among evangelicals who are 18-29.

• In 2001, 55% of white young evangelicals said they were Republican. In 2007, 40% do — although most of the movers haven’t become Democrats. Pew says the shift among older evangelicals “has been less dramatic.”

• The aggregate ideological leanings of this group hasn’t changed since 2001. A plurality — 44% — are conservative. But a majority consider themselves either moderate or liberal.

• They’re more pro-life than their parents.

A few numbers are already up at the Pew website. I imagine that the big headlines will focus on the fading numbers for President Bush and the possible implications for 2008. However, what jumps out at me is that young evangelicals are remaining quite traditional on the hottest of hot-button social issues — abortion.

Thus, the earliest document posted at Pew ends by noting:

And when it comes to abortion, younger white evangelicals are even more conservative than their older counterparts. For example, 70% of younger white evangelicals favor “making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion,” compared with 55% of older white evangelicals and 39% of young Americans overall who share this view.

This strong allegiance to conservatism and conservative positions suggests that young white evangelicals’ turn away from the president and his party may be the product of dissatisfaction with this particular administration rather than the result of an underlying shift in this group’s political values and policy views.

Frankly, that is totally logical. Let’s see if there are any surprises in the rest of the numbers. This ought to be interesting.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Samuel Lim

    What doesn’t make sense is the picture that goes with this post. I assumed (wrongly) that you were going to raise a point about the shifting demographics of young American Evangelicals with an increasing number of Asians making up the ranks. Instead I find that the Pew survey is exclusively interested in younger, white evangelicals. Surely there must have been some other picture in the whole of google-dom that you could have used. C’mon!

    But apart from that, yeah, the survey is totally logical.

  • tmatt

    OK, how’s this one?

  • Robin

    Interesting. I attended a prolife prayer chain on Sunday.
    You pray and hold a sign on a sidewalk near a busy street.

    88% of the people didn’t do anything.
    7% of the people waved, honked, and gave thumbs up.
    5% of the people shook heads no and gave thumbs down (only one flip off).

    Oddly the negatives were mostly older white women (40-60) and men (equally), which kinda shocked me. The positives were families and women in 30-40′s.

    Note: I was in a very white affluent part of town (not my hood but the closest).

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    This seems like a great time for the mainstream press to pick up the new book “unChristian” from the Barna polling/media organization. Written from an evangelical POV, it has some very interesting things to say about how young people from within and without of the faith view Christianity.

  • Mattk

    I liked the first picture more. It looked more like the churches where I live, which is in Silicon Valley.