The 2016 Election Has Awakened a Sense of Urgency among Christian Conservatives
As the summer winds down and Americans get ready to return to their normal routines, the presidential campaigns of the major-party candidates continue to search for a viable pathway to enough votes to win the upcoming election. A new survey released by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) provides a range of insights into one of the critical bases of support that Donald Trump must win – Christian conservatives – if he is to triumph in November.
No Time to Lose
SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives tracked in the ACFI research – have a mindset that there is no time to lose in leading America onto a different track for the future. They consider the 2016 election to be a major life event: 98% say the outcome of the election will make a difference in their life. Nearly three-quarters of them (71%) say it will make a “big difference.” That sense of urgency is much greater among the SAGE Cons who plan to vote for Donald Trump: 75% of them say the election will make a big difference, compared to only 50% of those who say they will not vote for Mr. Trump holding the same perception of the elevated importance of the election.
Various factors contribute to their concern about the election. For starters, more than four out of five SAGE Cons (83%) say they are extremely or very proud to be an American. That contrasts with just two-thirds of the SAGE Cons (67%) who do not plan to vote for Donald Trump.
More than nine out of ten SAGE Cons (92%) are angry about the current state of America. Given that sentiment it is not surprising that the survey revealed that a similar proportion of them (93%) are completely or mostly dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S.
Their attentiveness to the election is heightened by the fact that a majority of Christian conservatives (52%) say they are worse off now than they were in the past. Consequently, seven out of ten SAGE Cons (69%) say that they are “worried about the future.”
Of One Mind, Politically
Interestingly, less than four out of ten SAGE Cons (38%) consider themselves to be “a political junkie.” That seems to contradict the fact that almost nine out of ten Christian conservatives (87%) say they have paid “a lot” or “quite a bit” of attention to the 2016 presidential election thus far. The apparent contradiction may simply be explained by noting that these are voters who see themselves as patriots, are concerned about the values and morals of the country, and feel a sense of obligation to serve the country by working to preserve the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities that enabled the United States to be a great nation.
Three-quarters of all SAGE Cons (74%) indicate that they support the Tea Party, the decentralized conservative movement that has advocated less government regulation and spending, lower taxes, and strong national security. SAGE Con males are more likely to associate themselves with the Tea Party (81% do so) than are SAGE Con females (66%). Similarly, the Christian conservatives who plan to vote for Donald Trump are more likely to support the Tea Party (77%) than are those who do not plan to support the GOP nominee (59%).
Perhaps surprisingly, SAGE Cons appear to feel more connected to the Tea Party than to the Republican Party. Only half of all SAGE Cons (49%) say they are “loyal to the Republican Party.” It appears that the decision to have Mr. Trump represent the party in this election has done little to more permanently connect SAGE Cons to the GOP.
Less Government, Please
There is no denying the fact that SAGE Cons are of one mind politically when it comes to their view of governance. The survey identified three governance factors that demonstrated their nearly-unanimous perspective:
- 99% believe the federal government has too much power
- 98% believe that the federal government is doing too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals
- 96% oppose new taxes or increases in tax rates
These points of view were consistent across the spectrum of the SAGE Con universe, regardless of whether or not they plan to vote for Donald Trump on November 8.
The Significance of SAGE Con Support
The importance of these insights was driven home by George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute, which conducted the survey.
“The recent softening of support for Mr. Trump among SAGE Cons should be on the radar of the Trump campaign,” commented Barna. “In the last several elections, Republican candidates have been able to count on a minimum of 80% of the Christian conservative vote, boosted by unusually high turnout rates within the group. While Mr. Trump is still running slightly above that support threshold, the downward trend in such support over the last two weeks is something his team should be cognizant of. Without a minimum of 80% support from the SAGE Con community, and strong turnout within the segment, Mr. Trump stands little chance of winning the election.”
Barna also noted that a key message for conservative candidates during this election cycle relates to the sense of urgency that many Christian conservatives feel. “Cultural transformation has traditionally occurred at a snail’s pace but that is no longer the case: the pace has picked up considerably. A growing number of Christian conservatives sense that now is a critical time for believers to stand firm and pushback against those who want to radically redefine the foundations of life and culture in America. SAGE Cons are tracking the election more closely than most voters because they are looking for candidates who will represent them in the movement to shift the cultural momentum and govern from a conservative point of view. They believe that time is running out to stop the cannibalization of America’s values and morals. In their eyes, this election may be their last realistic chance to keep America from going off the cliff.”