US evangelicals rate gays as top election issue

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A survey has revealed that for evangelical Christians in the United States homosexuality is one of the key issues in the 2008 election.

The Barna Group’s research found that in this important group of voters, whose strong support propelled George W Bush into the White House, abortion was the most pressing problem their country faces for 94%.

For 75% of evangelicals “homosexual lifestyles” or the “political efforts of homosexual activists” were a concern. Among the general population only 35% agreed.

“Out of more than sixty different subgroups reviewed, there were no differences of opinion on these two survey questions, suggesting that the two issues may be linked in Americans’ minds,” the report states.

However, 23% of voters said the “political efforts of conservative Christians” are a major problem facing the country.

Apart from abortion and gays, the key issues for evangelicals are personal debt of Americans (81%) and TV and film content (79%).

They were less worried about AIDS than any other sector of the population and just a third of them cited global warming as a concern.

“Understanding the faith-driven vote is as complex as assessing the nation’s spiritual profile,” commented David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group.

“Around election time, the power and perspectives of evangelical voters are stereotyped.

“If you use a belief-based definition of evangelicals, which is a means of definition that most evangelicals would be comfortable with, you discover that the size of the evangelical voting group is actually quite small. It represents only about 1 out of every 11 voters.

“Conversely, observers often miss the enormous size of their spiritual cousins, non-evangelical born again Christians, who account for nearly 2 out of every 5 voters.

“Combined, evangelicals and other born again Christians accounted for half of all votes cast in 2004.

“Moreover, analysts underestimate the diversity of the moral and social values that concern evangelicals and born agains.

“Part of the reason these two segments are not a monolithic voting bloc is that they possess a wider set of concerns and perspectives than they are often given credit for.

“One of the myths about the 2008 election is that the evangelical vote is splintering over issues such as abortion and homosexuality.

“In fact, when defined based upon a consistent set of theological perspectives, evangelicals remain very united on abortion and homosexuality,” Kinnaman explained.

“However, concerns about same-sex relationships are less unifying and less troublesome to the broader born again constituency.

“Born agains are far less concerned about homosexuality than they are about abortion.

“Protestants and Catholics don’t agree on same-sex concerns. Evangelicals and non-evangelicals differ.

“Homosexuality remains important for 2008, but the debate is shifting and taking on new dimensions for many people.”