In my last post, I questioned poll results based on (some) evidence. Now, I’m going to question those same results without any evidence.
But don’t worry, I have something way better than evidence–a hunch. Here it is:
Picture a spectrum of people. All of these people affirm the same basic “evangelical” beliefs about Christianity, Scripture, and everything else. Now let’s say we line up all those people according to how enthusiastically they embrace the term “evangelical.”
On one extreme side (the right, to pick at random) are the people who are enthusiastic about the label. Of course, they’re evangelicals–and you should be too! The world desperately needs more proud, committed evangelicals! Why are you so dour about a term that’s led to so much good for so many people?
On the other extreme (the extreme left, we’ll say) are the people who recoil at the label. They not only refuse the term–they think it’s toxic. Why would you carry all this unnecessary cultural baggage from a jumbled anachronism? Of course you should ditch that label–the gospel demands it!
Of course, those are just the two extremes. The vast majority of evangelicals (especially younger ones) likely fall somewhere in between. If you read this blog, an example of this sort of person is you, probably.
Again I want to emphasize: the people on this spectrum all have the same religious beliefs. They’re only sorted by how much they like the term “evangelical.”
Here’s where my hunch picks up steam. The further to the right a person is along this spectrum, the more likely it is that they support Trump. And likewise, the further to the left a person is, the less likely it is that they support Trump. I don’t have any data backing this up, but I’m confident it’s correct.1
If I’m correct, there are lots of people with evangelical beliefs who would not describe themselves as “evangelical” to a pollster. And they’re the ones who are the most against Trump.
So to sum up: last post, I argued that there were lots of people who call themselves evangelical but who don’t hold evangelical beliefs. These folks are especially likely to support Trump. This post, I argued that there are lots of people who do not call themselves evangelical, but who still hold evangelical beliefs. These people are especially likely to NOT support Trump.
So maybe the 81 percent number is too high?
Of course, even if I’m right, that doesn’t fundamentally change anything. Either way, too many evangelicals threw their support to Trump too quickly. That doesn’t change whether the “actual” number was 81 or 51 or 91. But it does underscore how cautious we should be when citing polls about “evangelicals.” It also means we should be (slightly) less dour about the state of American evangelicalism.
1 And you are, too. Go on, admit it.
Photo by Nikita Thiroux