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How Politically Engaged are Evangelicals?

April 14th, 2010 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

If you trust the media, it’s all we do.  And if you trust many of the younger evangelical set, they’ll immediately concur.

But when you compare evangelicals to other branches of Christianity, the reality is surprising.  Evangelicals, it turns out, are less involved politically than mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and the black Protestant community.

The data comes  Mark Chavez, a sociologist at Duke.  He writes:

First, notwithstanding extensive media coverage of political mobilization within conservative churches, conservative white Protestant churches do not stand out in their level of political activity. Catholic and black Protestant churches, overall, are more politically active than either liberal or conservative white Protestants.


Beyond voter guides, black churches are much more likely than white churches to engage in electoral politics by having a candidate or elected government official speak at the church, or by participating in voter registration drives. And Catholic churches are much more likely than Protestant churches to engage in the direct action and pressure group politics of marching, demonstrating, and lobbying elected officials.

The analysis is based on percentages, so if there are more evangelicals than (for example) Catholics in a given region, then they will seem disproportionately politically oriented.

That suggests that geographic differences could play a significant role in determining how casual observers and lay sociologists view evangelical political involvement.  So having grown up on the West Coast, where there are proportionately fewer evangelicals, I tend to think agree with Joe’s theory of the “herd of unicorns.”  Others who spent more time in the South, where evangelicals predominate, would naturally form an opinion that evangelicals are too focused on political activity.

(HT:  Anthony Sacramone)

And those geographical concerns are legitimate.  But so is the data, and the recognition that in aggregate, evangelicals are simply not unique in how extensively they pursue political activity.