- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2000

The nation's Protestant evangelical leaders, once seen as seeking only to save souls, by a majority also want to save institutions such as schools, government and entertainment, according to a survey released Thursday.
"I suspect that marks a fairly significant change from the past," said political scientist John Green of the University of Akron, who conducted the poll.
In his talk to a Capitol Hill assembly of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Mr. Green said the 22-question survey might shatter other stereotypes of evangelicals.
For example, he said, it found that evangelical leaders mostly welcome immigrants and back a federal role in easing poverty.
The NAE's four-day annual meeting, which is rarely held in Washington, came after a yearlong debate on whether Christian political involvement achieves any moral change in society.
Mr. Green's survey, which polled 475 leaders of evangelical denominations, churches and ministries nationwide, showed there was no sign of giving up on politics.
Half the leaders said conservative Protestant political involvement since 1980 has been "productive"; 41 percent gave it a "mixed result" rating.
Nearly half of the leaders said that evangelicals should "stay focused" on politics, while only 9 percent said they should "withdraw from politics for other pursuits." In between, 43 percent favored doing "some of both."
In Tuesday's primaries, conservative Protestant voters seemed as active as in past elections, said Corwin Smidt, a Calvin College political scientist who spoke to the NAE assembly on the exit polls.
The group identified by the Voter News Service exit polls as the "religious right," he said, backed Texas Gov. George W. Bush by 75 percent.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona won 20 percent of the "religious right" vote.
Although evangelicals now "seem to be the bedrock of the GOP coalition," Mr. Smidt said, candidates such as Mr. Bush are unlikely to use religious rhetoric for fear of alienating more liberal and secular elements in the Republican coalition.
As a result, the moral and religious issues that concern evangelicals will be addressed more "in general terms, with some ambiguity," he said.
Mr. Smidt said a third of Republican primary voters identified "moral issues" as this year's hot button, while only 1 in 10 was excited about campaign finance reform.
Since 1980, Mr. Green and Mr. Smidt have analyzed the religious vote, and from this election year expect to produce the most thorough study of the religious identity, thinking and behavior of voters.
Generally, they said, the entire electorate is 25 percent evangelical, 22 percent Roman Catholic, and 16 percent mainline Protestant.
While the labels "evangelical" and "religious right" are much debated and misused, they said, it is further complicated by party affiliations.
"Only a plurality of evangelicals will identify themselves with Republicans," Mr. Smidt said. While many black Protestants are evangelical, their voting is more defined by black denominational alliances to Democrats.
Mr. Smidt said 40 percent of evangelicals identify with the GOP, 35 percent are independents, and 25 percent are Democrats.
Since the 1980, he said, there has been a "major shift" of evangelicals in the South away from the Democratic Party.

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