Yesterday the Evangelical Alliance published Faith in politics? which reported on a survey of over 2000 evangelical Christians investigating their political views and habits. One key feature of the report was two questions examining the issues of greatest concern, the first asked what was the most important issue facing the UK, and the second asked how important various issues were for voters. The report shows that evangelical voters have a distinct profile even if overall their votes are distributed to parties broadly in line with the general public. Last autumn, when the survey took place, the general public listed immigration and race relations as the most important issue, whereas for evangelicals it was some way down the table. In top spot instead for nearly a third of voters was poverty and inequality, while among the UK population only 4 per cent ranked it top.
For the list of issues respondents could select whether the issue was either: ‘Important and will affect my vote’, ‘important’, ‘not very important’, or ‘this would lessen my support for them’. The top five issues in order of importance policies promoting religious liberty followed by policies helping the poorest, eliminating human trafficking, opposing same-sex marriage, and a pro-life stance on euthanasia.
I’ve dug into the data and broken down the response to both questions by the party respondents are intending to vote for because I thought that might be both helpful and interesting! First of all, on the most important issues facing the UK today for Labour, Liberal Democrats, Green and undecided voters poverty/inequality was the top issue – for Labour and Green supporters over half chose that option. For Conservative voters the economy came top, and for UKIP the EU was seen as most important. While trailing poverty/inequality, a sizeable minority of Green Party supporters selected the environment.
Turning to how important supporters of each party considered the 27 policy areas you can see the divergence of issues. Regardless of party either protecting religious liberty or policies making a positive difference to the poorest came top: religious liberty for Conservative, UKIP and undecided voters, and helping the poorest for Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party supporters.
The top five issues for Conservative supporters are:
- Ensuring religious liberty: 70%
- Economic growth: 53%
- Eliminating human trafficking: 49%
- Opposing same-sex marriage: 48%
- Pro-life position on euthanasia: 42%
The top five issues for Labour supporters are:
- Helping the poorest: 80%
- Ensuring religious liberty: 61%
- Introducing the living wage: 60%
- Eliminating human trafficking: 59%
- Reducing the need for foodbanks: 58%
The top five issues for Liberal Democrat supporters are:
- Helping the poorest: 74%
- Ensuring religious liberty: 64%
- Eliminating human trafficking: 53%
- Protecting 0.7% international development aid: 51%
- Introducing the living wage: 50%
The top five issues for UKIP supporters are:
- Ensuring religious liberty: 82%
- Opposing same-sex marriage: 81.7%
- Pro-life position on abortion: 71%
- Pro-life position on euthanasia: 63%
- Reducing immigration: 59%
The top five issues for Green Party supporters are:
- Helping the poorest: 87%
- Introducing the living wage: 74%
- Reducing the need for foodbanks: 69%
- Tackling climate change: 61%
- Eliminating human trafficking: 58%
And finally, the set of issues that might be of greatest interest to political parties, here are the top five issues for undecided voters:
- Ensuring religious liberty: 78%
- Eliminating human trafficking: 67%
- Helping the poorest: 65%
- Pro-life position on euthanasia: 58%
- Opposing same-sex marriage: 56%
While examining this breakdown of the data what occurred to me was the position of undecided voters on many of these issues. Although it is not a uniform pattern the groups of voters line up on a spectrum on many of the issues, this spectrum runs from UKIP to Conservatives to Undecided to Liberal Democrats to Labour to Green, or vice-versa. Tentatively this could suggest that many of those yet to make up their mind are caught between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, it also suggests that in order to win over these voters the Conservatives would be better tacking towards the centre than to the right.
- Something else I wrote today: Could it be the Bishops wot won it?
- Poverty and inequality is the most important issue
- The Huffington Post leads with the Conservative Party losing a third of their support from evangelicals
- Steve Clifford comments on the findings, looking at comparisons between UK and US evangelicals
- Krish Kandiah is encouraged by the issues that evangelicals rank as important