The issues that matter most to evangelical voters


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.

Faith in politics - Top 10 policy concerns

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.

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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.

Conservative issue importance

The top five issues for Conservative supporters are:

  1. Ensuring religious liberty: 70%
  2. Economic growth: 53%
  3. Eliminating human trafficking: 49%
  4. Opposing same-sex marriage: 48%
  5. Pro-life position on euthanasia: 42%

Labour issue importance

The top five issues for Labour supporters are:

  1. Helping the poorest: 80%
  2. Ensuring religious liberty: 61%
  3. Introducing the living wage: 60%
  4. Eliminating human trafficking: 59%
  5. Reducing the need for foodbanks: 58%

Liberal Democrat issue importance

The top five issues for Liberal Democrat supporters are:

  1. Helping the poorest: 74%
  2. Ensuring religious liberty: 64%
  3. Eliminating human trafficking: 53%
  4. Protecting 0.7% international development aid: 51%
  5. Introducing the living wage: 50%

UKIP issue importance

The top five issues for UKIP supporters are:

  1. Ensuring religious liberty: 82%
  2. Opposing same-sex marriage: 81.7%
  3. Pro-life position on abortion: 71%
  4. Pro-life position on euthanasia: 63%
  5. Reducing immigration: 59%

Green issue importance

The top five issues for Green Party supporters are:

  1. Helping the poorest: 87%
  2. Introducing the living wage: 74%
  3. Reducing the need for foodbanks: 69%
  4. Tackling climate change: 61%
  5. Eliminating human trafficking: 58%

undecided voters issue importance

And finally, the set of issues that might be of greatest interest to political parties, here are the top five issues for undecided voters:

  1. Ensuring religious liberty: 78%
  2. Eliminating human trafficking: 67%
  3. Helping the poorest: 65%
  4. Pro-life position on euthanasia: 58%
  5. 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.

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Caring for sparrows: A response to Matthew Parris

20130702-113318.jpgMatthew Parris wrote in the Spectator last week: “Why is Christianity so unhelpful on the very ethical dilemma that most concerns ordinary people in our everyday lives? Why does Jesus have nothing helpful to say about the ranking of obligations?”

His problem is that Christianity doesn’t help in the practical decisions of who to prioritise care for. Why is it that we consider some things more grievous wrongs than others, why are those closer to us more ‘important’ than those in identical situations who we do not know? He uses the example of someone applying for a job, we might want them to succeed, those who believe in prayer and many who do not, might pray for their success. But that success comes at a cost, for them to get the job almost certainly requires that someone else does not.

When I pray to find a parking space I’m probably interceding against someone else finding that slot.

And yet God cares for everything, appropriately given Parris’ example, Matthew 10.29 says: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Even more fittingly, the verses that immediately follow give possibly one of the few examples of biblical prioritisation. Continue reading

Living on porridge and making pea soup: I’m living below the line

20130429-151914.jpg50 grammes of porridge isn’t very much. And it’s fairly tasteless on its own, but I’d ran out of money so couldn’t afford even the cheapest jam, honey or golden syrup.

For £1 I’ve got a pot of broth on the hob that will be my lunch for the entire week. A bag of split green peas, a carrot, an onion and part of a swede. And to do this this with the greatest level of integrity I have to account for the shake of salt, pepper and parsley from my shelf.

And yes, the pot is still on the hob and won’t be ready until gone 3pm. And this is my lunch. Good job I’ve got a day off work as I start living below the line for a week. Time in the morning to go shopping, time to prepare cheap but labour and time intensive food. A luxury I won’t have time for the rest of the week, so today’s goods will be divided up, put into boxes along with 3 slices of value bread.

I had to put food back on the shelf at the supermarket. I couldn’t afford as many eggs as I would have liked. If I want to drink tea, which I do, I’ll have to forego an apple one day.

If you haven’t came across Live Below the Line before, let me explain. Across the world 1.4billion people live in extreme poverty while we are too busy buying happy meals. This is twenty times the number of people in the UK living on the equivalent of less than £1 a day. This isn’t one of our pounds taken over to different countries, it is calculated through purchasing power parity – adjusting prices for different countries. More details are available about the calculations on the Live Below the Line site.

So for five days I am joining with many others and living on £1 per day. That’s why my caffeine intact will be down, why I’ll have a small breakfast, the same lunch each day, and an unexciting rice and beans dinner, on a couple of days I get to have eggs.

This is not just a stunt. It’s not just an exercise in embodied empathy, but hopefully it will do that. It’s about learning what many, far too many, go through each and every day. They cannot look forward to Saturday like me, when I can have a fry up.

Live Below the Line is also a fantastic way of raising money for charities who are doing vital work in many of the countries those 1.4 billion people live in. I’m joining up with Tearfund as I live below the line this week, and I would love if you could sponsor me – all the money goes direct to them.

SPONSOR ME NOW!!! (Forgive the poor etiquette, this is important.)