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November 17, 2011

What Evangelical Women Want: The Political Gender Gap

Michele Bachmann and Beverly LaHaye appear to be the exception, not the rule, in conservative politics. A recent “Battleground Poll” conducted by Politico and George Washington University suggests that there is a gap between male and female evangelicals.

The November poll interviewed 1,000 likely voters about their plans for the upcoming election, their views of current events, and their evaluations of government. Among those interviewed, evangelical men were some of the most conservative.

Evangelical men in the survey preferred a generic Republican to Obama by a two-to-one margin. Two-thirds of evangelical men said they would vote for the Republican candidate next year. Only 27 percent of these men (including African Americans and other minorities) said they would support Obama.

Evangelical women, however, were almost evenly split, with around 44 percent favoring Obama and 43 percent supporting the Republican, about the same as men who are not evangelical.

Women who are not evangelical are the most supportive of Obama with a majority reporting they will vote for him next fall. A majority of these women (58%) also identify themselves as Democrats. In contrast, 64 percent of evangelical men say that they are Republicans. For evangelical women and men who are not evangelical, there is an even split between Republicans and Democrats.


The survey also suggests a difference in the policy priorities of evangelical men and women. When asked what policies should be a priority for Congress, most Americans of all religions and sexes said the economy was most important.

There was also a divide between the priorities of men and women, even among evangelicals. Evangelical men were much more likely to point to government spending and the deficit as a top concern. Few of these men said that things like health care costs were a priority.

Evangelical women, however, saw the needs of the country differently. Like other women, evangelical women were more likely to say that health care costs should be part of the congressional agenda. They were less concerned about government spending than evangelical men.

On average, evangelical men are some of the most conservative and pro-GOP voters in the country. One survey suggests that evangelical women might be more religious, but they also appear to be less conservative in their voting choices and policy priorities.


Editor's note: This post has been updated on 11/18.


As an evangelical woman, I agree that evangelical men are more conservative than evangelical women, at least in relation to government spending. I do not believe that the government should enable people who do not want to work, on the other hand, I do not support the idea that the government should never intervene in the lives of its citizens. And I am much more concerned with the environment that my male counterparts, it seems at times. And I am appalled at the Republican's party lack of emphasis on education. As for healthcare, I do believe it is a huge issue facing our country, but I am not in support of the government forcing everyone to have insurance. That went too far for me. But I would like to see government sponsored healthcare plans that those without insurance could purchase (affordably). I don't vote along party lines. I do evaluate candidates before choosing who I will vote for. And I admit, that I liked some of what Obama said when he was running for President. But at the end of the day, as an evangelical Christian, I could not vote for Obama because of his support of abortion. I believe the Bible is very clear on this issue. Give me a Democrat who is against abortion and I will probably line up with his platform the most.

Jamie, it's too bad you're "appalled" at the Republicans and their stand on education. Perhaps you can come up with some recent Democrat ideas on how to "fix" the broken education system. Every year the schools continue to go downhill, no matter how much money is pumped into the system, and people blindly believe that the more you spend, the better the children will do. But there have never been any studies that have shown increased spending has resulted in better test scores. But, when the Republicans have ideas such as school vouchers or charter schools, and more, the Democrats fight tooth and nail against any changes to the system. Most people I think, would like some accountability with the teachers. Some teachers have been teaching for many years, and some are not even able to pass a basic student graduation requirement exam, but there is no way to fire them because of the strong labor unions. Needless to say, the democrats have always, and continue to be, strongly tied to the labor unions, and this is at the expense of the children. I wish people would someday stop listening to the rhetoric of the politicians and actually check things out for themselves. I'm appalled that the Democrats let our children suffer in some terrible school districts, and don't care enough about the parents who want vouchers for their children so they can receive a better education.

I am in total support of vouchers and wish they were available to all students. My reference to being appalled at education comes from Republicans on a federal level, but more recently on a state level. In Texas, we had a budget shortfall that required the elimination of thousands of teaching jobs statewide. Texas has a rainy-day fund, which could have been used to at least cut the shortfall. Rick Perry and the Republicans in charge of the budget committee opted not to. These are all people I voted for. And so now, our classrooms are operating at maximum capacity in many school districts, librarians were let go, bus routes eliminated, teaching tools such as online self-paced reading helps are gone (Ticket-to-Read was one of them that really helped my older daughter to learn to read). This is not pumping extra money into the school system, but rather keeping it going. So, in our state, Republicans are letting our kids suffer in sub-par conditions.

Jamie, I do understand your frustration, but please believe me, we're going through the same thing in the state of Washington, and we have democrats in office. Like I said, it's the Republicans pushing for charter schools and school vouchers. There are plenty of people on both sides that need to be replaced, they don't represent us. The really bright children no longer have programs for them, everything is biased towards those on the lower end of the spectrum, and please don't misunderstand me, I want them helped too. But our brightest students are being ignored. In the state of Washington, where we support the state universities with our tax money, valedictorians have been turned down for acceptance into the UW, so that they could greatly increase the number of international students and get a lot more money, to help pay for the UW President's mansion, a new football stadium and other useless things. I think it's sickening. And everyone is a Democrat here, it almost seems like a waste of time to even vote. I've written letters, I've called, but nothing ever happens. The governor has her own agenda, and it's not what the majority of the people want. Thanks for explaining. I think we need to look more at the individuals and what they want to do, and stop lumping everyone together, and stop thinking that a particular party represents such and such, when that may not be the case at all.

This survey surprises me it's that divided. The evangelical churches we've attended lately preach from the pulpit that something is very wrong spiritually if we do not vote Republican and agree with their views, not only on life and gay marriage, but taxes, global warming, health care, unions, public schools, etc. They invite only Republican candidates to speak. If they sometimes pray for a govenor that belongs to the other party, a tone is used as if he is a "unsaved/lost" individual. Smaller Bible Studies are even more political, saying insulting things about the other party. My husband is a union offical and unions are put down as something very unChristian, an evil to avoid, no two ways about it. It seems the major reason the church is there is to bring people in, get them saved and then registered to vote (the right way). That's how you change the world for Christ. It was not always this way.

As interesting as this discussion is, it seems to me there is something inherently evangelical missing from it. That would be the authority of Scripture. First, participation in politics (even voting) is fine as long as it is understood that, as Christians, we do so as sojourners and exiles, and that the world in which these political decisions are being made is the place of our exile. Do we really appreciate how tentative and limited our role in the common culture has to be as a condition for belonging to Christ? Secondly, public education is one thing when Christians own the presuppositions of rational discourse and quite another thing when we do not. Oughtn't we be more concerned about the world without room for God that teachers are representing to their students as we are whether they are retained or let go? Thirdly, as married women are to look to their husbands, and unmarried women to their fathers for leadership in godly living, we should not suppose that principle would suddenly and without warning cease to apply when the subject turns to politics. Don't we believe in male headship anymore, as that principle is enshrined in Scripture? Democracy furnishes no basis for vacationing from godliness. Jamie, for example, seems to think the only issue for Evangelicals is abortion, but didn't He who said "you shall not murder" also say "you shall not covet". Is it really possible to think in redistributive terms without coveting the wealth of those who providentially have more? What about the Christian's obligation to respect the law? It is one thing for unbelieving politicians to regard the Constitution as void of authority, and another thing for Christians to following them on a path that leads inexorably to government without sufficient restraint. Unbelievers will, left to themselves, deify the state, rather than be found without any god at all. But, we must have no other god but God!

A sad commentary: Evangelical men seem to be falling into all the classic traps of cognitive consistency and self-reinforcing bias that 1) they typically accuse liberals of blindly following and 2) lead to unreflective and over-simplified policy positions. I'm guessing these people conflate spiritual with political certitude, a position not well-suited for a republican, deliberative democracy.

Perhaps this survey sheds light on why Christian women date non-Christian men: their views are more in alignment. Frankly I think many conservative Christian are more conservative than Christian.

I would have preferred a pro-life Democrat and I respect Sen. McCain. I would not vote for him because I would make a better VP than his running mate would have. For me, it was Biden vs Palin and we need competence over that woman a heatbeat away from the Presidency. A man that was as ill-prepared as Palin was would not have been nominated. The vice presidency should NOT be an affirmative action position!

Year after year politicians who make no secret of their pro-abortion beliefs are elected and re-elected with votes from those who have taken the name “Christian”. The same is true of politicians who make no secret of their desire to normalize the homosexual lifestyle within our culture.

Why do Christians vote for an individual who is openly pro-abortion or pro-homosexual? Because they vote with their pocketbooks. Obviously dealing with heath care, the deficit, and government spending is important. So is having a job and providing for one’s physical needs. But the importance of material things pale in comparison to obedience to our Lord.

Jesus, aware of the material needs of His listeners told them: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Every time a Christian knowingly votes for a political candidate that is pro-abortion or pro-homosexual this commandment is broken.

It’s interesting that the mark of the Beast (which is so much more than a tattoo or computer chip on/in the forehead or right hand) is given for economic reasons. So, when someone, particularly those who call themselves “Christian”, vote for a political candidate for purely economic reasons rather than from a consideration of whether this person’s ethics are diametrically opposed to Biblical teaching, they are playing a dangerous game.

Personally, I will never knowingly vote for such a person – even if he could balance the budget tomorrow.

Not surprised at the data above. What amazes me is the total ignorance by US citizens, especially men that your health care system is just a device to transfer funds from the public to private interests for profits with out giving good value. You could have a health system such as is in Australia for 40% of the cost per head with a much greater life expectancy 9, cf the USA at 68 in the world.

Also bankruptcies for medical costs are next to nil here.

What a con.

I note that women are more concerned re health. Where is the concern for the poor/old/values of fellow citizens? Cut government spending, scrap 2/3 of you armed forces.

Much of the "education" "healthcare" etc. etc. etc. That we would like to think that the government is good at... is actually OUR OWN reponsibility. If you want to care for others, then give to them directly, and they are thankful to you directly. It's personal. It shows a personal love, as well. God is personal. To launder our money through an institution (especially a coercive tax-based system) and call it charity, is not given in charity nor received as charity. It's received as "oh, I'm just another number. I want more then. Why can't I have more?" To be effective, charity and support must be PERSONAL, and personally given, in freedom. Not coercive and doled out "by the numbers". Government comes along and coerces (via taxes) christians' own money away from them - and then RE-BRANDS the money as it hands it out!!! All in order to curry favor and get more votes, to perpetuate the same cycle! This isnt giving in the name of JESUS. It's giving in the name of Uncle Sam, or worse...to the destruction of Uncle Sam AND the real wealth generator/giver! I say 'no': Keep Charity Personal. Make Charity Personal again!

interesting said: "Perhaps this survey sheds light on why Christian women date non-Christian men: their views are more in alignment. Frankly I think many conservative Christian are more conservative than Christian."

I am growing SICK AND TIRED of mischaracterization, aad misunderstanding. There is a reason for the "gender gap". I'll explain it. Women are more nurturing and seek out fields that allow them to display and fulfill this (more often then men). Men are more PROVISION and GUARDING oriented. Men have a duty to provide for the home (hence, they are usually more attuned to how much things COST to PRODUCE). Men are also the security of the women. Men feel the weight of GUARDING their households from INTRUDERS (like those who would like to kill, steal, or destroy).

Men are more apt to be conservative, precisely BECAUSE they are the protectors. They are geared this way. Women, on the other hand... enjoy the home that they are in - and they make it more of a home. But they don't ALWAYS truly respect or honor where all of that "STUFF" comes from. That doesn't mean that they don't produce. That just means that they aren't geared toward understanding "the bottom line." A man is!!! (Very much so.)

The men aren't being stupid. They're being sensible and smart. It's the women who aren't understanding the DANGER of fueling a massive government, that can easily become a crushing TYRANNY when it's in the wrong hands (or even the right hands). Coercive TAXATION in the name of a benevolent nanny state, or in the name of charity... is not charity nor love. It's a means whereby our wealth can be taken away from us, and a smaller amount given back to us after it has paid some beureaucrat to control how it is spent... and who gets the honor for the spending? The beuracrat.

A man understands that when HE makes money, HE IS in charge of where it is spent. If someone steals that money from him without his just consent... that man is an adversary. Women tend to look at their government as just another caregiver for the household. Men look at it and see... their competition!

I am sick and tired of being maligned. Yes, I am a white conservative male. I am an American. And I am sick and tired of being disrespected, simply because I desire to live in peace, with the money that I earn... and I want to control where my money goes. Nobody has the right to take my money, launder it, and use it for THEIR pet causes... teaching heresy and dependency upon ANOTHER NAME other than Jesus Christ.

Most of our public structures DO NOT give credit or glory to the saints, where they get their money from (laundered through Federal, State, and local taxes). NOR do they give credit to JESUS CHRIST for providing the peace, provision, and protection of this land. No... our politicians boast pridefully, as they take money from us. This is NOT the spirit and intent that this country was originally founded with.

It's time for a judgement. We ALL need to be humble before God. Uncle Sam (who is not my uncle, and is acting more and more like a tyrant) needs to be the most humble of all. Let he who would be the greatest, be the SERVANT of all. And if you have to run for office so that you can "serve" on someone else's dime... then you aren't being a servant "of all". You should respect those who ARE servants, from whom you get your monetary support. It's time for the men to stand up.

I am not surprised by the results of this survey. I have been disgusted that the terms evangelical Christian and Republican are so linked together. The only reason I have voted Republican in the past is over the abortion issue because I am pro-life but I got tired of voting for a party I didn't agree with overall for just one issue. As I see it, the Republican party will take away healthcare reform, Medicare, Social Security, minimum wage, destroy all unions so that workers have no voice in the workplace, continue excessive military spending and eagerly get us involved in useless wars/nation building, favor the rich over the middle class and poor, oppose any investment in this country unless it comes 100 percent from the private sector and women who want abortions will still get them. Christians tried to ban alcohol in this country, even had a Constitutional amendment, but it still didn't stop those who wanted to drink from doing so. In fact banning alcohol just made it go underground with more crime. The church should be in the lead to change hearts and minds over moral issues. Too many Christians believe that voting in Republicans will bring in the Kingdom of God. It won't. Also, I'm tired of all this anti-government talk. If I lived in Iran, I'm sure I would hate the government but not as an American. This anti-tax thing is a way to starve the "enemy". I'm in healthcare and see people everyday who have to deal with serious illness so paying a few dollars more in taxes to have a government that serves the common good for all its citizens is not the worse thing that can happen to people. Capitalism and the private sector are good things and no one wants a complete government takeover. However, they, like all economic systems are not perfect and the free markets have too many economic rough edges so I want an active government as a counterbalance and also appropriate safety nets/economic fairness in this country.

It seems the lesson from the Garden of Eden, has not been understood, with the devil (& Obama) grinning away at their catch. Once bitten twice shy ?

I feel so sad as some of the other writers who posted comments, when evangelical is almost equated to republican and conservative is thought of as christian. Jesus said that when you have cared for the poor, helpless and downtrodden of the world, you will be welcomed into his kingdom as a faithful servant. Observe the characteristics of the majority of republicans and ask whether they square with what Jesus so clearly taught in the gospels. I cannot imagine any republican politician being concerned about the things that Jesus said that his followers would be concerned about and what would characterize his followers. As a matter of fact, the mark of the christian is not whether he is republican or conservative, but whether he shows the love demonstrated by jesus himself to others. It amazes me how so many avoid the Biblical Standards for making choices and seem to think that being against abortion is the mark of a christian. If evangelicals say they believe the bible and are followers of Jesus Christ, why is it that they are not making the standards set by their Lord himself the standards they use to be guided by. It makes mockery of much of so-called christian activity when Jack Abramoff talks about how he paid John Perkins, a well known evangelical, about $4 million to lobby against one Indian tribe's efforts to get a casino license so that it would not compete with another indian casino's business, which casino was a client of Mr. Abramoff. So-called evangelicals are being used all the time by political operators to get financial benefits for the political operators while misleading the evangelicals into fighting battles they think are for the good of the faith.

This is so sad as those who are born again should be in the words of Jesus "Wise as serpents and harmless as doves" and not cause the faith for which he died become a political tool for those who have little interest in the faith but seek only financial benefits.
Nothing is wrong with being conservative, but I have yet to meet a conservative who is not confused about what government is supposed to do, and what a christian's business relative to that government must be focused on. Government was allowed by God, and when we hear some politician talking about how fed up he about government, and that politician does not exemplify the clear thinking that should be characteristic of those whose eyes have been opened by the cross, I wonder sadly for american evangelicalism.
People need to start reading the bible again, especially the gospels and get a fresh vision of christianity, and not be carried away by the propaganda of republicanism.
The mark of the christian as stated in the New Testament, as jesus said, "by this shall men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another". Many years ago a writer for Christianity Today named Phil Yancy wrote about the church he grew up in, and how as a teenager on one sunday morning, his pastor announced that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, the congregation cheered. Just like in the recent republican debate when the question was asked about the person coming to an emergency room needing care, should he/she be left to die, the audience seemed to say yes. That is the mark of the republican, not the mark of the christian. We deny Christ we we confuse the two.