A large majority of conservatives, of all stripes and alliances, indicate that they will be voting for Donald Trump in the November election. However, the magnitude of the conservative vote supporting the GOP candidate diverts attention from some subtle divisions within the conservative community – even among those who are devout Christians. A new survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) highlights some of those differences.
A Trump Majority, With Differences
As the election has gotten closer, surveys have consistently shown that SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives, who constitute the segment examined in the new research – have become more widely supportive of Donald Trump. Through the end of September, 85% of the group was backing Mr. Trump while just 1% planned to vote for Mrs. Clinton.
However, that support for the GOP candidate is not uniform across the three major partisan divisions (i.e., Democrat, Republican, and independents).
More than nine out of ten SAGE Cons who are registered Republicans (92%) plan to vote for Mr. Trump, with less than one-half of 1% of the group siding with Mrs. Clinton. Among independent voters, however, the Trump base of support slips to 82%, while Mrs. Clinton generates 2% support. Among the registered Democrats who qualify as SAGE Cons, the Trump base drops to 71% while the Clinton vote jumps to 27%.
The effect of these differences is masked by the fact that about 87% of SAGE Cons are Republican, 11% are independent, and just 2% are Democrats.
The ACFI research produced other differences in attitudes and background between the three partisan segments that help explain the voting differential.
Republican SAGE Cons are more likely to be Protestant (62%) than are SAGE Cons who are independent (54%) or Democrat (51%). Just 17% of the Republican SAGE Cons are Catholic, compared to 25% of independents and only 15% of Democrats. The most striking result among the SAGE Con Democrats is that one-third of them (34%) said they were neither Protestant nor Catholic.
The ideological gaps were even more pronounced. Three-quarters of the Republican SAGE Cons (75%) were strong conservatives – meaning they were strongly conservative on fiscal issues, social issues, and governance issues. Less than two-thirds of the independent SAGE Cons (63%) qualified as strong conservatives. Among the SAGE Con Democrats, though, barely one-third (37%) were strongly conservative; the majority were mildly conservative.
Socioeconomic status also appears to affect the candidate preferences of the three segments under scrutiny. For instance, only one-third of the Republican and independent SAGE Cons have household incomes below $60,000 annually. Yet, among the SAGE Con Democrats the majority (55%) fit under that threshold.
Differences That Might Decide an Election
The seemingly minor differences identified in the research could wind up being a big deal on Election Day, depending on how each of the three segments studied behaves that day.
“Mr. Trump is generating very strong support among SAGE Cons, from all three of these partisan segments,” commented George Barna, the researcher who directed the study and leads ACFI. “However, the gaps among these groups could play a significant role in the final outcome on November 8 because the race is so tight. In such a nail-biter, even small differences can add up to something significant. That’s especially true if one or two of those segments turnout in smaller numbers than expected.”
Barna pointed out that every voting coalition is composed of disparate niches that are bound together by a few core commonalities. “In this case, SAGE Cons who are registered Democrats are a relatively small part of the whole Christian conservative community. They belong to this group because of a shared devotion to Jesus Christ, a deeply-held belief that governance matters, and a conviction that they have an important responsibility in the political process. Despite such similarities, though, their profile within the SAGE Con body is distinct. They are more downscale, more moderate in their conservative outlook, slightly older than the norm, have divergent views on various issues, and their religious affiliations are more often outside the mainstream. They represent an unusual brand of diversity within the SAGE Con universe; they are certainly a breed apart within that world.”
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey undertaken for this report had sample size of 3,400 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute during September of 2016.
In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.
The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.
Additional information about this and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com.