As the 2016 General Election approaches, the campaigns will be increasingly focused on winning important niches of voters. The campaigns that stitch together the biggest and broadest coalition of niches will win the election.
The polls are showing that there is considerable confusion and consternation among several usually-reliable voter niches. Among those are evangelicals and women. One that has been largely taken for granted is a target segment that consists of devout, Bible-based Christians who are politically active and conservative. This group, known as SAGE Cons (an acrostic for Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives) makes up about 12% of the aggregate voting population, and roughly one-third of all Republican voters.
A critical component of the SAGE Con base is the women who meet the segment’s criteria. How will they deal with the 2016 race for the presidency? What will define their voice in this important election year?
The Political World of SAGE Con Women
Although these women are all politically conservative, by definition, they are not conservative on all issues. We know that they are more conservative on social issues than on fiscal matters: 87% describe themselves as “very conservative” on social issues while 71% say they are “very conservative” on social matters. Just 3% claim to be conservative (either “very” or “somewhat”) on fiscal matters but not on social matters. Similarly, only 3% portray themselves as social conservatives but not fiscal conservatives. They are perhaps most conservative on governance: 96% want government to be smaller and less active than is currently the case.
These women almost universally agree (99%) that the nation is going in the wrong direction. To get things headed in a more appropriate direction, 71% are supporters of the Tea Party’s principles.
Not surprisingly, 70% of SAGE Con females have been paying “a lot” or “quite a bit” of attention to the 2016 presidential race, even though it is a year away. More than most women in America, this group is attentive to political news and events. Their dominant sources of political news and information are television (43%) and online resources (26%), with a notable following for radio (15%). Very few of these women rely upon social media (7%), newspapers (3%), or news magazines for the bulk of their political news. That profile is significantly different from how they gather news related to their faith. Radio is the most common provider of faith-related news (36%), followed by online sources (26%), television (13%), social media (11%), and news magazines (10%). Again, newspapers provide little input (2%).
But this information-gathering behavior needs to be placed in context. Only one out of every five (21%) say they can accurately be described as an “information hound.” Even fewer (6%) say that they follow social or cultural trends as a hobby. In fact, only one out of every three (33%) strongly agreed that they regularly follow political news – higher than the national norm among women, but hardly a dominating behavior. In fact, it is likely that what grabs their attention most are political stories that bear some relationship to their faith or morals.
Perceptions of the Government
In general, SAGE Con women are disappointed with the government’s performance.
When asked how responsive to the needs of various segments they perceive the government to be, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that they believe the things they cherish and stand for are being systematically ignored by the government while the groups they do not support get favored treatment. For instance, 92% believe that welfare families get favorable treatment by the government, as do gay families (87%) and ethnic families (85%). At the other end of the spectrum, just 8% contend that Christian families get favorable treatment by the government.
Role of the Church in Politics
To date, most SAGE Con women indicate that their church has not been involved in politics to any substantial degree. Just one out of every ten (11%) say their church has been very involved and another four out of ten (40%) say their church has been somewhat involved. In fact, relatively few of their churches have been teaching what the Bible says about today’s significant political issues. Only one out of every five (21%) suggest that their church has spent a lot of time teaching biblical perspectives related to the issues, with an additional 37% saying their church has spent some time doing so.
This is not their ideal scenario for these women. Most of them (58%) would prefer that their church be more involved than has recently been the case. And nearly two-thirds (65%) want their church to devote more time to teaching that provides a biblical view on current issues.
As might be expected, SAGE Con women hold a dim view of American culture. Most of them believe that it is having a harmful effect on the lives of our children. In fact, only 3% believe that American culture has a positive influence on the lives of young children.
SAGE Con women are worried that the kinds of lifestyles and values being transmitted to children by our culture are inappropriate. They believe that the culture instills a desire for pre-marital sex (78%); breeds a sense of entitlement (71%); glorifies materialism (69%); promotes politically correct attitudes (69%); heightens the expectation of living an easy life (58%); and advances distrust for traditional marriage (56%).
These women argue that children are worse off due to exposure to video games (98%); movies (97%); pop music (97%); TV programs (96%); social media exchanges (86%); best-selling books (84%); public school education (82%); and television news programs (79%). In fact, they have a negative view of many of the technology tools that children often access. For instance, 95% say that allowing children to have a television set in their bedroom subtracts value from their lives. Similarly, 68% say the same about children having smart phones, and 34% say this related to giving youngsters Internet access.
The bottom line is that more than nine out of ten of these women say it will be harder to be a Christian family in America ten years from now (94%) and that it will be more difficult to raise godly children in the US a decade from now (91%). (By the way, a majority of SAGE Con women (54%) have grandchildren.)
Lifestyles and Life Perspectives
Across America, most adults feel generally satisfied with life and happy with themselves. SAGE Con women are no different. Overall, about eight out of ten (79%) are “completely satisfied” or “mostly satisfied” with their life.
The RightView research took a deeper look at what contributes to that life satisfaction rating. Nine out of ten (90%) are “completely satisfied” or “mostly satisfied” with their spiritual life. More than eight out of ten of these women are similarly satisfied with the technology they own (86%), their home (85%), relationships (85%), and the town in which they live (82%). At least seven out of ten say they are satisfied with their health (79%), job (79%), leisure pursuits (77%), family (76%), and finances (72%). The elements tested that trailed the pack in providing satisfaction were their income (66%) and influence (66%).
In seeking to understand the lifestyles of SAGE Cons, the research discovered that there are several endeavors that a majority of these women engage in at least weekly. Those include attending a small group that meets for prayer, Bible study, or other faith-related purposes (64%); listening to music (63%); reading (55%); and exposure to religious teaching (53%).
Other common activities include gardening (undertaken at least weekly by 38%); exercise (38%); participating in some type of formal education process or class (22%); cooking (22%); crafts (21%); elder care (20%); eating at a restaurant (20%); video games (15%); and shopping (13%).
What do these women NOT engage in? The list is just as lengthy. In a typical week, fewer than one out of ten participate in a service group (8%); get involved with collectibles (7%); follow sports (5%); gamble (3%); attend a movie (2%), theatrical performance (2%), cultural event (2%), social club (2%), or dance club (2%). Only 1% admitted to going to a bar or a concert on a weekly basis.
The research confirmed that SAGE Con women are not terribly interested in, or beholden to technology: just 10% said they like to integrate new technologies into their life. Regardless, they use various forms of technology. What online applications do they use the most? Far and away the favorite is email, used by 91% in a typical week. (FYI, email is usually the favorite application among people 50 and older.) A distant second place is Facebook (65% use it at least weekly) and then video streaming (60%). Relatively small portions of this constituency stream music (28%), or use LinkedIn (19%) or Twitter (18%).
Some of the attitudes that drive this group are instructive. For instance, one-third (32%) strongly agree that they support long-established rules and traditions. Slightly few contend that they expect more good things than bad things to happen to them (29%). Only one-quarter of them (24%) strongly believe that they are as happy today as they were when they were younger. In a break with the younger generation, the research also revealed that only one out of every five (18%) said that their future depends upon themselves.
Stay tuned for more updates on the perspectives of SAGE Con women in relation to Election 2016. Their choices may have a major effect on the election outcomes.