To some people, the idea of Christians owning guns seems like a contradiction. However, a new national survey of Christian conservatives shows that millions of them not only own guns, but pray for peace and the nation’s political leaders each week! These particular gun owners are upset with how things are going in America and engage in politics to see things turned around in the country they love. The survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) also revealed that these are not the working class, unsophisticated people that late night comedians and ill-informed pundits portray them as being. With a majority having earned a college degree, and a median household income exceeding $100,000, the typical Christian conservative who owns a gun does not conform to the stereotype.
Worship, Pray and Pack Heat
In contrast to a widespread assumption, the research showed that it is more common for conservative Christians to own a gun than to not own one. Overall, 58% of SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives tracked in the ACFI research – currently own one or more guns. Nationally, it is estimated that about one out of three US adults own a firearm. That means that Christian conservatives are nearly twice as likely to own a gun as are adults who are not Christian conservatives.
While some might expect a large share of these people to be former military personnel, less than one out of four (23%) have military background.
Love God, Love America
The research confirmed that SAGE Cons who own guns are passionate about both God and country. Nearly six out of ten (57%) describe themselves as “extremely proud to be an American” – considerably higher than is found among SAGE Cons who do not own a gun (46%).
However, Christian conservatives who own a gun are not happy about the condition of the country. They are more likely than non-owners to express a high degree of dissatisfaction with the way things are going in America these days (93%, compared to 84% of SAGE Cons who do not possess a firearm). In fact, 92% described themselves as “angry about the current state of America”. This may partly be due to the fact that a majority (56%) said they are “worse off now” than they were in the past. In comparison, just 42% of gun-less SAGE Cons adopted that self-description.
But these gun owners are also highly devout followers of Christ. In addition to embracing Christ as their savior, nearly nine out of ten had attended a church service and had read from the Bible during the past week – more than double the proportion of adults across the nation who engaged in those pursuits. Further, the SAGE Con gun owners were more likely than other adults to listen to Christian radio (68% had done so in the past week), discuss their religious beliefs with someone who had different beliefs (56% during the prior week), and watch Christian television programming in the last seven days (39%).
The Bible is highly revered by Christian conservatives who own guns. Overall, 96% either believe that the Bible is “the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word” or that it is “the inspired word of God and has no errors, although some verses are meant to be symbolic rather than literal.” Among all US adults, just 54% hold such a belief in the scriptures.
The research did reflect the gap between Protestants and Catholics, with the former group more likely to be gun owners. Among the SAGE Cons who identify as Catholic slightly less than half (46%) own a gun. Among the SAGE Cons who associate with a Protestant church nearly two-thirds (62%) own a gun.
While only 38% of the SAGE Con gun owners consider themselves to be “political junkies”, almost nine out of ten of them (87%) admit that they have paid “a lot” or “quite a bit of attention” to this year’s election. One obvious reason for their substantial interest in the race is that three-quarters of them (74%) contend that the election will make a “big difference, personally” in their life. (Among Christian conservatives who do not own a gun, just 61% make the same claim.)
Currently, 86% plan to vote for Donald Trump – significantly more than the 75% of non-gun Christian conservatives, or the less-than-40% among Americans who are not SAGE Cons. These people are pretty well sold on Donald Trump: 66% say they are “totally committed” to voting for him, and 70% expect him to do an excellent or good job if elected. (By way of comparison, 92% of them expected Hillary Clinton to do a “poor job” if she gets elected.)
This support for Mr. Trump is not out of mindless party loyalty, either. The survey revealed that despite their undeniable conservative bona fides, only a minority (45%) says they are “loyal to the Republican Party.” In fact, a substantially higher proportion (82%) say they are supporters of the Tea Party than indicate allegiance to the GOP.
A Pragmatic Group
According to George Barna, the Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute, the survey showed this segment of gun owners to be a practical group.
“Driven by their commitment to their Christian faith, these are people who have a vision for what the nation could be, and they are committed to seeing it transition to such a place. They are loyal to that vision rather than to organizations or routine,” Barna noted. “They have concluded that the road we’re traveling now is not taking them to a desirable destination, and they are intent upon seeing the country change its direction, even if that requires some unusual or bold steps.”
Barna questioned the criticism that these people own guns because they are aggressive or violent. “The survey found that a majority of these gun owners have literally prayed for peace on earth during the past week,” the researcher explained. “That’s something most Americans do not do. In fact, six out of ten of them prayed for the president last week – and he’s the leader they firmly oppose.
“This is a group whose faith tempers and molds their political views, not vice versa,” he continued. “Their overall profile suggests that they do not possess the kind of inner hatred or rejection of boundaries and authority that would move them to use their guns in an inappropriate manner. They have been called ‘white trash’ and been subjected to all kinds of other accusations, but the research we’ve conducted does not support such characterizations. These folks are highly educated, economically secure and stable people of deep faith who love their country and are personally involved in its future through both spiritual and political participation. That used to be called good citizenship, but in our hyper-partisan era perspectives and labels sometimes become distorted.”
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national online study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey involved 1,200 qualified adults, conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute under the direction of George Barna. The survey was fielded online in July 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.