Evangelical pollster George Barna presented his analysis of the 2016 election results at a Values Voter Summit panel that shared the title of his recent book, “The Day Christians Changed America: How Christian Conservatives Put Trump in the White House and Redirected America’s Future.”
“This was a Christians vs. Non-Christians election,” he declared, saying Christians turned out at a higher rate, 62 to 57 percent, and voted for Trump 57 to 26 percent, while non-Christians voted for Clinton 62 to 37 percent.
Barna has years of experience working as a pollster for conservative causes and candidates, and he presented a lot of data. But in the end, he concluded, “God did a miracle for us.”
Barna’s surveys of American Christians’ attitudes have led him to complain about how few of them have what he considers to be an authentic and consistent “biblical worldview.” In his Values Voter Summit presentation, he focused on his favorite group, the one he has dubbed SAGE Cons—for spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives. In other words, politically active, frequent church-goers who have right-wing political and religious outlooks.
While people who meet Barna’s standards make up only 9 percent of American adults, he says a remarkable 91 percent of them turned out to vote (compared to 59 percent of all eligible voters), and 93 percent of them voted for Donald Trump. (This in spite of the fact that only 1 percent of them viewed Trump as a man of “godly” character.)
Barna credits Trump’s victory with the big meeting of conservative Christians who gathered in New York in June once it was clear that Trump would be the Republican nominee. The meeting was convened by United in Purpose, the group Barna works for, and My Faith Votes.
It was at that gathering, which attracted about 1,000 religious leaders and activists, that Trump offered the Religious Right a deal. If they helped put him in the White House, he’d make them more politically powerful by doing away with the Johnson Amendment, a legal restriction on electoral politicking by churches and other tax-exempt nonprofits. He promised them the Supreme Court of their dreams. And on and on.
Evangelical writer Eric Sapp, referring to the biblical story of Jesus resisting Satan’s tempting offer of worldly power in exchange for submission to him, wrote that “American Christians should not take a deal Jesus rejected.” But they did.
Among the striking characteristics that Barna’s data revealed about his extra-Christian cohort: only 7 percent of SAGE Cons—way below other groups—were concerned about Trump’s attitudes toward women and sexual advances. They weren’t concerned about his ugly comments about immigrants because, Barna says, they view immigration as a “rule of law” issue. The SAGE Cons’ three top issues, says Barna, were abortion, the Supreme Court, and “moral decline.”
A different group, which Barna calls “notional Christians”—those who don’t meet the ideological or church-going standards to be considered SAGE Cons—turned away from Clinton, he says, because the accumulation of scandal stories made them uncomfortable with her.
Barna spent time, as he has at previous gatherings, railing against pastors who don’t preach enough about politics, saying it’s their responsibility to inculcate people with a “biblical worldview.”
Barna says 99 percent of his SAGE Cons believe the media was out to get Trump, and as a result they’ve tuned out mainstream media and are turning to other sources of information. (Good news for Alex Jones?) Barna repeated Trump’s recent suggestion that the government should go after the TV licenses of broadcasters.
Picking up on a major theme of the Values Voter Summit, Barna said, “We have a lot to do and not much time to do it.”