On Wednesday, New York Times’ columnist Frank Bruni helped PRRI launch the American Values Atlas (AVA) with style when he wrote his weekly column entirely on AVA data. Specifically, Bruni focused on data that reveals the disproportionate influence white evangelical Protestant voters seem to have over potential Republican presidential candidates.
Among populous religious groups, white evangelical Protestants are the most conservative, representing 36 percent of self-identified Republicans. Bruni points out that, while the G.O.P. appears to be tailoring their messages to align with the views of these Christian conservatives, if you subtract the white evangelical Protestant responses from all Republicans’ responses in the AVA, the party is actually split on key political issues.
And despite Republican rhetoric, the political views of white evangelicals do not represent those of the rest of the country:
[W]hite evangelical Protestants “tend to be outliers today on issues like same-sex marriage,” [PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones] said. He added that in the 1980s, when Jerry Falwell and others referred to white evangelical Protestants as part of a “moral majority,” the designation was overblown but perhaps arguable. “Today, on these key, bellwether issues like same-sex marriage, it’s no longer true,” Jones said.
According to the survey, there are just seven American states — Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky — where more than 50 percent of voters oppose gay marriage.
All of them “have white evangelical Protestant populations of one-third or more,” Jones told me. “There’s basically a linear relationship between the number of white evangelical Protestants and opposition to same-sex marriage.”