For those who closely watch the state of religion and American politics, there is going to be a fascinating press briefing this week at (surprise) the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. There has been some early coverage (click here for a Washington Times report), but we will not know the fine details until the end of the week. Meanwhile, here's a quick summary from a blog at The Atlantic that ran with a headline that left the tensions intact: "Young Evangelicals Are Less Republican, Still Quite Conservative."
Well, duh. The early details:
Pew's latest microsurvey picks up some interesting juts.
• Pres. Bush's popularity has fallen precipitously among evangelicals who are 18-29.
• In 2001, 55% of white young evangelicals said they were Republican. In 2007, 40% do -- although most of the movers haven't become Democrats. Pew says the shift among older evangelicals "has been less dramatic."
• The aggregate ideological leanings of this group hasn't changed since 2001. A plurality -- 44% -- are conservative. But a majority consider themselves either moderate or liberal.
• They're more pro-life than their parents.
A few numbers are already up at the Pew website. I imagine that the big headlines will focus on the fading numbers for President Bush and the possible implications for 2008. However, what jumps out at me is that young evangelicals are remaining quite traditional on the hottest of hot-button social issues -- abortion.
Thus, the earliest document posted at Pew ends by noting:
And when it comes to abortion, younger white evangelicals are even more conservative than their older counterparts. For example, 70% of younger white evangelicals favor "making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion," compared with 55% of older white evangelicals and 39% of young Americans overall who share this view.
This strong allegiance to conservatism and conservative positions suggests that young white evangelicals' turn away from the president and his party may be the product of dissatisfaction with this particular administration rather than the result of an underlying shift in this group's political values and policy views.
Frankly, that is totally logical. Let's see if there are any surprises in the rest of the numbers. This ought to be interesting.