Election day drinking game? Maybe. But here's another evangelical politics stat for news stories

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Hey, it’s election day.

Want to have a drinking game? Most evangelicals and Baptists can use Dr Pepper or some other appropriate beverage.

Take a drink tonight when, during cable-news gabfests, you hear a reference to white evangelical voters and their love of Donald Trump.

You can take a DOUBLE SHOT if someone quotes the magic “81 percent” number from 2016.

Oh, wait. I am making an assumption here. So let me say this: You have heard, I assume, that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump and that they still just love that man more than life itself?

The reality, of course, is more complex than that.

Thus, those who love nuanced, accurate journalism can only hope that editors and producers will hand out copies of the recent Christianity Today essay by Ed Stetzer, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, that ran with this headline: “Why Evangelicals Voted Trump: Debunking the 81%.” The survey info in that essay is important.

Here is some additional information to toss into the mix, care of the National Association of Evangelicals and Baptist Press. The big numbers are right at the top:

WASHINGTON (BP) -- Most leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals identified as independents in an NAE poll preceding the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. …

Two-thirds of those surveyed, 66 percent, described themselves as independents rather than a member of a major political party in the NAE poll of its 106-member board of directors, the NAE said. While the sampling is narrow and not scientific, the NAE said the results "track with" those of a 2017 Gallup poll of the general U.S. population.

The independent category garnered the greatest portion of respondents in the Gallup poll, 42 percent, Gallup said in January. Smaller percentages told Gallup they were Democrats or Republicans, 29 and 27 percent, respectively. When the latter categories are combined, a majority of Americans polled (56 percent) told Gallup they were members of a major political party in 2017.

Regarding the NAE poll, results indicate that evangelicals prioritize "Christian identity over political party identity," NAE President Leith Anderson said. "Faith comes first," he said, whether the evangelical is independent, Democrat, Republican "or another registration."

The poll did not inquire of major party affiliation among board members, NAE communications director Sarah Kropp Brown told Baptist Press Nov. 2.

As that info stressed, the NAE board is not large enough to represent evangelicals in general. Reporters have also learned — if they dug deep — that evangelical leaders and super-active evangelicals in the pews tend to be less enthusiastic about Trump than less active members of this voter niche.

Later on, the BP story noted:

Identifying with a major political party may adversely affect a Christian leader's influence, said Alan Robinson, national director of Brethren in Christ, U.S., an Anabaptist Christian group.

"No single party fully represents the priorities of the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God," NAE quoted Robinson as saying.

NAE does not release specific polling data, Brown said of the poll conducted in September in advance of Nov. 6 midterm elections.

When watching election-night coverage, please note when reporters and/or talking heads throw out information about religious beliefs and voting patterns.

Our own Bobby Ross, Jr., will be watching for this kind of information, as well.

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