Although evangelical Christians comprise only 6 percent of the U.S. population according to The Barna Group, they have significant political influence, especially in the Trump administration. As a result, a new Barna report shows Americans seem to increasingly view evangelicals through a political lens, which corresponds with mixed feelings toward this religious group.
But, while the survey seems to suggest it is a new phenomenon brought on by the Trump administration, evangelical ties to conservative politics goes back to the Reagan administration.
“Our research has developed a pronounced portrait of this Christian minority over the years, but for this study, our aim was different,” the organization said in a news release. “We set out to understand how the general public perceives evangelicals. Based on a nationwide study of U.S. adults, we found that, though many people still view evangelicals as a committed group of believers who put their faith first, their political connotation puts the future of American evangelicalism in a precarious spot”.
The most commonly selected terms relate to the group’s conservatism — primarily as “religiously conservative” (37 percent of all U.S. adults select this term) and “politically conservative” (27 percent). Other common descriptors are a mix of favorable perceptions:
- Caring (23 percent)
- Friendly (22 percent)
- Hopeful (22 percent)
- Encouraging (20 percent)
- Narrow-minded (17 percent)
- Homophobic (10 percent)
“Of course, it’s most important that Christians of all traditions, evangelical or otherwise, concern themselves with the reputation of Jesus, not merely the perceptions of evangelicals,” the report concluded. “Yet, will the public witness of evangelicals be a bridge or a barrier to the very thing they hold most dear: persuading others to put their faith in Christ?
The findings strongly suggest that the perceptions of evangelicals are more barrier than bridge on the road to gaining a hearing for the gospel. As such, the results of this research require much soul searching among Christians to discern a way forward with the current ‘evangelical brand.’”