Surprising New Poll on Evangelicals and Religious Exceptions

Aghast (like you) in the face of the latest outbreaks of raw tribalism (an orchestrated tribalism, let us remember), I take considerable solace from any hint that Americans can still agree on commonsense principles that have in them at least an imputation of moral sensibility.

Our friends at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) have just dropped the results of polling done in late August/early September (before the epochal Ford-Kavanaugh standoff).

PRRI founder and CEO Robbie Jones notes in the press release that “partisanship trumps gender” in respect to the proportion of GOP vs. Democratic voters who would support a candidate accused of sexual harassment (not sexual assault, please note).

And yes, here the news is depressing in that all-too-familiar way. While six out of ten Americans would not vote for an accused candidate, the number drops to 41% of GOP women and 28% of GOP men. Worse, 56% of the Republicans polled said they would consider supporting a candidate facing multiple accusations of harassment.

Ditto for the partisan split in regard to women serving in public office. Dems not only tend to support the idea that we’re better off with women in leadership, but they show a clear preference for women candidates that their Republican counterparts most certainly do not share.

But now three substantial bits of good news.

1. Two-thirds of all Americans agree that pharmacists should not be allowed, on self-declared religious grounds, to refuse contraceptives to women who bring them valid prescriptions for same. Here partisanship starts to fade. Fifty-six percent of Republicans agree with this, as do majorities within in every Christian group: 74% of Mainline Protestants, 67% of Black Protestants, 66% of Roman Catholics, and 53% of white evangelical Protestants. No religious group scores quite as well as the religiously unaffiliated, naturally. But still (says the preacher) hooray for us.

2. Sixty percent of all Americans also oppose the imposition of gag rules that bar health care providers from discussing abortion with their patients. Here partisan difference all but disappears: 62% of Democrats oppose, as against 59% of Republicans. And here again, majorities in all main segments of the Christian world oppose such gag rules, including 60% of white evangelical Protestants. 

3. There also remains a huge margin of support across the board for the idea that access to contraception is critical for the financial security of women, a not-unimportant idea when so many women and families of childbearing age are under intense financial pressure.

Oh, and (to me) that issue of financial stress was another important takeaway of the poll.

Those news reports you’ve been seeing about soaring out-of-pocket health care costs for people who supposedly enjoy coverage through their employers? Yeah, that’s a real thing, and it’s hurting a whole lot of Americans.

When asked in this poll what issues are “critical” to them personally, 58% of respondents named the rising cost of health care, with the threat of losing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions coming in right behind at 53%. Far more people expressed concern about the existential threat of health care expenses than indicated a burning concern about abortion (41%), sexual harassment in the workplace (39%), or the gender pay gap (30%).

Democrats, are you listening?