White evangelicals are some of President Donald Trump’s strongest supporters and they tend to be the least supportive of immigration reform, but the white evangelicals who participate in church activities often and hold conservative evangelical beliefs are less Trump-like on immigration issues, according to recent research.
When controlling for other factors, frequent church attendance and evangelical beliefs are associated with greater support for immigration among white evangelicals, according to political scientists Ruth Melkonian-Hoover and Lyman Kellstedt.
Their findings appear in Evangelicals and Immigration: Fault Lines Among the Faithful (2018).
“Less evangelical” can mean “fewer evangelicals” but it can also mean “less devotion to evangelical beliefs,” and this is where the multivariate analysis is helpful.
Since Trump’s election, evangelicals have been thinking about, debating and reconsidering the question of “what is an evangelical?” Some of these discussions have been normative, addressing what an evangelical should believe.
Historians have looked at how the definition has changed over time. And social scientists, like Melkonian-Hoover and Kellstedt, have looked at measurement issues — how should “evangelical” be defined for opinion polls?
The thesis of Evangelicals and Immigration is that among evangelicals, immigration policy lies along three main fault lines — 1) the split between white evangelicals and nonwhite evangelicals, 2) the divide between evangelical leaders and evangelical laity, and 3) the differences among evangelical leaders themselves.
All three of these fault lines demonstrate that evangelical beliefs about immigration aren’t easily defined, and that the immigration debate overlaps with the “what is evangelical?” debate. Why do many self-identified white evangelicals disagree with many evangelical leaders and their nonwhite co-religionists on immigration?
The effect was small. Political variables, such as presidential approval, were much better predictors of immigration attitudes. And overall, white evangelical churchgoers are more Trumpish on immigration. But church attendance was statistically significant when controlling for beliefs and other factors, and the direction of the influence flipped — the white evangelicals with conservative religious beliefs who are active in church are more likely to disagree with Trump on immigration.
“This combination of results is another nail in the coffin for the idea that high levels church attendance cause conservative policy positions. Instead, religious behavior seems to actually push in a liberalizing direction,” Melkonian-Hoover and Kellstedt wrote.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Napp Nazworth