At nearly every stop I have made on the Believe Me book tour I am asked if I see a generational divide in evangelical support for Donald Trump. I usually say, based on my attendance at an evangelical church, my interaction with students at a Christian college, and my conversations with my 17-year old and 21-year-old daughters, that there IS a generational divide.
The young evangelicals I speak with are pro-life on abortion and divided over gay marriage. They are also pro-immigration, advocates of creation care (environment), opposed to capital punishment, interested in promoting social justice for the poor and oppressed, and supportive of a more inclusive and pluralistic society.
According to a recent study by political scientists Jeremy Castle, Ryan Burge, and Paul Djupe, the people I know are not very representative of most young evangelicals. Here is a taste of their recent piece at VOX:
Overall, there isn’t much evidence of a young evangelical voice that is being “drowned out” by elders. On many issues, young evangelicals are quite similar to older evangelicals. When it comes to abortion, a signature issue among evangelicals, Ryan Burge finds that they are just as conservative on abortion as others. As Jeremy Castle shows in his forthcoming book Rock of Ages, one reason for this is that many evangelical churches have mechanisms for socializing members into conservative attitudes on cultural issues, including sponsoring Sanctity of Life Sunday and crisis pregnancy centers. As Andrew Lewis documents, another reason may be that the mandates of abortion politics drive conservatives to maintain support for anti-abortion candidates.
The most notable issue where young evangelicals are more liberal than older evangelical generations is same-sex marriage, but again, context is important. In particular, the change seems to be concentrated among low-commitment evangelicals (those who attend church, pray, and look to religion for guidance on day-to-day matters less). This suggests that changes in the broader society around them, rather than changes in evangelical theology, are behind evangelicals’ liberalization on same-sex marriage. Even so, young evangelicals are much more conservative on same-sex marriage than other young voters.
There also isn’t much evidence that the changing issue attitudes on same-sex marriage (or any other issues) are leading to broader changes in political behavior. In separate research, Castle and Burge find little evidence in nationally representative survey data that young evangelicals are changing their political identities. Both partisanship and self-identified left-right ideology among 18- to 29-year-old evangelicals have remained nearly constant since 1990, though with a demonstrable conservative uptick in 2016.
Read the entire piece here.