Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is celebrating a victory in the straw poll at the Values Voters Summit, the third consecutive year he’s led that field.
Cruz pocketed 35 percent of the vote, almost doubling second place Dr. Ben Carson’s 18 percent. Mike Huckabee placed third with 14 percent, Marco Rubio fourth with 13 percent, and Donald Trump rounded at the top five at 5 percent.
Rick Santorum, who won the 2012 Iowa GOP caucuses on the strength of his support from the state’s evangelicals, finished in sixth spot with 4 percent of the vote, while Carly Fiorina and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal tied for seventh with 3 percent.
Jeb Bush, who did not show up, failed to garner even 1 percent of the vote. Indeed, Bush received only 7 total votes, which would place his support among the evangelical activists in attendance far below one percent.
The Family Research Council is the main sponsor of the event, which has been held annually since 2006. FRC chief Tony Perkins says that all 2,700 registrants in attendance were eligible to vote in the straw poll, though not everyone may have taken part.
The straw poll results serve to emphasize the importance of the evangelical vote in the 2016 GOP Republican Presidential primary race.
A Pew Research Center survey of the “2014 Religious Landscape” in America indicates that 25 percent of Americans self-identify as evangelicals.
In that same poll, 14 percent of Americans self-identify as “Mainline Protestant” Christians.
A Pew Research Center poll of 2014 voting behavior found that 78 percent of White evangelicals voted for Republican candidates while only 20 percent voted for Democrat candidates.
In the 2012 Iowa GOP caucuses, self-identified voters evangelical voters comprised 57 percent of all caucus goers, much higher than the percentage of the population they represent in Iowa (28 percent) and nationally (25 percent).
While the more politically active evangelicals who attended the Values Voter Summit prefer Cruz and Carson, polls indicate that self-identified evangelicals in Iowa and around the country also like front runner Donald Trump.
Self-proclaimed evangelical “insiders,” at least as indicated in a new WORLD Magazine article, on the other hand, think little of either Trump or Carson as Presidential contenders, and instead favor Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
A look at recent polls indicates that Republican primary voters who self identify as evangelicals favor three candidates – Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump. Marco Rubio lags far behind.
A Washington Post-ABC poll in late July showed Trump was in the lead among self-identifying evangelical voters with 20 percent support.
Scott Walker, who has since withdrawn, was in second place with 14 percent. Huckabee was third with 12 percent, Jeb Bush fourth with 11 percent.
Marco Rubio and Rick Perry, who was the first to withdraw, tied for fifth with 7 percent, and Ted Cruz was in 7th with 5 percent, and Ben Carson and Rand Paul were tied for 8th with 4 percent.
With the surge of Carson’s campaign over the past few months, those earlier numbers have shifted.
Among those voters, the most recent polls indicate a three way battle at the top between Carson, Cruz, and Trump.
Even the Christian Post, whose publisher, Richard Land, is one of the “evangelical insiders” surveyed by WORLD and a very public supporter of the pro-amnesty “Gang of Eight” bill Rubio co-sponsored in 2013, recently acknowledged Trump’s support among evangelical voters:
Despite Trump’s inconsistent stances on social issues and his recent unwillingness to state his favorite Bible verse, Trump appears to be in good standing with Evangelical voters at the moment.
Trump finished first among white Republican-leaning Evangelical voters with 20 percent in a July Washington Post-ABC News national primary poll. A recent Monmouth University poll of Evangelical voters in Iowa has Trump in second behind retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 23 percent of the Evangelical vote.
(Note: Despite the headline of that article claiming Trump would not attend last week’s VVS summit, he did in fact attend and deliver an address to the audience.)
The results of the Values Voter Summit straw poll and polling of self described evangelicals differs markedly from a survey of 103 “evangelical insiders” recently released by WORLD Magazine.
Warren Cole Smith, Vice President of WORLD Magazine, the Christian publication headed by Marvin Olasky, the professor who introduced George W. Bush to “compassionate conservativism,” does not like Donald Trump, and he’s trying to persuade the media that “Evangelicals do NOT support Trump.”
That was the subject line of an email Smith sent out promoting a recent survey that showed 37.4 percent of the 103 evangelical “insiders” selected by “[t]he editors of WORLD based on our 30 years of work in the evangelical community,” support Marco Rubio for the Presidential nomination in this most recent survey.
Ted Cruz was in second place in that survey, to which only 91 of the 103 responded, with 19.8 percent.
Carly Fiorina finished third with 18.7 percent. Lagging behind in this survey of evangelical “insiders” picked by WORLD were Jeb Bush with 7.7 percent, Ben Carson with 3.3 percent and Donald Trump with 1.1 percent.
The two front runners among self-identified evangelicals according to most polls—Carson and Trump—were supported by only 4.4 percent (4 out of 91) of the evangelical “insiders” picked by WORLD who responded to the survey.
Here’s what Smith wrote in that email:
WORLD posted just this morning the results of its latest monthly survey of evangelical insiders. The results have been remarkably consistent from month to month: Marco Rubio has led for the past three months, and Donald Trump has been at or near the bottom.
Here’s the article.
WORLD’s survey is further evidence that Donald Trump does not in fact have the support of evangelicals, a topic I wrote about earlier this week.
Last week, I wrote an article for the website The Stream that goes more deeply into the problems with the Trump campaign.
Just as National Review’s Rich Lowry has led an unrelenting attack on Trump’s candidacy by the Beltway bowtie conservative pundit elite, Smith is leading an attack on Trump’s candidacy by the self proclaimed evangelical elite.
While Smith has not resorted to the same kind of vulgar attacks Lowry recently displayed against Trump on Fox News, there can be no mistaking that Smith is determined to discredit Trump and any evangelicals who support him, regardless of what the polls say.
“That [Fox] poll, and the Monmouth poll, [showing Trump with strong evangelical support] allowed people to self-identify whether they were evangelicals or not. That is a notoriously inaccurate way of identifying evangelicals. A better way to identify evangelicals is to use data about their behaviors and beliefs, which political surveys do not typically do,” Smith tells Breitbart News.
“The VVS straw poll seems completely consistent with my claim that Trump has little or no support among evangelicals,” Smith adds.
Smith would not release a comprehensive list of the 103 “evangelical insiders” World Magazine surveyed.
“We promised them that we would not release their names, but some of the participants allowed us to quote them in the stories we have written, and other have ‘outed’ themselves in other ways. They include Samuel Rodriquez, Richard Land, Kay Coles James, and Eric Teetsel,” Smith tells Breitbart News.
Both Rodriquez and Richard Land were signatories to the Evangelical Immigration Table statement supporting the 2013 Gang of Eight illegal alien amnesty bill co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). As Breitbart News has reported, the Evangelical Immigration Table’s efforts have been funded by the George Soros financed National Immigration Forum. Its leaders also include the far-left Democratic activist Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourner Magazine.
At least one of the “insiders” surveyed, Kay Coles James, has already aligned politically with one of the GOP candidates. Along with former Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), she is currently co-chair of Jeb Bush’s campaign in Virginia.
The “Gang of Eight” bill co-sponsored by Rubio passed the Senate but failed in the House.
Smith himself wrote favorably of the Evangelical Immigration Table’s pro-amnesty legislative agenda back in 2012.
“I predict that conservative evangelicals will take the lead in forcing the Republican Party to come to some sort of a compromise with the Democrats on immigration reform,” Smith wrote at the time.
“The GOP has taken an unfortunate detour on this issue, but arriving at a biblical position on this question could make a big difference with Hispanics in 2014 and beyond,” he concluded.
Smith provided an insight into how he views the role he and his fellow evangelical “insiders” play in the 2016 GOP Presidential nominating process in his responses to a series of questions posed by Breitbart News.
Breitbart News asked Smith if the term “evangelical insider” is a bit of an oxymoron.
Smith responded with an emphatic “no.”
Breitbart News also asked Smith if evangelism is about each person’s individual relationship with Jesus Christ, [and presumably how that individual relationship might influence their political choices] regardless of what intermediary “insiders” might have to say on the matter.
“Your second question reflects a profound misunderstanding of what evangelical theology is and who evangelicals are,” Smith asserted.
“And that’s part of the problem with allowing people to self-identify as evangelicals,” Smith elaborated.
“Many people will claim to be evangelicals who do not believe in the basics of evangelical theology, or who never or rarely attend evangelical churches. Our evangelical insider survey is a survey of leaders of the nation’s most significant evangelical organizations,” Smith concluded.
Smith’s response, however, failed to explain why “each person’s individual relationship with Jesus Christ regardless of what intermediary ‘insiders’ might have to say” constitutes a profound misunderstanding of evangelical theology.
Smith also did not respond to a subsequent question from Breitbart News in which we asked him to tell us what percentage of the population fits his more selective definition of evangelical, excluding some portion of those 25 percent of Americans who self-identify as evangelical.
Neither did Smith address the core point of our question—that the entire point of evangelical Christianity is that individuals are able to read the Bible for themselves and discern God’s word based on their own understanding of it, rather than being compelled to follow in lock step with their “insider leaders” either theologically or politically.
Breitbart News asked Smith if he agreed or disagreed with many experts who say it is a mistake to consider evangelicals a voting monolith.
“That depends on how you define ‘monolith,’” Smith responded.
“Gallup finds that the ‘strongly religious’ vote overwhelmingly Republican. Most of the ‘strongly religious’ are evangelicals. Only African-Americans’ preference for the Democratic Party is stronger, more ‘monolithic,’ to use your language,” he added.
Smith’s response, however, dodged the question.
In fact, evangelicals are a diverse lot, united by their faith–a belief that Jesus Christ is their personal savior, the Bible is the word of God, and that they have a responsibility to spread the Gospel to others.
As for how evangelicals translate that personal religious belief into personal political behavior, the evidence of recent polls suggests it’s hard to make across-the-board predictions. If evangelicals go by anything, it is that each individual has the ability and responsibility to discern God’s word on his or her own based on personal study of the Gospel and the other books of the Bible.
That individual independence of decision making on matters of faith translates into highly individualized decision making when it comes to support of political candidates—Presidential candidates in particular.
For his part, Trump has not claimed to be an evangelical Christian. Instead, he has claimed to be a Presbyterian, a “Mainline Protestant” Christian.
Indeed, Trump’s lack of familiarity with the evangelical community seemed evident when he called Rubio, a fellow speaker at the VVS event, a “clown.” The audience responded by booing.
But as the polls indicate, many self-identified evangelicals do not seem to care that Trump is a “Mainline Protestant” Christian and not an evangelical, and that he sometimes displays bad manners.
They agree with his campaign theme—that it’s time to make America great again, as well as the centerpiece of his campaign platform—that it’s time to build a border wall and deport illegal aliens.
It is that policy position that may explain the fear many evangelical “insiders”—and particularly those who support amnesty—have of a potential Trump presidency.
The purpose of the WORLD Magazine survey that shows Rubio in the lead among evangelical “insiders” may well be to shape the voting behavior of evangelical activists and voters alike so that fear is not realized in November 2016.
As WORLD’s Smith tells Breitbart News:
I would also add that we have been doing this survey for three months, and with each passing month we have discovered two things: First, the results have remained remarkably consistent, with Rubio leading by significant margins in all three surveys. Secondly, Trump has remained near the bottom in all three surveys. I would also add that as more time passes, the national surveys are slowly coming to resemble what our surveys have said all along.
While evangelical “insiders” may want to push the evangelical vote towards Rubio, actual evangelical voters, and especially those who attend the Iowa GOP caucuses, may not be quite as compliant as those “insiders” may wish.