Jerry Falwell’s approval score among evangelicals? 45.8 (out of 100). The favorability score of environmental organizations among evangelicals? 52.3. Enviros are viewed more favorably than Falwell!
These are just some of the more interesting findings of a recent in-depth nationwide poll. It shows that progress is being made on creation-care attitudes despite the well-funded attempts of industry and conservative critics to spin and manipulate public opinion.
Concerning their opinion of environmental organizations, the poll found that 36 percent of evangelicals had a warm or favorable impression while 33 percent had a cool or unfavorable impression. Believe it or not, this is actually progress. I’ve been working in this field for 10 years, and back then you would not have found numbers nearly this favorable. The evangelical community is essentially split over the environment. But again, that’s progress.
While we can assume that those evangelicals who have a favorable impression of environmental organizations would also be inclined to support good creation-care policies, we should not assume the opposite is also true. The 33 percent of evangelicals polled who have a cool or unfavorable impression may not necessarily be opposed to creation-care efforts. I have met many conservative Christians who are wary of environmentalists, but still supportive of a biblically based creation-care message.
Another interesting finding of the poll came out when respondents were asked about “Combating global warming and other environmental threats.” The results were:
–Extremely important, 9 percent;
–Very Important, 31 percent;
–Somewhat Important, 31 percent;
–Just a Little Important, 9 percent;
–Not Very Important, 15 percent.
Again, I actually find this good news–and am heartened by the fact that 71 percent consider it somewhat to extremely important. That 40 percent think the threat of global warming is “very” or “extremely” important to combat is also a positive finding. If we can get just 15 percent to move from “Somewhat” to “Very Important,” we will have a clear majority of evangelicals who want to see global warming seriously addressed. If that happens, the Republicans will not be far behind.
Not only is this good news, it is an impressive showing for all those who are trying to educate the public about global warming and other environmental issues, despite efforts of the other side to spin and distort.
Make no mistake about it: evangelical Christians have been targeted by creation-care opponents who attempt to convince them to ignore environmental issues.
Conservative leaders like Jerry Falwell are given talking points and prominent global-warming critics make the rounds on Christian radio. How do I know? I’ve debated Falwell and heard them, and I’ve been on many Christian radio shows where the host will bring up what such critics have said on their show.
Not only are these efforts going on, but for several years now GOP pollster Frank Luntz has been advising Republicans how to talk a good game without actually having to make serious efforts to address such threats as global warming.
Like the good pollster he is, Luntz knows that people really do want a clean, healthy and safe environment. So he advises his clients to “assure your audience that you are committed to ‘preserving and protecting’ the environment, but that ‘it can be done more wisely and effectively.'”
What the latter means is the free-market approach, when Luntz knows the public assumes that environmental progress comes from laws that are enforced.
On global warming specifically, Luntz advises his clients to take advantage of the public’s belief that there still is not scientific consensus that global warming is a threat–even when they know that such a consensus does in fact exist and has for some time.
Luntz states that: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”
Well, the polls appear to be saying that more and more evangelicals are instead becoming convinced that global warming is a serious threat that needs to be addressed.
Thus, our progress has been made while trudging uphill against a stiff wind of spin and carrying a 20-pound pack of disinformation our opponents have loaded upon us. We’re getting there, however.
Click here to view the poll on evangelical attitudes on a wide variety of issues, including the environment.
Click here to view Frank Luntz’ memo.
Jim Ball is Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change at the Evangelical Environmental Network and author of the award-winning book, “Global Warming and the Risen LORD: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change.”