According to a new LifeWay Research Poll, “around 1 in 12 (8 percent) say they are single-issue voters, while 80 percent say their support for a candidate depends on several issues.”
The poll was “sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (and) explored the perspectives of American evangelicals on civility, politics, media consumption and how likely they are to engage with views different from their own.”
Let’s take a moment to think about single-issue voters. This concept has most often been associated, in American politics, with the abortion issue. The survey results said, “half of evangelicals by belief (51 percent) say they will only support a candidate who wants to make abortion illegal.”
One of the aspects that the poll did not directly appear to address was single-issue voter positive-versus-negative, as one ethics expert put it. In other words, some people are “single-issue voters” in that a candidate being incorrect or in disagreement on one lone issue (e.g. abortion) can disqualify someone from their consideration. But they are not “single issue voters” in that the candidate being right or in agreement on that issue does not automatically qualify that person for consideration.
Translation: If you’re wrong on that non-negotiable issue, I cannot in good conscience support you. If you’re right on that issue, depending on other factors, I may or may not support you.
I would consider myself in this latter category. I am a single-issue voter in that being life-affirming (for the born and unborn) is a must; not to affirm life is disqualifying for me.
You may or may not agree with this frame of thinking (I would be happy to hear you out). But consider this analogy. If a would-be pastoral candidate is qualified in many areas but fails in one or two key areas (as defined by Scripture), it can disqualify him entirely from consideration. One truly toxic factor can poison the whole well.
Thinking beyond this seminal issue of abortion, the poll revealed that many do not share this issue as the top priority. “When asked which three public policy concerns are most important to them, evangelicals by belief today are more likely to choose issues like healthcare (51 percent), the economy (46 percent), national security (40 percent) or immigration (39 percent), than issues like religious liberty (33 percent), abortion (29 percent), providing for the needy (22 percent) or addressing racial division (21 percent).”
Whether you are a single-issue voter or not, as the 2020 Election looms larger, every professing Christian can learn to show more patience with fellow believers, as we parse through the urgent issues needing attention this election cycle and beyond.