Election Poll Results: Christian conservative voters, identified by George Barna as SAGE Cons, overwhelmingly voted for President-Elect Trump. 92% of SAGE Cons turned out to vote and of those 92 %that 94% of them voted for Mr. Trump. Barna discusses the deciding factors based on polling data.
Air Date: 01/19/2017
Guests: George Barna
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Welcome to the intersection of faith in the culture! This is WallBuilders Live! You can find out more at WallBuilders.com and WallBuildersLive.com. Short intro today because we’re going to jump right into a great presentation. We barely have time to get it all in. I’m Rick Green former Texas state representative.
Our founder and president, David Barton, America’s premiere historian is not with us today. Because we’re actually going to go to the conference that he puts on for legislators across the country called the Pro-family Legislators Conference where George Barna is sharing with us a really great presentation. We’re going to share today and tomorrow.
So we won’t get it all in today. But be sure and tune in tomorrow and you’ll get the conclusion. Let’s jump right in. Here’s George Barna at the Pro-family Legislators Conference.
George Barna Part 1:
Good morning, everybody. I am excited to be here. I appreciate the opportunity again to share some things with you. We’re going to look at what I think is in many ways the unreported details of the role that Christians played in the election. And I think this is important because all of you rely upon them as a base of support. What we found, we’ve had a longitudinal study that we’ve been conducting for the last several years it’s this group called SAGE Cons. I’ll talk about that in just a minute.
This Election Was A Miracle
There are a lot of things I think that haven’t gotten as much attention in the news media as should have happened. Certainly, one of those is individuals that we’d like to help find their new home outside the United States. And I think is an act of service that’s incumbent upon us to help them find that new place. They’ve all said that they’re leaving the country we won’t miss them that much.
The presidential election, of course, it was extraordinary before we got the final outcome. When you look at the final outcome the only conclusion that I as a research guy was able to come to is that it was a miracle. What’s a miracle? God changing our reality. And that’s exactly what he did.
But when God does miracles often he works through his people to get those things done. So what I want to do is spend a little bit of time talking with you about a group that a few years ago we started tracking, a group called SAGE Cons. I’m not sure if it’s an acrostic or an acronym but SAGE stands for Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservatives.
Now SAGE Cons are individuals, to shortcut it, who are faith first people. These are individuals for whom their faith drives all the decisions in their life. When they look at the political sphere they believe that they need to be, they are called to be involved in that sphere because their faith calls them to be salt and light in every situation in which they find themselves.The SAGE Con population is about 1 out of every 8 Americans. So they’re about 12% of the adult population that represents about 30 million adults across the country. Just by way of definition how we get to them in surveys we look at a lot of different things in terms of people’s attitudes and beliefs and behavior.
95% of Americans Call Themselves Good People
We know that these are individuals who are fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, or governance conservatives. These are people who are born again Christians, not by their self-report, which by the way, when you look at the exit polls they’re wrong. When you look at most of the media polls that are done they are wrong. When they talk about what they call evangelical Christians.
And the reason is because of how they define them. What they do is they have a single simple question. I believe in simple questions. That’s great. But their question is, “Do you consider yourself to be an evangelical or born again Christian?”
Election Poll Results
Now we’ve tested that in our research over the course of the last 30 years. We know that when somebody calls themselves something that doesn’t make them what they’re calling them self. And so we know for instance that more than 95% of Americans call themselves good people. I’ve met a lot of these people and I know they’re not that good, OK?
So when you’ve got all of these people who are calling themselves born again or evangelical, when we look at that we find that that’s a bad measurement. The way that we tend to evaluate that is based on their theological perspectives. It’s not even so much to do with what church they go to or if they go to a church. It’s, “What do you believe?”
So we look at that. That’s how we get to these people. SAGE Cons are also active in the political arena in that they pay attention to what’s going on. And they get involved in what’s happening as well.
SAGE Cons Votes
One thing that’s important for you to know is because they’re 12% of the population. Nobody can win an election just by winning over SAGE Cons. But we also know that no conservative can get very far without winning the vast majority of SAGE Cons. Because they represent enough of the conservative population and those who would vote for conservative candidates that it’s very unusual to see somebody win without them.
What did we learn about the mindset of these folks? We found that there were a lot of things that were on their minds and in their hearts. They buy into traditional values. It was actually slightly less than 100% something like 99.7% but I rounded it up to 100%. We find that this next one was really important to me because when you find any group of people that says that they’re willing to take unpopular stands in America today, that’s worth paying attention to.
And it’s not very common that you’ll find most people saying that they’ll do that. 99% of SAGE Cons call themselves pro-life advocates. The term “advocates” there is very important because it’s not just that they are pro-life. It’s that they will talk to other people about their pro-life stand. It’s that they will take action behind that pro-life stand. This is a driving force, as we’ll see in a few minutes, when we get to why people voted the way they did.
SAGE Cons Willing to Engage in Civil Disobedience
Nine out of ten of them said they were dissatisfied with the way things were going in the country. Almost nine out of 10 said they’re very proud to be an American. Eight out of 10 said they’re angry about the state of America. Two out of three said they believe that they are now worse off than they were not too long ago. This to me was the most important number on this chart. Half of them say that they’re willing to engage in civil disobedience.
Now I’ve been tracking this over the last 40 years since I started doing research. I started out as a political pollster back in the Northeast working for a bunch of different candidates. Even at that time because with the foment of the 60s and 70s and whatnot the civil disobedience was an interesting concept to me. I’ve never seen that many conservatives who said that they are willing to engage in civil disobedience to get the kind of society that they believe we need to live in. So that’s very important to keep in mind.
Bob, who is one of the speakers that I hate to follow because he’s so darn good, mentioned that Congress didn’t even have two vertebrae. What’s happening here is you’re seeing the conservative population figure out how to grow vertebrae. And so that’s a critical thing for the future. Half of them say they’re not willing to trust any politicians. Only about half of them say they’re loyal to the Republican Party. That is a decline from where those numbers used to be.
This Data Was Accumulated From Across the Country
Look at the fact that only four out of 10 of them say they’re excited about America’s future. Once again a huge drop over the last 6-8 years. Used to be the case that conservatives more than anybody were very excited about the future. Now a large majority of them believe that their children and grandchildren are looking forward to a worse future than they experienced during the course of their lifetime.
We also looked at their views of government performance and you find a big split here. When you look at how well they think the president has done we actually found a couple of people who approve of the job that he’s doing. By the way, this data is based on 3,000 election night interviews that we conducted with SAGE Cons across the country. So this was their mindset on
We’re looking at the fact that only 1 out of every 8 believe that the U.S. Senate is doing a good job. 1 out of every 50 said that they believe the U.S. House of Representatives is doing a good job. And a little bit less than 1 out of 10 approve of the job being done by the Supreme Court.
Now it’s interesting when we started to talk with them about state governments their whole demeanor changed. And that, I believe, that has a lot to do with the fact that, as was mentioned earlier, most state governments are led by the Republican candidates who were elected into office. Before this current election. We had 68 of 98 state legislative bodies led by Republicans. It’s now 66. Before the election we had 34 of our 50 governors who were Republican. It’s now 33. Before the election, we had 22 states in which both chambers and the governor were Republican. That has now increased to 24.
Integrity, a Concept That’s Lost a lot of Altitude
So naturally there is a very different perspective that they’re taking although there still is suspicion of what’s going on in terms of government. If we look at how SAGE Cons voted what you heard in the exit polls was that 81% of the people that they called evangelicals had voted for Donald Trump. What we found was that 92% of SAGE Cons turned out to vote. Which is an outrageously high proportion of people. And we found of those 92 percent that 94% of them did vote for Mr. Trump. Once again this is kind of unprecedented territory. We haven’t seen anything quite like this before.
That little star next to Mrs. Clinton’s name does not mean that she did a good job. What that means is it’s less than one half of one percent. Whenever you see that in statistical data the star usually represents less than one half of one percent.
Integrity Is Important To SAGE Cons
When we go a little bit farther into this we also have been gauging throughout the election whether or not and in what ways were SAGE Cons planning to be involved in the election. And the thing that impressed me, the reason I put this up here, is because these are people that when they tell you they’re going to do something they tend to do it. Integrity means everything to this group. And once again, given all the national studies that we do not just with SAGE Cons but with Americans in general, integrity is a concept that’s lost a lot of altitude in the last two decades. In particular when we talk with people who are not conservative they’re not concerned about integrity, they don’t understand it.
SAGE Cons Knew It’s Now or Never
But anyway, you look at the kind of activity that these folks were engaged in just apart from voting. I mean donating to the campaign 4 out of 10 of them. Talking to others about the issues, about the candidates, about the future implications of the election 7 out of 10. Now that’s a really significant number because we find that typically SAGE Cons are the group that’s least likely to talk to other people about what’s going on in electoral politics. And there’s a very good reason for that.
We did three or four studies on that this past year. Why is it that SAGE Cons have these fervent beliefs? They see a vision of the country that they want to help bring about and yet they don’t talk with other people who they know believe differently when they have the opportunity to do so. And we found it’s because if they’re going to engage in an argument they want to know the facts. They want to be prepared. They don’t want to come out looking like an idiot. They don’t want to do an injustice to their side of the argument. And so rather than embarrass themselves and whoever else it is that they feel they’re representing they disengage.
In this particular election, like what Bob was talking about just a few minutes ago, SAGE Cons knew, “It’s now or never.” So in spite of the fact that they still went into these conversations not feeling as prepared as they wanted to. They knew that they had to say something. We’ll talk in a few minutes about why they didn’t feel so prepared.
Trumps Support Rapidly Grew After the Party Nominee Announcement
Mr. Trump was an interesting study throughout the course of the election. If we go back to the early stages of the primary season before the first primary votes wherever cast most SAGE Cons did not have a favorable impression of him. Back in September of last year about 45% had either a very or somewhat favorable impression of Donald Trump.
Now interestingly that number grew to become 73% over the course of the election season. They still have all kinds of questions about his character. They still have questions about how he may perform as a leader in the Oval Office. But nevertheless their perceptions of him thawed over the course of time.
And during that same period of time, you can see that prior to and through the early stages of the primary season Donald Trump was the fifth choice of SAGE Cons. Only about 11% were consistently supporting him up until the point when he became the party nominee. At that point in time suddenly his support jumped from 11% to 72%. Why? Because they realized, “Ok it’s a two person race. Let’s re-evaluate the two people now that we get to choose from.” And you saw that incredible jump in April and May toward that level of support which then continued to grow over the course of time.
Prior to that SAGE Cons were supporting Mr. Walker. Mr. Cruz, Mr. Carson, Mr. Huckabee, and Mr. Rubio. Those were their five primary choices. But when they lost out this was where they went. It’s interesting too that not only did they shift who they were going to vote for. But over the course of the election what we saw was that there was a shift in the issues that became important to SAGE Cons.
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The Driving Factors For SAGE Cons
This is data from Election Day. By the time of the election there were two issues on the minds of SAGE Cons.You can call them Christian conservatives if you want, whatever term you prefer. What we saw was that abortion and the Supreme Court nominations were the thing that was driving their decision. They still had questions and doubts about where Mr. Trump stood on some of the other issues. But these two things were enough for them to say, “That’s our guy.”
Religious freedom interestingly enough never really caught on as an issue. Only about one out of seven Christian conservatives said, “Yeah that’s a big deal.” The polling that we did on that indicated that they don’t understand what we were on the precipice of. What was coming down the pike, what could have happened in the future had Hillary Clinton been elected. We did a lot of message testing and I think one of the things we’ll talk about in the panel later is some of that kind of research we did.
And when we tested different types of messages and even explained in those messages what might be coming in terms of the limitations on religious behavior and thought and speech. What we found was that SAGE Cons still weren’t that interested. They didn’t believe that that could happen in America. And so there’s this unshakable belief, “But that’s not what America is! That could never be taken away.” They didn’t get it.
What News Event Was the Biggest Driving Factor for Voting
As you’re sitting there thinking, “What am I going to go back to my district and do?” It’s important that you help educate the people who put you into office. Because as you pursue a legislative agenda some of the things that you’re going to want to do, to save, or to magnify are things that they don’t really understand. Government size and authority early on in the election that was either the top or second highest issue that was driving SAGE Cons. Over the course of the campaign that diminished in importance as they latched on to these top two elements the other highly rated issue early on, of course, was the economy.
However as the election wore on, it came down to those top two there. And the economy took a backseat. One of the things that we did on election day was we took a look at what kind of news events impacted your choice of who you were going to vote for? We had all kinds of things that we tested. You can see some of them here. Perhaps the turning point for almost a fifth of the SAGE Cons population was that third debate when Chris Wallace asked the question about abortion. A question that had not been posed to the candidates previously in that kind of a form. And Mrs. Clinton made her stand very, very clear. It was at that moment that about 15 -20 % of SAGE Cons said, “Election’s over. I know where I’m done.”
They Normally Don’t Stand Up but This Time They Did
Realize that previously it wasn’t that SAGE Cons were thinking, “Gee, I might vote for Mrs. Clinton.” That was never an option for them even before that moment. What they were trying to decide is, “Do we vote for a libertarian candidate? Or do we vote on November 8th but simply not vote for a presidential candidate?” That was actually running second to Donald Trump at that point.
And so when Mrs. Clinton made that statement about what she believes about abortion, any time, anywhere, for anyone, essentially is what her stand is. That was when the bottom fell out. The email server issues that the FBI initially investigated about 8-10 said, “That had a major impact on their willingness to consider Donald Trump as a viable candidate.”
About 3 out of 4 of them said that the large donations that were made by foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation when that revelation came out that was a major issue for them. And remember part of what’s going on here is that this is a group of people who now is going to go out and talk to individuals who are going to vote for Mrs. Clinton or for somebody else. These are individuals who normally will not talk about these kinds of matters. But these are the very kinds of things that propelled them into those conversations and to a large extent these were the things that they talked about. They may not have known the ins and outs of the immigration policy or gun policy but they certainly know the ins and outs of integrity. And so they were happy to talk about that.
What Irked SAGE Cons About Hillary Clinton
You look at the money that she is receiving for speaking to Wall Street firms, again a very big issue. You’ve got some of the things that really were not deciding factors for them but reinforcing factors. And that’s what you see below the 50% mark there.
The fact that she came out and said, “While I may say one thing publicly that’s not necessarily what I believe or will act upon privately.” That wasn’t as big a deal to them we found because they said, “Well wait a minute. All politicians do that.” And so that wasn’t a big revelation, my pardon to you. You know but that’s the way that they’re thinking. The derogatory emails that WikiLeaks revealed about comments regarding Catholics, once again they said, “Well we kind of expect that from her and her people.” The refusal to put out her wall street transcripts, of course, they said, “Well naturally she wouldn’t do that.” The basket of deplorable comments, more of a motivation than it was a deciding factor. So it goes on like that.
Now Donald Trump interestingly, we looked at a number of things related to his campaign and one of the things that had one of the greatest impacts was when he said that he wanted to stem the flow of Muslim refugees into America until we could improve the vetting system. Two out of three of them said, “Well you know what that was a major influence on how I was thinking about him.”
What SAGE Cons Liked About Mr. Trump
Interestingly as we studied the nation what we find is with Democrats, yeah this made a difference as well. They were saying it as a negative. SAGE Cons said, “I liked him after this.” Because they said, “Here’s somebody who’s going to break with the norm, who’s going to say what’s unpopular, who’s going to do what’s tough, and probably what’s needed.” Again this is a group of people that doesn’t understand immigration policy very much. But they say, “Just as a logical point of view that made sense to me.” If you can identify who America’s enemy is you don’t open the door and say come on in until you figure out whether or not they’re really an enemy or if they’re going to be one of us.
Choosing Mike Pence was perhaps the best decision that Donald Trump made in the entire election. We have a number of different points that we measured over the course of the campaign. We looked at Donald Trump’s favor ability rating a few moments ago 73% among SAGE Cons, Mr. Pence’s favorable ratings 95%. I don’t think I’ve ever had a politician that went higher than that in any of the research I’ve done. So that was well done!
What won him over to a lot of SAGE Cons was that most of them frankly did not know who he was before he was named Vice Presidential candidate. His opening statement at the convention when he talked about how he is a follower of Christ first. I mean that like, “Ok he’s one of us. Let’s get on with it.” So that was a big deal.
Some of the other things that Mr. Trump became known for in the media did not have a big impact with this group of people. With other groups segments of the voter population, yes. But with this particular group, no. You have to also put all of this in context because where was it coming from? It was coming from by and large the mainstream media. And when we look at the SAGE Cons perspective of the media only 1% of them gave the media credit for being fair and objective. I have to admit that there were points during the course of the campaign season where that number actually doubled. But then again there is sampling error involved so who really knows.
99% Feel That The Media Is Unfair And Subjective
So we have roughly 1% so 99% said that they believe that the media were unfair and subjective. Most of them came to believe that the media was an arm of the Clinton campaign. And so as they were exposed to messages being given to them by the mainstream media, they didn’t just take it with a grain of salt, they figured it was a lie. So they were trying to figure out what’s the opposite of that because that’s probably what happened.
Now here’s the dangerous part and this is something that all of us got to be thinking about as we move forward. Most Americans do not experience most of the reality that they have opinions and attitudes about. But they know things about these realities, whatever the situations or events may be because the media have described those things to them. And so our perceptions of reality are mostly based on what the media have told us reality is. Most Americans have never met or heard Donald Trump personally. Never met or heard Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson. And most of them don’t know or have never personally experienced much about what goes on in the world.
Hey friends! We’re out of time for today. That was George Barna you were just listening to as he was speaking at the Pro-Family Legislators Conference. He is the most listened to pollster in the country. His research and data is absolutely incredible. You should check out his books as well. In fact, he’s got one with David Barton called U-turn that you can get a link to today at our website.
But George Barna with us again tomorrow we’ll just we’ll pick up right where we left off today and you get the conclusion of that presentation he gave there at the Pro-family Legislators Conference. Which by the way you want to tell your legislator friends about. It’s a great weekend for them each year to come and share ideas and sharpen each other’s countenance and take great ideas back to their home states and their state legislators. We’ll pick up the conclusion tomorrow, right here. Don’t miss it on WallBuilders Live!