June 22, 2011

Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders

Morality, Society and Politics

The Lausanne leaders generally hold conservative opinions on social issues. For example, nearly all (96%) say that abortion is either always or usually wrong. The leaders also tend to hold conservative views on issues related to family, marriage and gender, although a solid majority (63%) disagree that women should stay at home and raise children. When it comes to matters outside the home, a majority considers it essential to take a stand on political issues that conflict with moral and biblical principles. More than eight-in-ten of the evangelical leaders surveyed (84%) also believe that religious leaders should express their views on political questions.

A. Belief in God and Morality

Evangelical leaders are split on the relationship between belief in God and morality. About half of the leaders (49%) say it is necessary to believe in God “in order to be moral and have good values.” An equal portion (49%) says it is not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.

There are strong regional differences in opinions on this issue. Nearly two-thirds of the leaders from the Global South (63%) say that belief in God is necessary to be moral, while less than a third of the Global North leaders (29%) agree. In fact, majorities from Europe (71%) and North America (67%) say that belief in God is not necessary to be moral. The balance of opinion among leaders from Central and South America is similar to those in Europe and North America; 38% say belief in God is necessary to be moral, while six-in-ten (60%) say belief in God is not necessary to be moral.

B. Abortion and Homosexuality

On abortion and homosexuality, large majorities of leaders endorse socially conservative views.

Nearly all (96%) say that abortion is always or usually morally wrong, with a slim majority of those polled (51%) saying it is always wrong. Leaders under age 50 are more likely than older leaders (57% vs. 44%) to say that abortion is always wrong. In addition, those from the Global South are more likely than those from the Global North to say that abortion is always wrong (59% vs. 41%).
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There is also strong consensus among evangelical leaders about homosexuality. More than eight-in-ten leaders surveyed (84%), including 89% of U.S. leaders, say that homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged by society. There is some regional variation, with support for accepting homosexuality much higher among leaders from Central and South America. A majority of leaders from this region (51%) endorse the view that it should be accepted by society. Better than seven-in-ten from all other regions, by contrast, say that homosexuality should be discouraged by society.

C. Family, Marriage and Gender Issues

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The global evangelical leaders exhibit a strong consensus of opinion concerning religious leadership in the family. Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) agree that men have a duty to serve as the religious leaders in marriage and the family. Men are particularly likely to endorse this viewpoint, with 51% completely agreeing and 33% mostly agreeing. But a large majority of women also endorse this view, with 37% completely agreeing and 33% mostly agreeing. There are no significant differences by age on this issue; about eight-in-ten leaders of all age groups agree with this statement. And nearly three-quarters or more from all regions endorse this view.
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When it comes to gender roles in the church, however, the leaders overwhelmingly support women in leadership positions. Three-quarters of the leaders surveyed (75%) say that women should be allowed to serve as pastors. Women leaders are more inclined than men to feel this way (88% vs. 72%). In most regions, upwards of seven-in-ten support allowing women to serve as pastors. But leaders from the Middle East and North Africa are notably less supportive of female pastors; 46% say women should be allowed to serve as pastors, while 43% say they should not be allowed to do so.

One-third of the leaders surveyed (33%) say they agree with the statement that “women should stay at home and raise the children in the family.” But more than six-in-ten leaders (63%) say they do not agree. Fully 72% of female leaders and 61% of male leaders disagree that women should stay at home.

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Older leaders – those age 60 and above – are more inclined than their younger counterparts to say that women should stay at home. Among this group, 44% agree that women should stay at home, and 53% disagree.

Among U.S. leaders, 44% agree women should stay at home, while 53% disagree. Leaders in Europe, however, reject the idea of women staying at home by a more than two-to-one margin, 69% to 28%. Those from the Global South disagree with the idea that women should stay at home by about a two-to-one margin (64% to 31%).

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A small majority of the leaders surveyed (55%) mostly or completely agree that a wife “must always obey her husband,” while 41% mostly or completely disagree. Two-thirds of the leaders from the Global South (67%) mostly or completely agree with the statement. Among leaders from the Global North, a majority (58%) disagrees. There is some variation in opinion about this issue across regions. European leaders (62%) and North American leaders (54%) are especially likely to reject the idea that a wife must always obey her husband. On the other hand, upwards of six-in-ten leaders from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East-North Africa and the Asia-Pacific region agree that a wife must always obey her husband. Among leaders from Central and South America, 53% agree that a wife must always obey her husband and 43% disagree.

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More than half (53%) of the leaders surveyed say that men should be the main financial provider for the family, while 43% disagree. Male leaders are more likely than female leaders to think that men should be the main providers. Global South leaders are also more likely to hold a traditional view of gender roles on this question, with 61% saying that men should be the main financial provider for the family. A majority of Global North leaders surveyed (53%) disagree. However, North American leaders are sharply divided about this issue, with 49% agreeing that men should be the main provider and 47% disagreeing (52% of U.S. leaders agree, 44% disagree). Nearly six-in-ten European leaders (58%) reject the idea that men should be the main financial provider.

There is an almost even split between those who think that all adults have a responsibility to marry and have children and those who do not think so — 49% and 48%, respectively. Once again, opinion diverges along gender and regional lines. Women leaders are less inclined than men to say that all adults have a responsibility to marry and have children; 42% of women agree with this statement, while 55% disagree. The balance of opinion tilts in the opposite direction among men (52% agree, 46% disagree). Leaders who themselves have never married are less likely to see marriage and childbearing as incumbent on all adults (40% of those who have never married agree with the statement, compared with 51% among those currently married.) Finally, a solid majority of leaders from the Global South (60%) agree that all adults have a responsibility to marry and have families, while just one-in-three leaders from the Global North (33%) say the same. On this question, however, leaders from Central and South America stand apart from the rest of the Global South; 54% of Latin American leaders do not think that all adults have a responsibility to get married and bear children.

D. Religion and Politics

A majority of the evangelical leaders think that religious leaders should be politically engaged and that government should play a role in solving some social problems. For example, more than eight-in-ten leaders surveyed (84%) say that religious leaders should express their views on political matters, with only 13% saying they should keep out of politics.

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Wariness about political involvement is somewhat greater among leaders from the Middle East and North Africa than among leaders from most other regions. But even in this region, roughly twice as many evangelical leaders say that religious leaders should express their views on political questions (65%) as say that religious leaders should keep out of political matters (29%).

As noted previously, a majority of leaders think that a good evangelical should take a public stand on social and political issues that conflict with moral and biblical principles; 56% say taking a stand in these cases is essential, while 37% say it is important but not essential, and 5% say it is either not too or not at all important for being a good evangelical. In addition, about half of the leaders surveyed (49%) say it is essential to take a public stand on social and political issues that could limit the freedom of evangelicals to practice their faith, while 39% say it is important but not essential, and 9% say it is either not too or not at all important.

The evangelical leaders are almost evenly split over whether the Bible should become “the official law of the land” in their country. About half (48%) say they oppose making the Bible the law of the land, while almost as many (45%) favor the idea.

Nearly six-in-ten Global South leaders (58%) favor making the Bible the official law of the land in their country, compared with 28% of Global North leaders. Among leaders from the United States, 21% favor this idea, with a strong majority opposed (73%).

At the same time, a large majority of leaders surveyed are tolerant of religious diversity in their country’s political leadership. Three-quarters of respondents (74%) say it would be acceptable with them if their political leaders had a different religion from theirs; 21% say they only want political leaders who share their religion. A majority of leaders in all regions say it is acceptable for their political leaders to have a different religion.
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Eight-in-ten leaders surveyed think that it is the responsibility of government to take care of very poor people who cannot take care of themselves. About one-third (32%) say they completely agree with this view, and an additional 49% say they mostly agree. Leaders from the United States stand out for relatively low levels of agreement with this proposition. A majority (56%) says that government should be responsible for very poor people who cannot care for themselves, but four-in-ten say they either mostly disagree (34%) or completely disagree (6%). In regions of the world outside of North America, by contrast, roughly eight-in-ten evangelical leaders or more say the government has a responsibility to care for the very poor.

E. Government Treatment of Evangelicals and Experiences with Discrimination

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About one-third of the evangelical leaders (34%) say that the government treats evangelicals unfairly either very often (12%) or somewhat often (22%) in their country. A majority says that unfair treatment occurs either never (15%) or not too often (49%).

Perceptions about government treatment vary substantially across countries. Leaders from Christian-majority countries say such treatment is uncommon; according to these leaders, unfair treatment by the government never occurs (17%) or does so not too often (56%). One-in-four leaders from these countries say that unfair treatment happens somewhat often (19%) or very often (6%).

By contrast, sizeable majorities of leaders from certain other countries report that evangelicals face unfair government treatment either somewhat often or very often. More than three-quarters (77%) of leaders from Hindu-majority countries (India and Nepal) say this, with 44% saying it happens very often. Among leaders from Muslim-majority countries, two-thirds (66%) say unfair treatment occurs at least somewhat often, including 32% who say it occurs very often.

Leaders from countries in which the government imposes high restrictions on religion were considerably more likely to say that evangelical Christians are treated unfairly. Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) say this occurs at least somewhat often, including 40% who say it occurs very often.
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Looking more specifically at how evangelicals are treated in society, the survey finds modest overall levels of reported discrimination.

At least three-quarters of leaders surveyed say evangelicals in their countries either “never” or “not too often” face discrimination when they try to find housing, advance their education, apply for government services or apply for a job. About half of the leaders say such discrimination never occurs in housing, education or access to government services, and about one-third (32%) say it never occurs when evangelicals apply for a job.

On the other hand, one-fifth of leaders (20%) say that evangelicals in their country face discrimination on religious grounds either somewhat often or very often when they apply for a job; 18% report such discrimination when evangelicals seek government benefits, 15% when they seek to advance their education and 13% when they seek housing opportunities.

Upwards of half of leaders from Muslim-majority countries and Hindu-majority countries report that evangelicals in their countries face discrimination at least somewhat often when they apply for government services or when they apply for a job. And about one-in-three leaders from Buddhist-majority countries say the same. In countries where Christians are a majority, only about one-in-ten say evangelicals face discrimination in these situations.

Half of leaders (50%) from Hindu-majority countries and 40% of leaders from Muslim-majority countries also say that evangelicals in their countries are discriminated against at least somewhat often when they try to find housing. More than a quarter of leaders from Buddhist-majority countries (28%) say housing discrimination occurs at least somewhat often. Only 4% of leaders from Christian majority countries say this.

Fully four-in-ten leaders (41%) from Muslim-majority countries say evangelicals in their countries are discriminated against at least somewhat often when they apply to advance their schooling or education. About one-in-three leaders from Hindu-majority countries (35%) and Buddhist-majority countries (34%) report that this kind of discrimination occurs in their countries at least somewhat often. In Christian-majority countries, 8% say this.

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However, a large majority of the leaders surveyed say that they, personally, are never or not often discriminated against because of their religion. Fully eight-in-ten leaders say they never personally experience discrimination because of their religion (41%) or that such experiences do not occur often (42%). About one-in-six (16%) say they personally experience religious discrimination either somewhat often or very often.

Less than one-in-ten leaders from the Global North (7%) and 22% from the Global South report that they personally experience discrimination somewhat or very often.

Leaders from Hindu-majority countries are among the most likely to say that they personally experience discrimination because of their religion. Slightly more than half (51%) of leaders from Hindu-majority countries say this, with 35% saying they personally experience discrimination somewhat often and 16% very often. Almost half of the leaders from Muslim-majority countries also say they personally experience discrimination at least somewhat often.

More than four-in-ten leaders from countries with high levels of government restrictions on religion (46%) say they personally experience discrimination at least somewhat often. About one-in-three leaders from countries with high social hostilities involving religion (34%) say this occurs at least somewhat often.


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