No one could have predicted the twists and turns of this election, but Donald Trump was certainly right about one thing: his deeply religious base was going to rewrite the record books. Back in January, talking to a group of evangelicals, he predicted that as high as their turnout was in 2016, Christian conservatives would "blow those numbers away in 2020." And boy, did they.
Four years ago, researcher George Barna would be the first to tell you that he never thought he'd see a stronger statistic. SAGE Cons, those Americans he carefully segments out as spiritually-active, governance-engaged conservatives, nearly maxed out their turnouts at the polls. Ninety-one percent of them, driven by their dislike of Hillary Clinton, showed up to vote -- shattering every record ever set. "We thought, 'Well, we're never going to see that again in our lifetimes," George remembers. "You really can't get much higher [turnout] than that."
He was wrong -- and couldn't be happier about it. This election, these voters showed up in "staggering, mind-blowing" numbers. A whopping 99 percent of SAGE Cons turned out to vote. No one else, George explains, even came close.
They cast 23 million votes -- that's a third of the president's total. And what makes that so impressive, Barna explained on "Washington Watch," is that they only make up nine percent of the population! And yet, this nine percent of motivated Christians accounted for 14 percent of the vote! Talk about impact.
"It's pretty astonishing," he said in amazement. "When you look at, 'Where did [Trump] get his vote?' 'Where did he get his support from?' This is -- without a doubt, without any qualifications -- the most enthusiastic and united group of votes he received from the 80 different segments of the population that we studied." And that includes Democrats, Republicans, women, liberals, blacks, conservatives -- no other voting bloc has rallied behind a candidate with so much solidarity. "I think we're pretty much seeing the ceiling," Barna marveled, "of what any particular voting segment could ever achieve."
So what drove them in such high numbers to vote? When George surveyed them, he found that the biggest motivation was the track record of President Trump. "You have to remember back [in] 2016, the SAGE Cons who voted for him in huge numbers were essentially voting against Hillary Clinton. In 2020, they were voting for President Trump because of what he's done over the last four years." But, Barna pointed out, a close second was "his position on various social issues that matter to them, as well we his positions on several fiscal and economic issues." Several of them told George, "I never thought that I would say that I appreciate Donald Trump's leadership,' but after four years of it, that's where a large proportion of them have landed.
Of course, none of this has made its way into the media's analysis -- in part, I'm sure, because they don't want to admit how much political influence Christian conservatives have. It conflicts with their 40-year narrative that the religious right is a dying breed. And it also goes against their phony storyline that evangelicals turned against Trump in 2020 -- an absurd myth that Barna's research thoroughly debunks. Not only did Christian conservatives stick with Trump almost unanimously, they made up the strongest presidential support base in history!
Part of the problem, Barna explains, is how the media defines "evangelical." "They don't understand religion or care about religion. They just ask people, 'Hey, do you consider yourself to be an evangelical or a born-again Christian? ...[A]nd they lump those two groups together." Almost 90 percent of the U.S. House call themselves "Christian," but how many of their ideologies actually line up with what the Bible teaches? In politics, especially, there can be a big difference between how people define themselves and how they act. Joe Biden says he's Catholic, but his actual agenda is stuffed full of the most radical anti-faith, anti-life, anti-family policies our country has ever seen. So if the press wants to make some grand declaration about a religious group like evangelicals, fine. But it would help if they were actually talking to the real ones!
Barna's data drills much deeper. Instead of letting people label themselves, he studies what people believe spiritually and what they as a result of those beliefs. Because of that, he says, "Our research shows a very different outcome among evangelicals even than what you would hear from the mainstream media." And even that's different from the group he calls SAGE Cons.
SAGE Cons are unique because their worldview "compels them to be involved," George says. "They believe that the Bible teaches if you're going to represent Christ, you don't pick and choose where you represent them. You represent him everywhere. So that means in your community, in the voting booths, in your schools, in your churches, in your place of work, no matter where you go, you represent Christ." When it comes to voting, these people understand that "at some point, they're going to stand before God and account for [these choices]... So, they're one of the most politically attentive groups or segments in our population."
To them, Barna says: don't give up the fight. Engaging the culture around us is one of the most important things Christians can do. It's also, as this election shows, one of the most impactful. So be encouraged. What you're doing is making a difference -- and it will continue to make a difference in the critical days ahead.