Prominent evangelical leaders have called on media outlets to correct flaws in their presidential primary exit polls by asking only Republicans that question. The result is “pigeon-holing evangelicals as beholden to the Republican Party,” according to their letter made public today.
Following the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, exit polls asked Republican voters if they considered themselves “born-again or evangelical,” but did not ask that question of participants in the Democratic contests. As a result, news reports have “misrepresented evangelicals as a de facto category of the Republican Party, which is a mischaracterization of the politically independent and ideologically diverse evangelical movement,” their statement pointed out. The letter, calling for the networks to correct the exit polling by asking both Democrats and Republicans the same set of religious questions, was sent to the polling directors and political directors at ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, and The Associated Press.
“No party can own any faith. Evangelicals have broadened their agenda to include care for the planet, the poor and the stranger, and as a result are increasingly diverse politically,” said the letter.
Signers included Joel Hunter, senior pastor, Northland: A Church Distributed; David Neff, editor, Christianity Today; Jim Wallis, founder, Sojourners; Randy Brinson, founder, Redeem the Vote; Paul Corts, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; David P. Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University; Brian McLaren, author and founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church; Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University; Glen Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary.
The text of the letter is available online at http://blog.faithinpubliclife.org/upload/2008/01/Evangelical%20Letter%20to%20Networks.pdf