Evangelicals and Immigration: Crunching the Numbers


America is wrestling with whether or not to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and the debate has been lively to say the least. Just this afternoon, police arrested 40 of the 200 pro-immigrant protestors demonstrating outside of the U.S. Capitol. I suspect this won't be the last we'll hear from them. Meanwhile, religious and political commentators are debating how effective the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a group of Christian leaders who support reform, have been in convincing their politically influential community at the grassroots level. I've long supported immigration reform, even making a case for why I believe Christians should support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Yet, I've also said that I don't believe that the EIT has been as effective as some assume at mobilizing the masses.

In support of my opinion, I cited research from March/April of this year conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in partnership with the Brookings Institution. As I said:

According to a recent poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution, only 56 percent of evangelicals believe that undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements. That percentage is essentially unchanged since 2006 when Pew reported that 54 percent of evangelicals favored “allowing undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and the possibility of citizenship.”

Several Christian friends who support immigration reform like I do sent me some less-than-affirming. They weren't happy that I "said discouraging things about the movement." But I just call it like I see it. Their criticism intensified when a CBS poll reported earlier this week that 75% of evangelicals support a pathway to citizenship.

Napp Nazworth of The Christian Post says the problem is that the PRRI data was of "white" evangelicals while the CBS poll included all evangelicals. Unfortunately, Napp is wrong. After checking, the CBS poll reports on all evangelicals. Of course, any religion writer should know that when discussing the conservative evangelicals at the core of the Republican base, journalists are often speaking of white evangelicals even though they don’t specify. Religion writers often say that "white” is the "silent adjective" when it comes to talking about conservative evangelicals.


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