America's evangelicals are more concerned about healthcare than abortion and religious liberty - study

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Evangelicals in the US are more concerned about healthcare than any other public policy issue, new research has found. 

In the study by LifeWay Research, concerns over healthcare far outweighed abortion and religious liberty, two issues typically regarded as key battlegrounds in the US culture wars. 

The poll, conducted on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), asked the views of 1,317 people who were separated for the purposes of the survey into two categories, those with evangelical beliefs (933) and those who self-identified as evangelical Christians (1,001). 

When asked to identify the three public policy concerns that were "most important" to them, the top answer for both categories was "healthcare" (51% each).  

Among self-identifying evangelical Christians, healthcare was followed by the economy (49%) and national security (43%). 

Immigration was the most important concern for 41% of self-identifying evangelical Christians but trailing by some distance was religious liberty, which topped the list for only a third in both sets of respondents. 

Similarly, abortion was the greatest concern only for 28% of self-identifying evangelical Christians. 

Commenting on the findings, Georgetown University professor Paul Miller said in a white paper: "Our respondents surprised us by how little they appeared to care about stereotypically evangelical causes." 

He revealed that there were some differences between different racial and ethnic groups. 

"White evangelicals are far more likely to list abortion, religious liberty, national security, or immigration as a top concern than African American evangelicals or black Protestants," he said. 

"African Americans are more likely to list helping the needy, healthcare, and racial injustice. Evangelicals who attend church most frequently are least likely to say that helping the needy is a top concern. At 11 per cent, white evangelicals are the least likely to say racial injustice is a top concern."

While evangelicals are often assumed to be supporters of the Republican Party, only half of the self-identifying evangelical Christians in the LifeWay survey said they were Republican. 

However, in both sets of respondents, a majority voted for Trump (62% of those with evangelical beliefs and 64% of self-identifying evangelical Christians).  This figure increased significantly among white respondents (80% of those with evangelical beliefs and 76% of self-identifying evangelical Christians). 

ERLC President Russell Moore said: "The results of this polling project were occasionally encouraging, frequently surprising and in some cases very much indicting.

"What this polling clearly shows is that there are forces driving the church apart from one another. That shouldn't surprise us. But it should convict us."