Evangelicals in SC: Not What You Think
January 20th, 2012
12:31 PM ET
10 years ago

Evangelicals in SC: Not What You Think

Charleston, SC (CNN) – Evangelicals may be the most mentioned Republican voter group in the 2012 campaign.

But in South Carolina, evangelicals say they are mislabeled, misunderstood and that they are not the single-candidate or single-issue voters many believe.

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"We've got a lot of evangelicals or believers that are with Santorum, that are with Newt [Gingrich], that are with Ron [Paul], they're all over the place," said Patrick Haddon, a 34-year-old self-described evangelical who is also the former chairman of the Republican Party in critical Greenville County.

"So why put everybody together in a lump sum together, when they're not?" he asked.

Haddon, who is an organic farmer, says he is tired of reporters and politicians branding "evangelicals" as one monolithic group. Or a one-issue group that only cares about abortion.

"I mean the life issue's number one," he said, but "taxes is right there nipping on the heels of pro-life."

Haddon is one of many religious conservatives who see the national debt, tax reform, the size of government and foreign policy issues as critical and Christian issues.

Academics in the state agree.

"I think we mislabel evangelicals so often," said Carl Evans, a professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina who specializes in religious studies. "Some of them are very progressive on social and political issues. Some, most, are very moderate or even quite conservative. But to lump them all together as if we have a block vote, is a mistake."

Adding to the discussion is the fact that all of the current Republican presidential candidates are pro-life.

So evangelicals like Mary Wood are making their choices based on other issues. Wood is a recent Clemson graduate who used to head the school's anti-abortion group "Students for Life".

"We're all pro-life and we see that all these (candidates) are pro-life, but we debate about the war and the economy and the best recovery plan and amnesty," the petite brunette said. "We are stereotyped unfortunately that (abortion) is all we care about."

Another stereotype Wood wants to clear up? That evangelicals are venomous toward those outside of their beliefs.

"I feel like they assume I'm very judgmental," she confided, "that I'm very closed-minded… and that I hate everyone else who doesn't agree with me."

She and Haddon both admitted there are some evangelicals who may fit those stereotypes but insist that is far from the norm.

Both describe their faith as something they want to share by example, not by beating people down.

And when it comes to politics, both say evangelicals may vote with their beliefs but they are not voting as a group.

"Me," Haddon said, pointing to his chest, "I will vote and I will support the guy who lines up with me."

Listen to how else Haddon and Wood defy stereotypes in our mythbusting podcast this week here.

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– CNN's Susanna Capeluto, Dan Szematowicz and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.

Also see:

Perry drops out, endorses Gingrich

Judge-drawn Texas redistricting map tossed out by Supreme Court

Gingrich releases 2010 federal tax records

Santorum tries to shoulder past Romney, Gingrich in debate

Filed under: 2012 • South Carolina
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. A Texan

    WOW, these folks are as radically right wing as they get. -–Their calendar appears to be locked in the 19th century.

    January 20, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Haddon did not mention that there are Teavangelicals for Mittens, the Cayman Kid.

    January 20, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. Al-NY,NY

    "Life is number one"...that says it all. They want to legislate behavior according to THEIR belief system. Of course smaller government to them only means social programs, entitlements, and monetary issues. For them, it's "we are in your house and you will abide by our morals"...not so small government after all

    January 20, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. mary

    havent changed my mind about you people you hate newt a nd will vote against him. why because you think you are hollier then tho. what a women does with her body is her bussiness. but i belive to kill a fetus is murder

    January 20, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. E

    They make me sick black or white they are fascists underneath they think everyone must think and act like them and are like little brats when things don't go there way people have minds of their own they are going to do whatever they want.

    They are no better than the religious extremists.

    January 20, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. logicnLA

    Easy to say they are not all the same, but they are just as easily categorized as a group. they do have very similar ideas on what makes the right candidate, no matter who they support. This is true of every group.- it's what gives them the label in the first place.

    January 20, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. Ron Donaghe

    Evangelicals all over the place in their support of candidates? Santorum, Gingrich, Paul? Say what? There's barely a bit of difference among these candidates. They're all right wing. That's like saying that they have diversified tastes, because some of them like Pepsi and some of them like Coke.

    January 20, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    mary – Mittens said on Huckabee's show he would sign a law that when an egg is fertilized, it is a human. That idea was rejected by the very conservative state of Mississippi.

    January 20, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. Jules

    I'm one of those evangelical progressives, but I surely dont understand supporting a man to lead the free world who has broken so many solemn and sacramental promises. I thought Santorum came across as a decent guy even though he was totally wrong on what he said about President Obama's curtting Veterans benefits, but other than that he wasn't bad. I don't agree with him on a lot of issues, but at least he came across as someone who cares about others.

    January 20, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    1. Newt has spent a lifetime in adulterous affairs and thinks he is worthy to become the President of the United States.

    2. Romney sends his investments overseas to avoid paying taxes to the United States government and thinks he is worthy to become President of the United States.

    3. Santorum has only one goal in life - stick his nose into each and every bedroom in the United States of America to either condemn or get his personal kicks from and thinks he is worthy to become President of the United States.

    4. Paul would bring complete anarchy to America and thinks he is worthy to become President of the United States.

    All in all it's a great crop of candidates the Republican party has going for itself.

    January 20, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. gt

    jobs ..jobs.. jobs... thats the key in november...not rev. wright or mormons...its americans who need jobs...

    January 20, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. Woman In California

    Not impressed.

    January 20, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    I am coming to the conclusion that there is a growing element within our society that is anti-civilization. We used to live in caves, and then you lived in communities of caves. This allowed members of society to become specialists: hunters and farmers. Those small social units grew and began to interact with social units, which combined intelliigence and resources to fight of fearsome predators.

    These larger units grew, became more civilized as more people were able to dedictate themselves to more advanced specialties like building houses, and eventually vehicles like carts and wagons. Neccessity improved upon those early advances, causing social units to grow larger and stronger, eventually becoming what we are today. Science and technology has given us the beginnings of space travel, from where we can view our planet in new ways.

    Now some people want to turn back to the clock, and stop the continuing EVOLVING societies that we have built up over long the eons. They want us to live by the moral standards that were written so long ago, AND live by the standards of civilization at the time those wise words were written.

    They herald freedom and liberty as their calling card to join with them. But, they wish to do so without giving the rest of us the freedom and liberty to CHOOSE for ourselves if that is the direction in which we wish to go. To those well meaning but selfish few, I wish them well. Just don't tread on my freedom and liberty.

    January 20, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. westward

    CNN – you still don't have boots on the ground in the 3 different regions of SC, do you? We really can tell. Do yourself a favor and get caught up just a little more – you might want to refresh yourself with HOW each region voted in the '08 elections by county/region (the map is still up at NY Times). If you had been doing your homework you'd realize that the Lowcountry and Midlands of SC voted for OBAMA in '08. Did it ever occur to you that evangelicals might just be a coded label that has a different meaning for every person that calls themselves that. Did it ever occur to you that people of faith might just be minorities who would never consider voting GOP?

    January 20, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  15. mark

    I am so confused maybe somebody can help me. Shamtorum won Iowa Willard won NH and Ditwitt ( Newt) is going to win SC. Yet if you look at the odds to win the republic-con nomination Willard is almost an even favorite and Newt is at 16-1. Can someone please tell me why such a gap before I go to Vegas and bet the mortgage on Newt??????????????

    January 20, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. anagram_kid

    You know the economy is improving when the right goes back the old standby of social issues. My advice to Evangelicals – worry about your own soul and figure out the real reason you are so obsessed with what other consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes. To the rest of us, the reason is obvious.

    January 20, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. WhereIsPalin

    "And when it comes to politics, both say evangelicals may vote with their beliefs but they are not voting as a group."

    However, they would certainly like to have that kind of influence.

    January 20, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    mark wrote:

    I am so confused maybe somebody can help me. Shamtorum won Iowa Willard won NH and Ditwitt ( Newt) is going to win SC. Yet if you look at the odds to win the republic-con nomination Willard is almost an even favorite and Newt is at 16-1. Can someone please tell me why such a gap before I go to Vegas and bet the mortgage on Newt??????????????
    Go read the names on the Republican ballot in Virginia. You will see only two names, Romney and Paul. Look around the country and judge who is best prepared to fight a battle in every state till the end. Compare Romney and Gingrich. Compare Santorum and Paul. Make your own judgement on who is best prepared.

    Did you notice that Newt Gingrich was selling books during most of his campaign last year? Did you notice that Gingrich slipped in a plug for his upcoming book during last night's debate? Did you notice that Gingrich is still committed to teaching a history course in 2012, and has already announced plans to continue teaching his history course online from the White House?

    January 20, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. Disgusted to the max

    This is true Democrats at work and obvious desperation as Obama prepares for his next life as an Al Green impersonator. He's certainly much better at that than he's been as President. So long BO – you stink!

    January 20, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  20. mark

    Rudy NYC I understand everything you said it all makes scene but you have to admit no pun intended the republic-cons don't want willard they are searching very hard to find someone different and i
    I believe that person will be Newt. Now does he have a snowballs chance in @^%&*% to be Barack Al Green Obama no.
    He cut a 20 point deficit in 5 days into a 5 point lead the tide is changing please explain to me how willard is going to get the momentum back especially in the south???????????????

    January 20, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  21. JT

    What a crock of horse hockey... all evangelicals (well 80+% of them) are republicans. They will support w/e republican is the nominee. that is exactly what we think and already know.

    January 20, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |