As with any venture, it's important to know who your target audience is.
Once you know who they are you also need to understand them as well as possible so as to increase the likelihood of communicating effectively, and persuading them of attitudes and ideas you'd like to see them embrace. I think we've been able to do this in our multi-faith work as two areas of research and reflection come together.
First, a few years ago a friend and colleague of mine, Scott Eggert of MKTNG, did some marketing analysis for us to help us fine-tune our message and audience and desires to see more evangelicals embrace a conciliatory approach to multifaith engagement. The results of that analysis dovetails with some recent demographic work by the organization More in Common and detailed in their report Hidden Tribes: A Study of America's Polarized Landscape. More in Common is interested in helping move us past our extreme polarization as represented by the far left and right wings of politics and ideology, the two groups that tend to dominate most of the discussion and media coverage. Their demographic research reveals that there is a majority who would like to see discussion and compromise. They call this majority the Exhausted Middle.
More in Common identified seven population segments that run across the ideological spectrum. Three of these are a part of our audience for evangelical engagement. They include the Traditional Conservatives, the Moderates, and a bit more challenging, the Devoted Conservatives. Demographic snapshots have been put together by More in Common and they are copied below. I list them in the order of perceived receptivity to our approach at multifaith engagement.
Traditional Conservatives 19% of Americans
Traditional Conservatives value patriotism and America’s Christian foundations. They feel that those foundations are under threat from a liberal culture that emphasizes diversity and devalues America’s achievements. They believe in values such as personal responsibility and self-reliance, and they think that too much emphasis is given to issues of gay rights, sexual harassment, and racism. They have a clear sense of identity as American, Christian, and conservative, but they are not as strident in their beliefs as Devoted Conservatives. For example, they are open to dialogue or compromise on a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought here as children, and they acknowledge that racist acts persist in the United States. They are suspicious of the traditional media, yet they are more likely than any other group to feel their voice is represented in American politics.
Main concerns: Foreign Tensions, Jobs, and Terrorism
Compared to the average American: *Thirty-three percent less likely to say the country is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful (47 percent v. 80 percent)
*Almost twice as likely to feel that people like them have a say in politics (46 percent v. 24 percent)
*Eight percent more likely to say that “having two American parents” is a “very important” part of being American (23 percent v. 15 percent)
*More than twice as likely to strongly approve of Donald Trump’s job performance (49 percent v. 19 percent)
*Twice as likely to watch Fox News (57 percent v. 28 percent) and listen to talk radio (25 percent v. 11 percent)
*Ten percent more likely to be white (79 percent v. 69 percent)
*Ten percent more likely to be older than 65 (30 percent v. 20 percent)
*Education similar to average American's
Moderates 15% of Americans
Moderates reflect the middle of the road of public opinion in America. They tend to be engaged in their communities, often volunteer, and are interested in current affairs, but uncomfortable with the tribalism of politics. They tend to be socially conservative and religion plays an important role in their lives. They feel conflicted on certain social justice issues, including same sex marriage, and they are slower to embrace change. They mostly disapprove of Donald Trump as president and overwhelmingly believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Among those planning to vote in the 2018 midterms, they favor Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 4-3. Yet they also think that political correctness has gone too far. They dislike the activism and what they see as extremism of both progressives and conservatives. While they think feminism has gone too far, they also recognize sexual harassment as an important issue. They support the notion of sanctuary cities and want undocumented immigrants to have better treatment. They tend to seek less radical solutions than Devoted or Traditional Conservatives, such as building a border wall. They are worried about the state of America and feel that American identity is slipping away.
Main concerns: Division, Foreign Tensions, and Healthcare
Compared to the average American: *More likely to follow current affairs some or most of the time (80 percent v. 72 percent)
*Five percent more likely to agree that immigration is good for the country (61 percent v. 56 percent)
*Four percent more likely to say police are more violent toward African Americans than others (55 percent v. 51 percent)
*Nine percent more likely to believe that political correctness has gone too far (89 percent v. 80 percent)
*Six percent more likely to be over 45 (60 percent v. 54 percent)
*Four percent more likely to have “some college” (27 percent v. 23 percent)
Devoted Conservatives 6% of Americans
The Devoted Conservatives are the counterpart to the Progressive Activists, but at the other end of the spectrum. They are one of the highest-income groups, and they feel happier and more secure than most other Americans. They are highly engaged in social and political issues and think that religious liberty, abortion, and terrorism are especially critical issues. They value patriotism and loyalty to the flag. They feel that traditional values are under assault and that Americans are being forced to accept liberal beliefs about issues such as immigration, racial inequality, Islam, and the role of women. They believe that American values are being eroded rapidly, and they see themselves as defenders of those values.
Main concerns: Immigration, Terrorism, and Jobs/Economy
Compared to the average American: *Almost twice as likely to list politics as a hobby (63 percent v. 35 percent)
*Three times more likely to support a US-Mexico border wall (75 percent v. 24 percent)
*More than twice as likely to have donated to their place of worship (64 percent v. 24 percent)
*Almost three times more likely to support a Muslim Travel Ban (88 percent v. 31 percent)
*Twenty-four percent more likely to oppose compromise (63 percent v. 39 percent)
*Nineteen percent more likely to be white (88 percent v. 69 percent)
*Fourteen percent more likely to be older than 65 (34 percent v. 20 percent) and much less likely to be young adults born between 1985 and 2000 (11 percent v. 27 percent)
*More likely to come from the South (45 percent v. 38 percent)