by AT News Team
A random sample of faculty and staff at Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities in the United States reveals that they are about as divided and confused as the general public. Adventists clearly do not have a well-defined political view, at least on the hot issues of this election year.
About 28 percent of the respondents identify with the Republican Party, 38 percent with the Democratic Party and a third are independents. Asked how they voted in 2008, 59 percent said they voted for Barack Obama, 36 percent for John McCain and five percent for other candidates. Not much different than the overall voting outcome for the nation.
Nine out of ten respondents indicated that they intend to vote in November. Asked about the most important issues that will shape their vote, 71 percent picked health care, 69 percent the economy, 56 percent education, 55 percent jobs, 50 percent the Federal budget deficit and 45 percent taxes. Several other issues were important to smaller numbers.
It should not come as a surprise that a sample of Adventists expresses concern about health or that any group of Americans are concerned right now about the economy and jobs, or that a sampling of educators lists education as a priority. Some of the questions probed more specific views which may give a clearer picture of Adventist opinion.
A total of 77 percent oppose any law that would allow churches to campaign for political candidates and that view reflects a long-standing Adventist position on separation of church and state. Perhaps more surprising, 72 percent oppose the continuation of the tax cuts for the wealthy introduced by George Bush when he was president. And 69 percent oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A majority (55 percent) oppose government funding for social services provided by faith-based organizations, despite the fact that the institutions that employ them all get significant amounts of education funding under similar arrangements.
Of particular interest are attitudes on the historic Adventist positions regarding military service. A slim majority oppose Adventists serving in combatant roles in the military, while 22 percent actually favor it. At the same time nearly two-thirds (64 percent) support significant decreases in military spending by the U.S. government. Ask specifically about the moral justification for war, only eight percent said they think most wars are morally justified, while 68 percent said they are rarely justified and 15 percent said they are never morally justified. It appears that the views of American Adventists have migrated from the peace church (Mennonite) position held at the founding of the denomination, to a position closer to that of the Catholic theology of “just war.”
Health has long been an important focus for Adventists, including advocacy by Ellen G. White in books like The Ministry of Healing for widespread public health measures, which leads logically to the strong majority (59 percent) who favor extending health insurance to all Americans. It may also be related to nearly two thirds (63 percent) favoring government funding for medical research using stem cells. Asked specifically about Obamacare, nearly half (48 percent) support it, a little more than a third (38 percent) oppose it and 14 percent have not made up their minds.
Asked if it is the responsibility of the Federal government to make sure that all Americans have health coverage, 54 percent answered “Yes” and 38 percent said “No.” In response to a question about the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare, 56 percent said it was a good thing, 27 percent said it was a bad decision and 17 percent have no opinion.
Abortion is a hot issue among Christians in America and Adventist opinion is clearly influenced by some of the debate they overhear around them. A third believe abortion should be entirely up to the woman’s choice, 52 percent believe it is acceptable in cases of rape and incest or when there is a threat to the mother’s life. Another nine percent oppose abortion under any circumstances and five percent are still not sure what to think on this topic.
Asked about how to reduce the Federal debt, 45 percent favor tax increases, 43 percent are opposed to any tax increases and 12 percent are not sure. Spending cuts are more popular, favored by 82 percent, opposed by only nine percent, with another nine percent unsure.
The respondents to this survey have high levels of civic involvement. In the last year, 60 percent worked on a community project of some kind, 48 percent were members of a service club or other civic organization, and 30 percent contacted a public official about some issue or concern. Three out of four respondents favor Adventists running for office.
The survey had a sample of 617 respondents and included all of the Adventist colleges and universities in the United States. It was designed and conducted by a team of professors from Andrews University and Washington Adventist University chaired by John Gavin, who has an academic appointment at both institutions. A complete report is being published in Spectrum, the largest journal for Adventist academics.