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“Adventist Religion & Public Issues Survey” (Advertised as “How Will Adventists Vote?”) – John T. Gavin, William W. Ellis, Curtis J. VanderWaal

Date: 22 October 2016

Speakers: Dr. John T. Gavin, Dr. William W. Ellis, Dr. Curtis J. VanderWaal

Positions: Chair of Social Work Department at WAU (Gavin); Professor of Political Studies at WAU (Ellis); Chair of Social Work Department at AU (VanderWaal).

Topic: “Adventist Religion & Public Issues Survey” (Advertised as “How Will Adventists Vote?”)

Venue:  Garber Auditorium, Chan Shun Hall

Attendance: 51

Dr. Gavin opened by noting that questions of religious and social identity are deep and abiding.  Religious and social and political questions are challenging for Adventists and we need to understand more about the “Social” and “Political” Adventist.

Their presentation was based on the results of a March 8 survey invitation emailed to readers of Adventist Today (AT) and a similar survey emailed in May to a list of pastors with Advent Source.  They received a total of 615 responses (174 pastors and 441 readers of AT.

This was part of a series of studies, including a 2012 survey of SDA College faculty & staff and Dudley & Hernandez studies of 1984, 2004, and 2008.  They also envision a new project involving meta-analysis to develop a clearer picture of the Adventist political persona.

The speakers discussed the demographics of the survey respondents including their gender (94% male), marital status (93% married), age bracket, whether they were born in the United States, their income spread, their education level, and their ethnic background (55% white, 18% Hispanic, 13% black, 5% Asian, 9% multiracial or other).

They noted that the demographics of Adventists in the United States are more diverse than this sample.

The survey also asked about the respondents’ political orientation (conservative, moderate, liberal); party affiliation (Democratic, Republican, Independent); their religious outlook (fundamentalist, conservative, moderate, liberal); and what issues were of most concern to them (economy, health care, foreign policy, Supreme Court, terrorism, immigration, education, taxes, gun control, the environment, abortion, gay marriage).

The presenters mentioned a number of the questions from the survey and compared the survey to the Pew 2015 survey on issue priorities.  In conclusion the presenters noted that SDA opinions seem to mirror general society.

The audience posed a range of questions.  It was noted, however, that the advertised title “How Will Adventists Vote?” had not really been addressed and one of the presenters conceded that perhaps the advertised title was not quite accurate.


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