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Politics: Poverty in UK society

March 2015

Dr David Landrum

The plight of the poorest in UK society is likely to affect the way Christians vote in the forthcoming general election.

The wide-ranging survey from the Evangelical Alliance — with a membership of more than 2 million ­people — was conducted among more than 2000 professed evangelicals.

According to the survey’s findings, more than 80 per cent of them will turn out to vote. This compares with Hansard’s national average of 41 per cent in the 2013
local elections.

Many surveyed cited a growing concern about the rise of poverty — with the bedroom tax, sanctions against job seekers and the fact that more than 900,000 people had to resort to food banks in 2014.

According to the survey: ‘The issues which evangelicals consider to be the most important ones facing the UK are almost diametrically opposed to those held by the general public and some politicians. While the public and some politicians regard reduction of immigration as a major priority, Christians see alleviating poverty as the most important issue facing the UK’.

Distrust

The majority said they are less likely to believe what politicians and manifesto promises say: only 6 per cent believe politicians can be trusted to keep their promises. 

Compared with 2010’s poll, there has been a 515 per cent increase in support for UKIP and 460 per cent for the Greens. Despite these increases, Labour found favour with 31 per cent of evangelicals surveyed, closely followed by the Tories with 28 per cent. 

Support for the Liberal Democrats is at 11 per cent — one point behind UKIP — while the Greens stand at 6 per cent. The two coalition parties, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, have seen significant drops, by 29 per cent and 61 per cent respectively.

‘Even so, evangelicals are conforming to a different pattern of political discontent. Things such as religious liberty, freedom of expression, poverty alleviation, human trafficking, same-sex marriage and euthanasia are what matters to this vibrant and growing part of the UK church.’ Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy of the Evangelical Alliance, said, ‘Although evangelicals still vote, it is clear the huge loss of trust in manifesto pledges is shattering longstanding loyalties. 

Labour MP Stephen Timms said he agreed that poverty would be a key concern for voters in the next general election, hailing the work of churches responsible for the growth of food banks across the UK.

Editor’s note: Next month, ET will interview Christian MPs from different parties.

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