Evangelicals More Diverse Than Might Be Assumed

With Christian Evangelicals now representing a third of American adults -- and over a quarter of total U.S. household income - you can bet that product marketers and retailers aren't just taking their appeal to this market on faith.

Nor should they. As with other consumer segments, a close look at Evangelicals reveals a complex and sometimes contradictory profile, according to a new report from the Packaged Facts division of Marketresearch.com.

For instance, while Evangelicals are indeed politically conservative, they encompass a growing segment of impassioned green-issues advocates. And they're far from immune to the shopping bug.

PF cross-tabbed data from Simmons Market Research Bureau's fall 2006 U.S. adult consumer survey to develop detailed profiles of Evangelicals overall and two primary subsegments, conservatives and moderates. All adults agreeing to any degree with the statement "I consider myself to be a conservative, Evangelical Christian" were classified as Evangelicals. Those who agreed strongly were classified as conservatives, while those agreeing "a little" were classified as moderates.



Turns out that 69.5 million adults are Evangelicals, meaning they represent 32.5% of all American adults (compared with 30.8% in 2004); 54% of all adults who belong to churches, temples or synagogues; and 43% of the total 161.1 million adult U.S. Christians.

Conservative Evangelicals number 38.5 million and moderates 31 million, or 18.5% and 14.5% of the U.S. adult population, respectively.

Perhaps most attention-grabbing, Evangelicals' combined household income of $2.1 trillion represents 28% of the $7.3 trillion national total (and 40% of overall U.S. Christians' $5.3 trillion).

Not surprising, then, that total sales of Christian products (ranging from Bibles to baseball caps) hit $4.63 billion last year-up from $4.3 billion in 2004, according to the Christian Retailers Association.

Christian retailers accounted for 52% of the total, but general market retailers (mass, clubs and big-box bookstores) grabbed 33% of total sales, and mainstream retailers' share is growing much faster than Christian retailers'. Also, while Evangelicals tend to prefer shopping at local and specialty stores, half say they're willing to switch to a chain, factory outlet or other non-specialty store if the price is right.

Highlights of key demographic and psychographic findings:

* Likelihood of being Evangelical increases with age. Nearly 44% of U.S. adults aged 65 or older are Evangelicals, versus 34% of those 50 to 64, 31% of those 40 to 49, 28% of those 30 to 39, and 26% of those 18 to 29.

* Women are somewhat more likely to be Evangelicals (38 million women versus 32 million men).

* 33.5% of white adults are Evangelicals, 31.3% of Hispanics, 31.9% of African-Americans and 21.8% of Asians.

* Evangelicals tend to cluster in the South (38.6%) and avoid the Northeast (23.1%). A third (33.5%) live in the Midwest, and 29.4% in the West.

* Evangelicals are fairly evenly distributed in terms of personal and household incomes: They account for roughly 30% of those at each level. However, they're 19% less likely than adults overall to earn $100,000 annually, 20% less likely to have household incomes of $150,000 or greater, and 12% more likely to have incomes under $25,000. They are about as likely as the average consumer to fall into the lower socio-economic tiers, but 10% less likely to occupy the top rungs.

* In denominational terms, Evangelicals are a very mixed bag-and Catholics are a significant factor. In fact, Baptists and Catholics are the only Evangelical denominations with percentages in the double digits (22.3% and 18.7%, respectively). Most of the group comprises small percentages of various Protestant denominations and Pentacostals/Charismatics.

* 43% of all Evangelicals (50% of conservatives and 35% of moderates) are Republican. Nearly 80% of white Evangelicals voted for George Bush in 2004 and, as of June, 71% of religious Republicans strongly approved of his performance (versus 29% of the general public). Evangelicals are 55% less likely than adults on average to be "somewhat liberal" politically and 75% less likely to endorse left-leaning politicians. Only 1.3% describe themselves as "very liberal."

* Still, in 2006, 22% of conservative and 31% of moderate Evangelicals voted Democratic. That made the moderates just about as likely as adults overall to vote Democratic.

* In polls by the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, 45% of Evangelicals supported strict environmental regulations in 2000, and 52% in 2004.

* Simmons data shows 54% of Evangelicals (10% more than adults on average) agreeing that people have a responsibility to use recycled products, and 60% saying they make a conscious effort to recycle. However, they're about 20% less likely to recycle glass beverage containers often. And pro-green Evangelicals, who call environmentalism "creation care," are up against other factions who view environmental issues as a distraction from the core mission of soul-saving.

Highlights of Evangelicals' consumer habits:

* 28.7% (versus 20.5% of the overall population) say that they "prefer to have as few possessions as possible"; 64% say they're happy with their standard of living; 72.5% say they're careful with money; 69% (slightly more than adults as a whole) say they only go shopping to buy something they really need; and just 22% agree that "money is the best measure of success."

* However, their tendencies to indulge are quite similar to the overall population's-in fact, slightly stronger, on many factors. Three quarters say it's worth paying extra for good-quality goods; 74% say they enjoy "owning good-quality things"; 29% (12% more than adults as a whole) "really enjoy" shopping; 23% admit that they often buy clothes that they don't really need; 22% say they tend to spend money without thinking; 14% spend more than they can afford for clothes; and 14% say they spend a lot of money on toiletries and cosmetics.

* 70% (about the same as the general population) own credit cards. They're 17% more likely than the average consumer to own a J.C. Penney card and 16% more likely to own a Sears card.

* 77% of Evangelicals agree that financial security for retirement is an individual responsibility. As a group, they're 25% more likely than average to agree that they'll "pay any price" for sound financial advice.

* They're also 37% more likely than average to agree strongly that they feel financially secure, although it's largely the conservatives skewing this way (nearly one in five conservatives agrees). Conservatives are also 70% more likely than average to feel "very comfortable" financially, though only 11% of moderates express this sentiment. In short, sums up PF: "The perception that material goods, and especially material wealth, are not precisely in line with Jesus's teachings may be outmoded."

Highlights of media usage habits:

* Evangelicals are highly enthusiastic about traditional electronic and print media, leaning toward options that reinforce their religious values.

* They are 15% more likely than average to report that TV is their main source of entertainment. However, conservatives are 45% more likely than average to agree strongly with this statement, while moderates are a bit less likely than average to agree strongly.

* 55% (14% more than average) rely on TV to keep them informed. Conservatives are 30% more likely than average to agree strongly that they're TV addicts.

* Over 4% of Evangelicals reported the Inspiration Network as a recent viewing destination.

* Evangelicals are 16% more likely than average to agree that radio is their preferred entertainment source, and 17% more likely to listen to radio for a quick news update.

* Overall, they're 11% more likely to read a newspaper on most days, and 9% more likely to say that they rely on the newspaper to keep them informed. (Moderates are 20% more likely on both scores.)

* 80% agree that they like spending most of their free time at home with their families. Nearly 40% enjoy watching kids' shows with their children.

* As of August, VeggieTales -- anthropomorphic vegetables with Judeo-Christian values -- were the top-selling DVD's at Christian retailers. These characters are also hugely popular on TV and in books, video games and web sites.

* Tendencies toward optimism and perfectionism may feed Evangelicals' (and particularly conservatives') thirst for inspiring tales of spiritual and material triumph over tragedy.

* Evangelicals overall are 27% more likely than the general consumer to list magazines as their main source of entertainment (moderates are 35% more likely). They're more than 30% more likely to read Southern Living, Midwest Living and Country Home. In contrast, Scientific American, Natural History and The Atlantic registered below a measurable 1% readership on the Simmons scale.

* Sales of Christian books, both fiction and non-fiction, are surging. Best-sellers include the "Left Behind" series and "The Purpose-Drive Life."

* Evangelicals are 11% more likely to agree that they like advertising to be entertaining. They're also more likely than average to notice ads in public venues.

* Nearly half say that they typically avoid watching TV commercials.

* Conservatives are 35% more likely than average to strongly agree that they don't use ads to make purchasing decisions. But conservatives are very strongly influenced by product placement. (For instance, they're 76% more likely t o strongly agree that if a TV character uses a brand, they are likely to use it, too.) Moderates are somewhat more influenced by product placements than the average consumer.

* Evangelicals are 11% more apt than other adults to say that music is an important part of their lives. (Conservatives are 13% more likely to agree.)

* They are on par with the rest of the population in cell phone usage, but behind a bit on Internet usage, computer literacy, PDA's and MP3 players.

Some of PF's key recommendations to marketers:

* To appeal to Evangelicals without turning off others, take a "faith-friendly" approach, rather than an overtly Christian or Bible-based approach. While American consumers are on average open and accepting of Christian doctrine, "most still prefer their faith 'lite,'" the analysts comment.

* With Evangelicals, it's particularly critical to research the demographics and psychographics of the segments being targeted. Knowing where they fall along the continuum of moderate to conservative is most critical of all.

* You can't miss by linking products to the physical and spiritual health of nuclear families, especially when you're targeting Evangelicals age 30 or older.

* In targeting younger segments, link faith-friendly products to mainstream culture--particularly music, communications, social networking and clothing.

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