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Evangelicals take poverty personally, survey finds

05 June 2015


Committed: the Work & Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, extols changes to the benefits system, at the Conservative Party Conference, in Birmingham, last month

Committed: the Work & Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, extols changes to the benefits system, at the Conservative Party Conference, in Bir...

EVANGELICAL Christians attribute poverty to personal factors such as family breakdown and addictions, new polling by the Evangelical Alliance (EA) suggestions.

They are less likely than the general population to want a reduced welfare budget, none the less.

The survey is based on the responses of 1607 people who completed a poll in November and described themselves as Evangelical Christians. Some were members of the EA's regularly-surveyed panel; others accepted an invitation online.

Asked to choose the top five causes of poverty in the UK, they were most likely to select: welfare dependency, personal debt, family breakdown, poor management of household budgets, and addictions. Three-quarters (75 per cent) gave "laziness" as a top-five reason. Lack of employment was suggested by 64 per cent; low pay by 59 per cent.

Good education, strong businesses that offer employment, debt advice, and preventing family breakup were most likely to be given as the best ways to tackle poverty. One quarter selected "government policies to redistribute wealth".

The results suggest a limited faith in the Government's response. Just 26 per cent agreed that welfare reform was successful at encouraging more people to go into work. Fifteen per cent felt that the current economic policy was "working well to produce a more prosperous future for all".

Two-thirds thought that the welfare reforms were having a "negative impact on the sick and disabled", and 58 per cent disagreed with the bedroom tax. Almost half (46 per cent) disagreed that cutting benefits was a good way to tackle poverty. More than three-quarters agreed that current economic policy was "hurting the poor more than the rich".

Fewer than a quarter (22 per cent) thought that the welfare budget was too high, compared with 46 per cent of the national population and 47 per cent of weekly C of E churchgoers polled by YouGov for the Westminster Faith Debates.

They were also less likely than both to agree that the welfare system had created a dependency culture, and more likely to agree that most who relied on the system were "victims of circumstances beyond their control".

The respondents were polled about their own response to poverty in the past year. Three-quarters (73 per cent) had given to a charity tackling poverty overseas, and 70 per cent had donated to a foodbank.

More than half (56 per cent) had given money to someone they knew personally who was facing poverty; ten per cent had shared a meal in their home with someone who was "hungry, destitute or homeless".

Almost two in five (39 per cent) admitted to feeling guilty for not helping when they could have done so. Two-thirds agreed that the UK was "not very good at evangelising and discipling the poorest sections of society". One quarter (27 per cent) said that their church had seen people in poverty come to faith.

The respondents were generally affluent: 58 per cent described themselves as "comfortable with no financial worries", and another 30 per cent were "usually getting by". But 11 per cent had experienced "serious debt problems".

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