Issues & Ideas | 26th November 2014

We tend to think Jesus would do what we would do

What would Jesus do? YouGov have polled the public. He would want open borders […]

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What would Jesus do? YouGov have polled the public.

He would want open borders and to renationalise the railways, but be undecided about gay marriage and oppose the death penalty. But many of us are unsure. At least a third of voters – and sometimes more than half – can’t muster an answer to these hypotheticals.

Do these questions also reveal something about us as voters? While people seem to mainly answer the questions without regard to their political beliefs, there are clear divides between voters of different parties. The poll shows what we might expect – our view of Jesus’ opinions is partly determined by our own.

Take immigration.

A third of us think Jesus would want “no restrictions at all” – open borders! Even the Green Party don’t think that. Only 1 in 20 of us think Jesus would want no immigration at all. Another 10 per cent think he would want tighter limits.

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But that varies greatly between the parties. A third of Ukippers think Jesus would want no immigration or tighter borders, but only 6 per cent of Lib Dems agree. (As always with individual polls, we are looking at small sample sizes with high margins of error.)

What about gay marriage? It’s another issue that divides the liberal and the conservative, and again each think Jesus would tend towards their view.

Only a fifth of Ukippers think Jesus would support gay marriage, while around half of Labour and Lib Dem voters think he would.

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As a country we can’t decide. Just over a third of voters say Jesus would be supportive, just under a third say he wouldn’t. (This echoes a “Jesus survey” YouGov ran of American voters in July.)

The even more startling differences are by age – just as they are on the issue itself. Here is how opinions of Jesus’ view on gay marriage differ by age group:

We can find a similar story in the rest of the data. Only 30 per cent of Tories think Jesus would want to renationalise the railways, but closer to a half of Labour and Lib Dem voters think so. And a third of Ukippers think Jesus would favour the death penalty, while fewer than a sixth of mainstream voters think he would.

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But we can over-emphasise this bias. Even Tory voters agree Jesus would be three times more likely to support than oppose renationalising the railways. And Ukip voters, who are vehemently pro-death penalty, are divided on whether Jesus would agree with them.

Some people clearly don’t think we should engage with such pontificating at all.

But these questions offer insights. We can even pick-up a slight difference in attitude by looking at religion. 40 of the areligious think Jesus would support gay marriage; 31 per cent of Christians think he wouldn’t.

What would Jesus do? If we offer an opinion, it’s likely to be shaped by our own.

Graphics by Charles Morris.