Support or oppose "outlawing all abortions except when the mother's life is in danger”…

Study finds one out of five Protestant ministers is

pro-choice, while four out of five are pro-life

(Original release date:  November 14, 2000)  One of the most divisive social and political issues in America is abortion.  Newly released findings from a representative study of Protestant clergy show that only a minority of ministers are pro-choice. 

 

In the study, conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona, a representative sample of Protestant ministers across America was asked about their stance on abortion, in two different questions.  One asked whether they support or oppose “outlawing all abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger.”  Sixty-nine percent of all ministers say they strongly support this action, and another 13% somewhat support this.  Five percent somewhat oppose outlawing abortion, and 13% strongly oppose it. 

 

As might be expected, pro-choice and pro-life sentiments vary widely according to the political stance of ministers.  Among Protestant clergy who are Republican, 95% support outlawing abortion.  A majority of independents are pro-life (75%), but Democrats are split on this issue.  Among ministers who are Democrats, 57% support outlawing abortion, while 43% reject this idea. 

 

Pastors who describe their political beliefs as conservative are solidly pro-life (95%).  A strong majority of political moderates also wish to outlaw abortion (76%).  In what may be a bit of a surprise, 38% of all political liberals would like to outlaw abortion, while 62% are pro-choice. 

 

Among ministers from denominations which are members of the conservative National Association of Evangelicals, the pro-life view dominates 96% to 4%.  Among pastors from denominations in the mainline National Council of Churches of Christ, 64% wish to outlaw abortion, while 36% are pro-choice. 

 

When it comes to partial-birth abortion, the numbers are even more strongly in the pro-life camp.  Eighty-six percent of all ministers support “outlawing all partial-birth abortions,” while 14% oppose this.  Support for this is strong among almost all clergy groups:  Republicans (96%), independents (86%), and Democrats (64%); members of the NAE (98%), and the NCCC (70%); conservatives (97%), and moderates (82%).  The only group of ministers who do not support a ban on partial-birth abortions are self-described political liberals, and even in this group, opinion is sharply divided (45% support the ban, 55% oppose it). 

 

Ron Sellers is the president of Grey Matter Research.  He noted that while there is a lot of debate on this issue, this is one of the first studies to examine how a representative sample of Protestant pastors feels about abortion.  “We see all sorts of news stories about individual pastors, denominations, or groups promoting a pro-life or pro-choice stance, and it’s difficult to tell from the news how prevalent each position is within the clergy,” Sellers noted.  “This study demonstrates that the pro-life position is fairly dominant among Protestant ministers.” 

 

Sellers also anticipated that these findings may be met with some surprise and even disbelief.  “Because of the amount of attention given to both sides of this issue, many people may logically assume that opinion is evenly split.  But the fact is that conservative ministers are pretty much of one mind on this issue, while more liberal ministers are very divided between pro-choice and pro-life.  Add to that the fact that there are more politically conservative ministers in America than there are politically liberal ministers, and it’s easy to see how the pro-life position becomes fairly dominant within Protestant clergy.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  Although Grey Matter Research has numerous clients, this study was funded and conducted independently by the company. 

 

The sample of 518 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively pastoring churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±4.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level with a 50% response distribution.  The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

Truth never damages a cause that is just.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

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Attitudes about partial birth abortion, but type of minister…

 

Type of Pastor/Church

Strongly Support

Somewhat Support

Somewhat Oppose

Strongly Oppose

All Protestant ministers

78%

9%

7%

6%

Under age 45

81

7

7

5

Age 45 to 59

77

10

6

7

Age 60 or older

74

9

11

6

Northeast U.S. location

75

7

8

10

Midwest U.S. location

80

10

5

5

Southern U.S. location

76

11

8

5

Western U.S. location

80

6

9

6

Democrats

43

21

18

18

Independents

79

7

8

6

Republicans

91

4

3

1

Self-described political liberals

19

26

23

32

Self-described political moderates

69

13

13

5

Self-described political conservatives

94

3

2

1

From an NAE-member denomination

95

3

1

1

From an NCC-member denomination

52

18

16

14

 

Type of Pastor/Church

Strongly Support

Somewhat Support

Somewhat Oppose

Strongly Oppose

All Protestant ministers

69%

13%

5%

13%

Under age 45

70

11

7

12

Age 45 to 59

70

13

4

13

Age 60 or older

63

17

4

16

Northeast U.S. location

72

6

8

14

Midwest U.S. location

70

13

5

12

Southern U.S. location

66

18

4

12

Western U.S. location

73

12

3

12

Democrats

38

18

7

36

Independents

57

17

9

16

Republicans

84

11

2

3

Self-described political liberals

22

16

10

52

Self-described political moderates

54

22

9

15

Self-described political conservatives

88

7

2

3

From an NAE-member denomination

83

13

1

2

From an NCC-member denomination

45

19

8

28