American pastors overwhelmingly

support George W. Bush over Al Gore

(Original release date:  July 18, 2000)  A nationwide Grey Matter Research study conducted among a representative sample of over 500 Protestant church pastors found that 64% of all pastors said they will “definitely” or “probably” vote for Republican candidate George W. Bush in the upcoming presidential election.  Half of the respondents said their support for Governor Bush was “definite,” while another 14% said they will “probably” vote for Mr. Bush.

 

Just 15% supported the Democratic candidate, Vice President Al Gore.  Nine percent called their support for Vice President Gore “definite,” while another 6% said they will “probably” vote for Mr. Gore.

 

Twenty-one percent of the pastors were essentially undecided.  This included 9% who said they are “completely undecided,” 8% who said they are “leaning towards” Mr. Bush, and 4% who were “leaning towards” Mr. Gore.

 

Support was sharply divided along party lines, as might be expected.  However, there was a much higher party defection rate among Democrats than among Republicans.

 

Among registered Republicans, 90% planned to vote for Mr. Bush, just 1% supported Mr. Gore, and 9% were undecided.

Among registered Democrats, just 51% planned to vote for the Democratic candidate, while 17% planned to cross party lines and vote for Mr. Bush, and 32% were still undecided.

 

Among registered independents, 41% planned to vote for Governor Bush and 18% for Vice President Gore, with 41% undecided.

 

Support for Mr. Bush was weakest in the Northeast region of the U.S., as just 51% of the Northeastern pastors definitely or probably will vote for the Governor.  Pastors in the Northeast were more likely to be undecided (31%) than to support the Vice President (18%).

 

In the study, ministers were asked to classify their personal political beliefs as conservative, moderate, or liberal.  Mr. Bush was easily winning the vote among conservatives, 89% to just 1%.  Among moderates, there was still a lot of indecision, with Mr. Bush leading 41% to 17%.  Among political liberals, Mr. Gore was leading handily, 72% to 5%.  The difference-maker was the fact that just 13% of the pastors identified themselves as political liberals, while 28% were moderates, and 59% were conservatives.

 

There are two main membership organizations for American Protestant denominations:  the National Council of Churches and the National Association of Evangelicals.  Pastors within denominations which are members of the NAE were strongly in the Bush camp, 83% to less than 1%.  Among pastors from mainline Protestant NCC-member denominations, the two candidates were in a dead heat at 35% each, while 31% were still undecided.

 

Almost all Protestant ministers claimed to be personally registered to vote (97%).  Sixty percent were registered Republicans, 22% registered Democrats, and 16% registered independents, with virtually no representation from smaller parties.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research (which independently funded and conducted the study), noted that while Protestant ministers don’t represent a large voting block themselves, they can be opinion-influencers for a substantial proportion of the American population.  “In a country in which around four out of ten adults attend a Protestant church at least semi-regularly, pastors have the ability to influence the thinking of a lot of voters,” Sellers noted.  “This usually won’t be through direct endorsements from the pulpit, but through a variety of other means such as teaching how Biblical principles apply to current events, or even by individual conversations with people in the church.  Even if pastors aren’t trying to influence people politically, they can still be influencers because of their leadership position.”

 

However, Sellers also cautioned that just because ministers were so solidly behind George W. Bush personally doesn’t mean that the people in their congregations necessarily feel the same way.  “There are many instances where studies have shown that pastors feel one way and their congregation feels something else, particularly in something like this which isn’t directly theological,” he explained.  “Pastors can be decision-influencers, but that doesn’t mean they’re decision-makers.”

 

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 were 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 accuracy.

Knowledge is the most democratic source of power.

Alvin Toffler, U.S. Author

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Pastors’ plans to vote... 

Pastors’ political registration... 

 

Group

Definitely

Bush

Probably

Bush

Leaning

Toward Bush

Completely

Undecided

Leaning

Toward Gore

Probably

Gore

Definitely

Gore

All pastors

50%

14%

8%

9%

4%

6%

9%

Northeast

36

15

10

14

7

9

9

Midwest

51

15

7

10

5

5

8

South

56

9

6

11

3

4

11

West

51

19

13

3

1

7

5

Democrats

14

4

5

17

10

18

33

Republicans

71

19

7

2

1

1

0

Independents

28

13

17

16

8

7

11

NCC member

25

10

9

15

8

13

21

NAE member

65

18

9

5

2

0

0

Conservatives

73

16

6

4

0

0

1

Moderates

27

14

15

19

7

5

12

Liberals

0

5

1

11

10

30

42

 

Group

Registered

Democrat

Registered

Independent

Registered

Republican

Not

Registered

All Pastors

22%

15%

60%

3

Northeast

37

15

46

2

Midwest

18

18

63

1

South

24

14

58

4

West

16

14

68

3

NCC member

42

18

38

2

NAE member

10

15

74

1