Poll: 29% of pastors discuss candidates in pulpit

WASHINGTON (BP) -- A majority of regular churchgoers say their pastor has discussed the importance of voting, while 29 percent say their pastor has taken sides, in sermons, in the presidential race, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The Oct. 24-28 poll shows that among all churchgoers -- Protestants and Catholics who attend church at least monthly -- 15 percent say their pastor's message has been more supportive of President Obama while 14 percent say the pastor's sermon has been more supportive of Mitt Romney. But what "people are hearing" from their pastor "varies greatly by race," the survey shows. For instance:

-- Among black Protestants, 45 percent say the pastor has supported Obama, with none in the sample saying the pastor backed Romney.

-- Among white evangelicals, 26 percent say their pastor has been more supportive in the pulpit of Romney but only 5 percent say the pastor has been more supportive of Obama.

-- Among white Catholics, 21 percent say the pastor has supported Romney, while 4 percent say the pastor has backed Obama. White mainline churchgoers say the pastor also was more likely to support Romney (13 percent to Obama's 7 percent).

Still, though, "most regular churchgoers say the messages they are hearing at church are neutral when it comes to the 2012 election" -- whether or not the pastor mentions the candidates directly.

Meanwhile, 52 percent of regular churchgoers say their pastor has discussed the importance of voting. Black Protestant pastors (79 percent) are the most likely to mention it, followed by white evangelical pastors (52 percent), white Catholic clergy (46 percent) and white mainline pastors (32 percent).

Pew also examined what issues pastors discuss and found, according to churchgoers:

-- Hunger/poverty has been discussed in recent months by 83 percent of white Catholic clergy, 74 percent of black Protestant pastors, 73 percent of white mainline pastors and 69 percent of white evangelical pastors.

-- Abortion has been spoken about by 58 percent of white Catholic clergy, 36 percent of white evangelical pastors, 29 percent of black Protestant pastors and 19 percent of white mainline pastors.

-- Homosexuality has been discussed by 40 percent of white evangelical pastors, 37 percent of black Protestant pastors, 24 percent of white mainline pastors and 20 percent of white Catholic clergy.


Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).