Currently, pioneer broadcast evangelist Billy Graham showed the highest percent of respondents--15%--who said they listened or sent money to him within the last 30 days. The responses for Swaggart were 13%, Falwell 11%, and Bakker and Roberts 10% each, according to The Times Poll.
Nearly two-thirds of the general public said they had not viewed any television evangelist within the last month. But public awareness and recognition of the major figures, especially Bakker and Swaggart, have increased sharply.
While 71% of those polled said they now are aware of Bakker, compared to only 41% last July, unfavorable opinion of the resigned PTL leader zoomed from 18% to 53%. At the same time, those who regarded him favorably declined from 13% to 9%.
The popularity of Falwell, who assumed control of PTL at Bakker's request, has remained virtually unscathed, the survey showed. About 20% of the public has maintained a favorable impression of him, and the percentage of those who don't like him has stayed at 42%.
The survey suggests that, so far at least, Falwell has been able to merge leadership of his fundamentalist "Old Time Gospel Hour" and Liberty Baptist University with Bakker's Pentecostal PTL ministries without significant image damage among viewers as a whole.
There is also a rising public awareness of Swaggart. While 59% were aware of the Louisiana-based evangelist eight months ago, 72% now know enough to form an opinion about him.
But Swaggart has grown more unpopular, the poll found. Unfavorable impressions of Swaggart rose from 24% in July to 39% now. In July, 28% held favorable impressions of Swaggart, but by last weekend the figure had declined to 23%.
Robertson, who has stepped down from hosting the "700 Club" on his Christian Broadcasting Network while he is considering a run for the presidency, has climbed 8% in recognition among Americans since July. But his unfavorable rating, according to The Times polls, has risen by 10 points to a current 30%. Over the same period, his favorable rating went from 23% to 19%.
Billy Graham, who has no regular television programs, is the only one of the major TV evangelists whose unfavorable rating declined; in July, 20% held an unfavorable view of him compared to 19% now.
Distaste for Robert Schuller, whose Garden Grove-based "Hour of Power" program is watched by more households than any other religious television program, according to recent Nielsen ratings, increased slightly--from 14% to 18%--between the two Times surveys.
A series of questions asked only in the new poll sought to compare respondents' perceptions of television preachers with their opinions of other members of the clergy.
While a plurality said they think the TV evangelists are less religious (45%) and more hypocritical (43%), nearly half (49%) said they think the TV preachers are neither more nor less sexually promiscuous than other ministers. But more than two-thirds (68%) said they think the televangelists are more greedy for money.
About 44% of those surveyed said that in light of the Bakker episode, they would be less likely to watch television preachers, and 65% said they would be less likely to send them money.
Fifty-one percent said the scandal had caused them to lose faith in the credibility of TV preachers, while 34% said the Bakker affair hadn't affected their belief in televangelists.
The poll showed that despite disenchantment with television evangelists in general and Bakker, Roberts and Swaggart in particular, the overwhelming majority of respondents said their own personal religious faith remained intact.
In fact, 10% of those interviewed said the incident had made them more confident in their personal faith. Only 2% said it had diminished their faith, and 87% said the scandal had not influenced their personal religion one way or the other. And 79% said their confidence in the spiritual leaders to whom they looked for guidance was unaffected by the scandal.
Times Poll Director I. A. Lewis said the findings were based on telephone interviews with 1,268 adults who had been asked a similar series of questions in a poll last July. The margin of error for the survey was 4% in either direction.
TV EVANGELISTS' IMAGE Unfavorable ratings of television evangelists
July 9-14, 1986 March 28-29, 1987 Oral Roberts 34% 60% Jim Bakker 18% 53% Jerry Falwell 42% 42% Jimmy Swaggart 24% 39% Pat Robertson 20% 30% Billy Graham 20% 19% Robert Schuller 14% 18%
FUND RAISING, ORAL ROBERTS STYLE Do you believe that God holds conversations with Oral Roberts, or not? Yes 12% No 71% Don't Know 17% Do you believe God said He wanted Oral Roberts to raise $8 million dollars, or not? Yes 3% No 88% Don't Know 9% If Oral Roberts failed, do you believe God said he would call Oral Roberts home, or not? Yes 2% No 89% Don't Know 9% How do you feel about Oral Roberts' kind of fund raising? More inclined to give money 4% Less inclined to give money 70% No difference 22% Don't know 4%