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Ministers' Voting Preferences Surveyed

October 21, 2000|Religion News Service

A national survey of Protestant ministers shows most pastors would vote for a Catholic or an Orthodox Jew before voting for a Mormon or an atheist.

The survey conducted earlier this year by Phoenix-based Ellison Research asked 518 pastors how important they considered a candidate's personal faith, race, political affiliations and past indiscretions in deciding whom to vote for.

According to 63% of the pastors, a candidate's Jewish faith would not matter. Similarly, 64% said they would not care if a candidate was Catholic. But 76% said they would be less inclined to vote for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons.

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, said his best guess is that the Mormon disparity is a result of latent prejudices or misconceptions about the Mormon Church held by many Protestants, especially evangelicals.

"The Mormon religion, because of its massive growth worldwide and strong missionary activities, is seen by many as a threat, and if you've got an organization you're concerned about, why would you suggest someone to be the leader of the free world who comes from that organization?" Sellers asked.

When it comes to race, 84% of pastors said they would vote for an African American and 82% said the same for Asian or Latino candidates. Sixty-seven percent said gender would not make a difference, although 24% said they would be less inclined to vote for a woman.

Personal faith and piety are also important factors, according to the survey. Eighty-four percent of pastors would be more inclined to vote for a candidate who attended church regularly, and 71% would be more inclined to support a self-identified "born-again" Christian for president.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

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