Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Marc Nozell
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Marc Nozell

The Barna Group, led by well-known evangelical pollster George Barna, found that 43 percent of evangelicals polled said they would not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Evangelicals still overwhelmingly preferred Trump over Clinton 55 percent to 2 percent in a survey released this week.

They note in their memo how different segments favorable to Trump broke down:

Not surprisingly, the Republican candidate has won over a majority of the typically right-leaning faith segments. That includes evangelicals (among whom he holds a 55% to 2% lead over Clinton); non-evangelical born again Christians (he has a 49% to 31% lead among them); those who attend a Protestant church (47% to 32% lead); adults who claim to have a biblical worldview (57% to 30% margin); people who believe that absolute moral truth exists (48% to 37% preference for Trump); and those who consider themselves to be theologically conservative (60% for Trump, 28% for Clinton)

Clinton also lead among some faith (or non-faith) groups:

Like her GOP opponent, Clinton claims the allegiance of several faith segments. Among them are notional Christians (i.e., people who consider themselves to be Christian but are not born again – the largest of the three Christian-oriented niches, constituting a segment she leads by a 48% to 36% margin); people aligned with non-Christian faiths (among whom she has a 37% to 30% lead); atheists and agnostics (61% to 18%); and Catholics (45% to 35%).

Barna commented on the struggles evangelicals are having this election cycle.

“Although Trump has a huge lead over Clinton among evangelicals, the most noteworthy finding in this regard is that more than four out of ten evangelicals currently refuse to vote for either of those two candidates. Nearly three out of ten are presently undecided, making them the largest block of undecided votes still up for grabs. One out of eight evangelicals plan to protest the quality of the major party candidates by voting for a third-party or independent candidate. This behavior by evangelicals is unique over the course of the last nine election cycles.”

Barna notes that if the election were to be held today, the evangelical vote would be at least 20 percentage points lower than that of evangelicals for the Republican candidate in each of the last five elections.

Barna’s methodology differs from most pollsters when it comes to segmenting out evangelicals. Those surveyed don’t simply self-describe themselves as evangelicals. Instead they are asked questions in order to determine whether they can be considered an evangelical or not.

They define evangelical this way:

Have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that, when they die, they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, plus seven other conditions. These conditions include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”

Because of this I believe Barna’s survey is probably a more accurate reflection of where evangelicals stand in the presidential race.

About the survey:

This research was conducted by the Barna Group using an online survey with a nationally representative sample of adults 18 and older. A total of 1,023 adults were interviewed, resulting in 908 registered voters and 627 likely voters participating in the survey. The surveys were completed online from September 12 through September 19, 2016. The estimated maximum sampling error for the aggregate sample is plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95-percent confidence level. The sampling error estimate is higher for subgroups within the total sample.

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