Conservative Christians and pastors identify groups they say had greatest influence on election

While the SAGE Con Weekly previously reported on the media personalities who had the greatest impact on the minds of conservative voters (Click Here to November 16 release), there were many other entities besides the media pundits who had significant influence on the election. The national election surveys conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute among SAGE Cons – Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives – and among theologically conservative pastors (dubbed “theolocon pastors”) provided insight into what groups outside of the media left their mark on the election outcome. Eight different entities that sought influence on voters were evaluated.

Influence According to SAGE Cons

Christian conservatives suggested that of the eight non-media sources of influence evaluated, labor unions had the most impact of all. In total, three out of ten SAGE Cons said that labor unions had “a lot” of impact on peoples’ voting decisions.

After labor unions, three entities had the next highest impact, each with roughly the same level of influence in the eyes of SAGE Cons. Those were President Obama (25% said he had “a lot” of impact), voter guides (24%), and Christian non-profit organizations (23%).

The lower half of entities on the list, in terms of impact, were Protestant churches and pastors (20% attributed “a lot of impact” to them); public opinion polls (15%); celebrities who endorsed a candidate (14%); and Catholic churches and priests (12%).

When the top two descriptions of influence were added together – that is, having either “a lot” or “some” impact on voting decisions – the ranking changed slightly. Voter guides jumped from the third most influential entity to the top-rated source of influence, with eight out of ten SAGE Cons (79%) placing voter guides at the top of the list. Labor unions slipped to the second-highest ranking (76%), tied with Christian non-profit organizations (76%). Rounding out the top half of the rankings were Protestant churches and pastors, placing fourth with 74% naming them as having had at least some influence.

The ACFI election survey also revealed that voter guides were widely used by SAGE Cons. Overall, three out of four SAGE Cons (75%) said they relied on at least one voter guide to help them make voting decisions in the November election.

Influence Noted by Theolocon Pastors

Theologically conservative pastors saw things differently. Although Protestant churches and pastors ranked fifth in influence among the SAGE Cons, those religious leaders and organizations placed at the top of the list according to the pastors themselves. One out of every five theolocon pastors said such entities had “a lot of impact” on voters. Statistically tied, at 19%, were labor unions. The third-ranked entity was President Obama (16%), followed by a tie between voter guides and Christian non-profit organizations (each listed by 13%).

The entities deemed by pastors to be least likely to have had “a lot of impact” were public opinion polls (12%), Catholic churches and priests (9%), and celebrities who endorsed a candidate (7%).

When the top two descriptions of voting impact were combined – “a lot” plus “some” impact – the rankings changed slightly. Theolocon pastors continued to rate their profession and churches on top of the heap (75%). They were distantly trailed by labor unions (66%), Christian non-profit organizations (59%), Catholic priests and churches (58%), and voter guides (58%). Toward the bottom of the list were President Obama (50%); public opinion polls (47%); and celebrities who endorsed a candidate (37%).

Noteworthy Differences

Some of the differences in perspective between SAGE Cons and theolocon pastors are worth noting.

  • Conservative pastors clearly had a much higher opinion of their influence on the election than did the people they sought to influence. While the pastors tended to rate themselves at the top of the list, conservative voters placed them in the middle of the pack in terms of influence. Similarly, theolocon pastors were more likely to see significant influence from Catholic priests and churches than was experienced by SAGE Cons.
  • Conservative pastors also believed that Christian non-profit organizations had a much greater influence on the voting decisions of people than did Christian conservatives.
  • In the eyes of SAGE Cons, President Obama was highly influential in the election. In the eyes of conservative pastors, the President had much more limited influence.

Another observation from the data is that when compared to the views of SAGE Cons, theolocon pastors assigned less influence to each of the eight entities evaluated. The average percentage citing “a lot of impact” was 20% among SAGE cons but just 14% among pastors. When the “a lot of impact” and “some impact” responses were combined, SAGE Cons had an average of 68% for the eight entities, compared to only 56% among pastors.

Nobody Can Take Full Credit

In reviewing these results, George Barna, the researcher who directed the survey for the American Culture and Faith Institute, stated, “Obviously a lot of different players had influence on the outcome of the election. There were dozens of media personalities who impacted peoples’ perceptions, plus all of the kinds of organizations and individuals tested in this survey. It is ludicrous to hear some of the campaign personnel and other political professionals attributing either Mr. Trump’s win or Mrs. Clinton’s loss to a particular individual or entity. A lot of people and organizations besides the candidates affected the minds and hearts of voters.”

Barna also commented on the finding that a huge majority of both conservative pastors and    conservative voters felt that each of the entities tested made a difference. “Even the least impactful of the entities tested in this survey were said to have had some level of influence by at least five out of six respondents. That should encourage those who participated in the election to feel as if their efforts made a difference. In a democratic republic like ours, the system only works when people are involved. These findings indicate that even limited or low-budget activities are very likely to make some difference in the election, and that such attempts at influencing voters may not get a lot of attention but are generally worth the effort.”


About the Research

The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey undertaken for this report had sample size of 7,000 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute from November 8 through 15, 2016.

In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.

The research about pastors described in this report is part of the Conservative Clergy Canvass™, a longitudinal survey among theologically conservative pastors of Christian churches. The survey undertaken for this report had a sample size of 500 qualified pastors and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute on the night of November 8, 2016.

ACFI estimates that there are between 95,000 and 110,000 theologically conservative Christian churches in the United States.

The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process, in ways that are consistent with the gospel of Christ. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.

Additional information about this study and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.


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American Culture & Faith Institute
By: George Barna
Contact: Terry Gorka –, 805-340-0608