Mobilizing the Faithful

by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup Poll Managing Editor

The conventional wisdom is that "moral values" were key to George W. Bush's victory in the 2004 election. Indeed, Bush's strategists made it a point to mobilize conservative Christian voters, among whom a sizable proportion did not vote in 2000.

Just as labor unions are instrumental in rallying Democratic-leaning voters, churches are also believed to be instrumental in mobilizing Republican-leaning (and in the black community, Democratic-leaning) voters. Mobilization efforts can be subtle (a friend or family member encouraging someone to vote) or more direct (an organized worker driving someone to the polls), and public (candidate campaign rallies) or private (telephone calls). Gallup's post-election panel survey attempted to find out to what extent clergy made public and direct appeals to their congregations in an attempt to activate voters in this year's election.

The survey, conducted from Nov. 3-Dec. 12*, involved re-interviews with more than 1,000 respondents who originally took part in Gallup's final pre-election survey. In addition to asking about their voting experiences and the reasons behind their voting decisions, the poll also asked respondents about their recent churchgoing experiences, to see to what extent religion and politics mixed.

Sixty-eight percent of panel respondents reported attending church, synagogue, or other religious services in the past six months, while 31% said they had not. Those who attended were asked whether the priest, minister, or rabbi spoke favorably or unfavorably about a specific presidential candidate at any of these services. Eleven percent of religious service attendees said the clergy member had spoken about a candidate, while the vast majority, 87%, said the clergy member had not. Thus, it appears as if presidential politics was not a common theme from the pulpit. 

(Asked of those who attended religious services in the past six months:) At any of the services you attended, did the priest, minister or rabbi talk favorably or unfavorably about a specific presidential candidate, or not?

Yes, did

No, did not








Among the 11% who indicated a clergy member had spoken about presidential candidates, more than half said the clergy member stopped short of urging the congregation members to support a particular candidate. Of the small minority of churchgoers who say that the clergy member did urge members to vote for a candidate, they were much more likely to say they were urged to vote for Bush rather than Kerry.

Did the priest, minister or rabbi urge the members of the congregation to vote for a specific presidential candidate, or not?  [Which one?]


2004 Nov 3-Dec 12


Yes, clergy spoke about candidates


(Did not urge vote for particular candidate)


(Urged vote for Kerry)


(Urged vote for Bush)


(Urged vote for other candidate)



No, clergy did not speak about candidates



No opinion


So while churchgoers were more likely to get a Bush appeal than a Kerry appeal during a religious service, neither was apparently common in U.S. houses of worship. 

There were not any differences based on religious affiliation. Protestants (10%) and Catholics (12%) were about equally likely to say their minister or priest spoke about political candidates, and in both groups, Bush appeals were more common than Kerry appeals.   

*These results are based on interviews conducted Nov. 3-Dec. 12 with 776 adults, aged 18 and older, who indicated they had attended religious services in the past six months.  For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Respondents were drawn from Gallup's larger panel survey of 1,148 adults who had initially participated in Gallup's final national pre-election poll of Oct. 29-31, 2004. Re-interview attempts were made with 1,567 respondents from that poll.
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