(Photo: REUTERS/Rick Wilking)
Barna Group released the final report in a four-part series on "Christian Women Today" on Tuesday, revealing somewhat surprising statistics concerning the influence of Christian women voters and what issues concern them the most.
The research suggests that churchgoing Christian women will make up the largest category of voters come Nov. 6. While 79 percent of these women said they "definitely plan to vote" this fall, only 76 percent of churchgoing men, 60 percent of non-churchgoing men and 52 percent of non-churchgoing women said they plan to do the same.
As a result of these findings, Barna Group is projecting that 30 percent of voters in the upcoming election – that's more than any other voting segment – will be churchgoing women.
"Representing such a high percentage of the population and with such a strong likelihood to vote, Christian women are a particularly important group for politicians and pundits to pay attention to this fall," the study says.
Paying attention to Christian women also means understanding those issues that concern them the most, and some of the study's findings in this area were surprising.
It is widely believed that Christian women care most about issues including abortion, gay marriage and education, the study says, but it indicates that Christian women today are more concerned with financial issues than family issues.
The Christian women surveyed for the study were asked to identify which election issues will have "a lot" of influence on their voting decisions, and the issues that topped the list were health care (75 percent), taxes (62 percent) and employment policies (58 percent) above everything else. Issues like gay marriage (31 percent) and abortion (29 percent) were actually at the bottom of the list, and ranked only above environmental policy (25 percent).
"During harder economic times, moral issues are less of a priority than the pressure of finances, jobs and survival," David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, said in a statement in the study. "Though it has never been accurate that Christian voters only care about two issues – abortion and gay marriage – the influence of issues typically associated with the 'Christian right' may be more diffused than in previous contests."
While President Barack Obama's campaign seeks to champion women's issues, Janice Shaw Crouse, a senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute for Concerned Women for America (CWA), says women are more hurt by the current administration than any other group.
"Much of the GOP convention is designed to counter the Democrat's accusation of a 'War on Women' ... In fact, the demographic most hurt by the current administration is women – young women fresh out of college who cannot find jobs, young mothers who have to work when they prefer to stay home with their children and empty nesters whose retirement funds have been dangerously depleted by the failed policies of the Obama Administration," wrote Crouse in an article published Monday on CWA's website.
Only 27 percent of the churchgoing women surveyed said a candidate's religious faith was most important to them, while the candidate's stance on political issues (72 percent) and his character (52 percent) were deemed most important overall. The majority of Christian women (53 percent) surveyed said they support Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, though they are more likely to consider voting for Obama than are Christian men.
Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based research organization, conducted the research for this report in March via an online survey of 1,005 adults in the U.S., which were then whittled down to a group of 647 people who are likely to vote in the upcoming election. Of those who are likely to vote, 234 of them were churchgoing, Christian women who have been to a church service in the last six months.