A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll has revealed that many American churchgoers regularly hear about politics, and that a significant number of pastors have even talked about specific candidates – despite IRS regulations.
The poll found that 52 percent of regular churchgoers have heard clergy stress the important of voting in the upcoming election, and 19 percent have talked about the specific candidates – although who the pastors seemed to support varied across race and denominational lines.
Black Protestants were most likely to lean toward President Barack Obama – 40 percent of churchgoers who responded to the survey said that their pastors talked about the election, and in all cases supported Obama. This stands as a contrast to all other denominations, which were slightly more likely to lean toward GOP candidate Mitt Romney, although pastors from such congregations also talked about the election less.
White mainline Protestant churchgoers were the least likely to hear talk about political candidates, the poll revealed, with only 5 percent of respondents indicating they had heard a specific candidate mentioned. Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants heard a relatively moderate amount of political talk from their church leaders, with Romney enjoying the most support from white evangelical pastors, who favored him at 26-to-5 percent compared to Obama.
Pastors are generally careful not to endorse a specific candidate in fear of losing their tax-exempt status from the IRS, who prohibit nonprofit endorsement of political leaders.
Another statistic presented by Pew Research reveals that although same-sex marriage and abortion have dominated media news stories for many years, most churches overall still spend most of their time talking about the poor and hungry. Seventy-four percent of all churchgoers reported to have heard sermons on this topic, compared to 37 percent on abortion, 33 percent on homosexuality, 21 percent on religious liberty and 16 percent on Immigration.
Among denomination lines, Roman Catholics focused most on hunger and poverty at 83 percent and on abortion at 62 percent, while White Evangelicals were the ones most likely to talk about homosexuality, at 40 percent.
Roman Catholics were also on the forefront of religious liberty and immigration issues. In protest of the HHS mandate imposed by Obama that forces religious employees to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception and birth control, a number of Catholic institutions and groups have filed lawsuits and stated religious liberty demonstrations against the mandate. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also pushed for more rights and protection to be afforded to immigrants, and have stood against attempts to discriminate against them.
The Pew survey was conducted between Oct. 24-28, 2012, among a national sample of 2,008 adults across all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.