Are Conservative Pastors Ready to Lead the Way to Cultural Transformation?

With 80% of theologically conservative pastors voting for Donald Trump, one thing is clear: they are not ready to surrender America to “progressive” political principles. What is not as clear is whether they are ready to help lead the nation in a more conservative, biblically-consistent direction in relation to dimensions such as education, entertainment, business, media, and governance.

A survey conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute among a national sample of theologically conservative pastors provides some insight into the thinking of these pastors as the nation braces for the transitions that are inevitable with Donald Trump assuming the presidency and a reconfigured Congress ready to be sworn in.

Glimpses into Their Worldview
Theologically conservative pastors are indisputably into pursuing their Christian faith. The survey revealed that they universally claimed to be “deeply committed to practicing my faith” and “enjoy attending church services” – which is not surprising since they typically lead those services.

But as an indicator of their seriousness about integrating their faith into their everyday experience, 99% of them state that they are willing to take unpopular stands, as long as those stands coincide with their spiritual beliefs.

The research also showed that there is a high degree of consistency between their spiritual and political ideologies. For instance, 97% are politically conservative on social issues. Nine out of ten are also conservative on matters of government regulation (91%) and fiscal policies (88%).

These pastors do not automatically embrace socially accepted concepts. An example is their general dismissal of the popular notion of being “spiritual but not religious.” Only one-quarter of conservative pastors (28%) describe themselves in this way. Most of them would embrace being both spiritual and religious.

They also do not embrace every popular movement or fad that comes down the pike. A case in point is that just one out of every seven (14%) says that they support the Black Lives Matter movement. While they believe that all lives matter and are important, they are leery of movements that use dubious tactics to generate attention or get their way.

Almost all of them, however, affirm that they support traditional moral values (99%). That was one of the fundamental attributes that led them to support Donald Trump by such a large margin. Despite their concerns about his character, they recognized that the platform he was promoting reflected perspectives that were important to theological conservatives, as characterized by his position on moral issues such as abortion and religious freedom.

Politics in Not Our Salvation
Theologically conservative pastors – sometimes referred to as “theolocon pastors” – approached involvement in the recent election with trepidation. While most of them realize that politics and government have substantial influence on American life, they do not want to allow that arena to undermine the image and the role of Christianity and the local church in the U.S.

That helps to explain why they were attentive to information about the election, but only one out of four (26%) said they could be considered to be “political junkies.” And even though the Republican Party typically offers candidates who are more conservative than those backed by the Democratic Party, less than two out of five theolocon pastors (37%) said they are “loyal to the Republican Party.” Many of them feel used by the GOP and thus wish to maintain objectivity and independence in moving forward politically. As some pastors have put it, their allegiance is to the king of the universe rather than to a popular candidate or a self-serving political organization.

Outlook on the Future
Significantly, most theologically conservative pastors are not excited about the future of the nation; only 44% feel excited. A much larger proportion – 57% – feels angry about the current state of the country.

One possible explanation for such concern about the future is that 70% say they do not “respect and admire” Donald Trump. While most of them felt he was the best of two uninspiring choices, they are not setting their hopes too high. Indeed, less than half of them believe that he will be able to heal and unite the country.

Another likely reason underlying their concern for the future is their distaste for the mainstream news media. More than nine out of ten theologically conservative pastors felt that mainstream journalists provided “unfair and subjective” reporting throughout the campaign season. That is one reason why a declining proportion of them are relying upon mainstream media sources for their information. Over the past few years, ACFI research has found a growing reliance of these pastors upon independent news sources.

Aware of the enormous influence the mainstream media has on peoples’ understanding of reality and how they perceive the world around us, many of these pastors will restrain their enthusiasm about the future until the progressive media industry can be held more accountable for its reporting.

One of the most intriguing results from the survey relates to the issues that theologically conservative pastors identify as the critical challenges facing America today. When asked to choose the two most important issues, the top choices were abortion (34%), the forthcoming Supreme Court nominations (21%), America’s moral decline (20%), marriage and family (14%), and religious freedom in the U.S. (13%). The inclusion of these issues at the top is the list is not particularly surprising.

What may be surprising, though, are some of the issues that were virtually ignored by theologically conservative. Those included the Israel-Palestine conflict (mentioned by less than one-half of 1%), poverty (1%), global religious persecution (1%), and racism and intolerance (3%). Given the format of the survey these low percentages do not mean that conservative pastors consider these issues to be unimportant; rather, they are simply not important enough to be a “top-two” priority. Nevertheless, the near-invisibility of these issues raises questions about whether such matters are lost in the din of the national conversation surrounding other challenges.

A Time of Opportunity

With the election behind us, and the public wondering how we will comport ourselves in the months and years to come, theologically conservative pastors have a huge window of opportunity before them, according to research veteran George Barna, who directed the ACFI research.

“One of the chief tasks of our national leaders, starting with Mr. Trump but certainly including our nation’s pastors, is to bring healing and unity to the forefront of our agenda. Until that happens, little of lasting value is likely to take place,” Barna commented. “Trump cannot accomplish the restoration and renewal process alone. Whether he realizes it or not, he needs the Christian Church to be a major contributor to such an effort. And it is an outstanding opportunity for the Church to be what it is meant to be: a source of wisdom, love, unity, and truth.

“But being effective in such a role will require pastors to provide strong leadership, based on a compelling vision of America’s future and a winsome approach to incorporating biblical values and principles into the fabric of American society,” the researcher continued. “No restoration plan will be successful without a spiritual edge to it. Our research among conservative pastors indicates that they have been reluctant to provide aggressive cultural leadership and to prepare their people to alternately lead with passion and follow with humility during this time of transition. The Trump victory simply gives God’s people an expanded time to be light in the midst of cultural darkness and confusion. The coming year will begin to reveal whether the American Church is up to the task.”

About the Research

The research 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 www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.

Four Out of Five Conservative Pastors Voted for Trump Despite Misgivings about His Character

While much has been made about the refusal of most theologically conservative pastors to use the pulpit to teach biblical perspectives on current issues, one thing is clear: they had little hesitation to personally support the more conservative candidate in the presidential election. An election-night survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) shows that 80% of those pastors voted for Donald Trump and only 5% voted for Hillary Clinton – the same proportion that voted for Evan McMullen. In addition, 7% voted in the November 8 contest, but did not vote for a presidential candidate.

That level of support for Donald Trump represented an uptick from June of this year, when 70% of theologically conservative pastors had planned to vote for GOP nominee. During that same time period, SAGE Cons – the politically and theologically conservative Christians who are engaged with both their faith and the political environment – increased their support for Donald Trump from 75% in June to 94% on Election Day.

Misgivings about Both Candidates

The ACFI survey revealed that while some pastors warmed up to Donald Trump over the past year, they never did come to appreciate Hillary Clinton.

Despite early reservations about Mr. Trump, half of all theologically conservative pastors (50%) wound up having a favorable impression of him by the time of the election. (The same proportion – 50% – admitted to having an unfavorable opinion of him.) That thawing of opinion did not occur for Mrs. Clinton, who began the campaign season with low marks from conservative pastors and saw them remain low. On Election Day, when the survey was conducted, only 4% had favorable impressions of her while 95% held an unfavorable opinion of her.

Pastoral opinions of the Vice Presidential candidates were even more bifurcated. Almost nine out of ten theologically conservative pastors (88%) had favorable opinions of Mike Pence. In contrast, just 7% had a favorable image of Timothy Kaine, the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, while almost three-quarters (72%) had an unfavorable impression of him.

The legacy of Barack Obama did nothing to help the Democratic candidates in the eyes of theologically conservative pastors. Just one out of ten of them (11%) had a favorable opinion of the incumbent president while the other nine out of ten (89%) held an unfavorable view.

The ACFI research indicated that the backing of Donald Trump by theologically conservative pastors was not a foregone conclusion. Barely one-third of these clergy (37%) said that they are “loyal to the Republican Party.” The survey also discovered that their support for the New York businessman was in spite of his character. Although past election studies show that the character and morals of a candidate is usually the primary reason that pastors back a candidate, in this election fewer than one out of ten theologically conservative pastors said Mr. Trump’s character and morals were a compelling reason to vote for him. Further, seven out of ten of the pastors interviewed felt that neither Mr. Trump nor Mrs. Clinton were people whom they respected and admired.

Critical Issues

Similar to what happened among SAGE Cons, theologically conservative pastors experienced a shift during the course of the campaign in the issues they deemed to be the most serious challenges facing America.

At the start of the Trump-Clinton face-off, theologically conservative pastors were most likely to mention the nation’s moral decline (25%), abortion (21%), marriage and family (19%) as the major issues. By Election Day, both the ranking of specific issues and the percentages of pastors identifying those issues as significant had changed noticeably. By November 8, the most frequently cited issue was abortion, listed by (34%), followed by the Supreme Court nominations (21%). This reordering of priorities coincides with the messaging efforts undertaken by several dozen Christian non-profit organizations that were part of the United in Purpose coalition that sought to bring the importance of those particular issues to the attention of Christian conservatives during the last three months of the campaign.

Several issues that are faith-related never caught on as major considerations among theologically conservative pastors. For instance, the June survey showed that only 15% felt that religious freedom was a serious national challenge; 4% mentioned Middle Eastern policies, including the Israel-Palestine conflict; and just 9% identified understanding Islam and how to respond to Islamic aggression as a major threat. On Election Day, the numbers remained virtually unchanged: 13% mentioned religious freedom, 5% listed Middle Eastern foreign policies, and 4% said responses to Islamic aggression.

Being Informed Mattered to Them

The ACFI survey found that theologically conservative pastors were interested in staying informed about the candidates. One indication was that four out of five of them (81%) watched one or more of the three Trump-Clinton debates. Nearly one out of five (18%) credited those debates with influencing their candidate selection.

The survey also pointed out that about three-quarters of these pastors (73%) said that they consulted one or more voter guides before voting. In many cases, those guides were most helpful in giving them insights into other races or initiatives that appeared on the ballot in their state.

More Personal Conversations

The survey also discovered that theologically conservative pastors were more likely to engage in persuasion conversations with potential voters than they had expected. In June, just 23% of these pastors said they were likely to interact with people who planned not to vote or to vote in a way that differed from their own leaning in order to persuade them to support their preferred candidate. Most of them (75%) planned to avoid such a conversation with those people.

However, by Election Day, twice as many (46%) had actually undertaken such exchanges with people who planned to not vote or to support a different candidate than the pastor was supporting.

The Campaign Lured Them In

George Barna, who directed the research study for the American Culture & Faith Institute, stated that as the campaign progressed it drew pastors in, despite their plans to stay at arms-length. “Early on, most theologically conservative pastors indicated that they would personally be attentive to the race for the White House but would not get personally involved in the process. By the end of the campaign season, the intensity and the stakes involved caused a greater number of them to engage with the process. While most theologically conservative churches remained somewhat removed from the election process, many pastors were drawn to the race in ways even they did not expect.”

Barna pointed out that one out of every six theologically conservative pastors (16%) personally contributed money to one of the candidates and nearly one-third of them (30%) tried to get unregistered voters they knew to register. “That kind of participation is encouraging,” Barna commented, “and gives some hope that in the future they might allow that interest to affect their ministry at the church, as well.”

About the Research

The research 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 www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.

Survey Reveals the Political Analysts Who Had the Most Influence on Conservative Christians

The national media featured dozens of analysts who spent numerous hours trying to shape the thinking and behavior of the public throughout the recently concluded presidential election season. A new national survey conducted on Election Day reveals which of those commentators had the biggest influence on one of the most important voter segments in this year’s election: conservative Christian voters.

Media Helped Shift the Vote

The survey of 3,000 conservative Christians who voted in the November 8 election found that five media analysts had “a lot of influence” on people’s thinking about the presidential race among at least 10% of the SAGE Con constituency. (SAGE Cons are the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives tracked in national surveys by the American Culture & Faith Institute, which conducted this study. More details about the nature of that group are provided at the end of this article.)

The media personality with the greatest influence was Rush Limbaugh, listed by one out of every five SAGE Cons (19%) as having a lot of influence on their election considerations. The veteran broadcaster was closely trailed by Sean Hannity, who was chosen as having “a lot of influence” on their election thoughts by 17%.

The other trio of talk-show hosts whose influence was mentioned by at least one out of ten Christian conservatives were Bill O’Reilly (14%), Laura Ingraham (12%), and Tony Perkins (11%). Unlike the others at the top of the list, Perkins is not a fulltime media professional. He is the President of the Family Research Council, a Christian ministry engaged in advancing faith, family, and freedom in public policy and society from a biblical worldview. His daily radio program, Washington Watch, along with the numerous articles he published over the course of the campaign, clearly hit home with the conservative Christian community.

Other Popular Voices

Of the more than three dozen media personalities whose influence was explored through ACFI’s election research, eight other media professionals emerged as highly influential with SAGE Cons. Charles Krauthammer was identified as highly influential in their campaign reflections by 9% of the conservative Christians. Tim Wildmon, host of a daily program on the American Family Radio network, the national broadcasting ministry of the American Family Association, was next. His influence was cited by 6% of the survey respondents.

Rounding out the top 13 political analysts were Megyn Kelly (5%), Pat Robertson (5%), Todd Starns (4%), Eric Bolling (4%), Glenn Beck (3%), and Michael Savage (3%).

Audience Patterns

The research revealed several audience patterns of interest.

  • Tim Wildmon, Todd Starns, and Pat Robertson all drew a greater share of their following from among those who are more conservative on social matters than they are on fiscal policy.
  • Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Tony Perkins were more likely to attract people who are very conservative than those who are moderately conservative.
  • Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh were more likely to appeal to Christians who were more fiscally conservative than socially conservative.

The results also underscored the fact that the most conservative Christian voters consumed a greater amount of political media than did Christians who are more tempered in their conservative leanings. The most conservative Christians also awarded the highest influence ratings to seven of the 13 media personalities on the list.

Dominance by a Few

The research showed the undeniable influence of the Fox media conglomerate within the Christian community.

“A majority of the most influential voices impacting the minds of Christian conservatives were broadcast primarily by Fox television and radio stations,” noted George Barna, the researcher who directs the efforts of the American Culture & Faith Institute. “Several ministry leaders, such as Tony Perkins, Tim Wildmon, and Pat Robertson were included in the list, but they were outnumbered by individuals whose fulltime focus is media hosting.”

Barna also pointed out that the media personalities at the top of the list tended to be those who appear on both daily radio and daily television programs. “It often seems that influence on the public’s thoughts is tied to saturation exposure. Some of these political analysts are broadcast on radio and television more than four hours a day, five days a week, and their comments are often turned into articles, blog posts, video clips, and other media content, extending their reach even further.

“In the same way that campaigns buy as much media time as they can afford in order to capture public attention and persuade people to think in a particular manner, these political analysts benefit from tremendous daily exposure that no campaign or organization could afford to pay for,” Barna continued. “The liberal voting community undoubtedly has a similar profile of exposure to the political analysts featured on the more liberal outlets, like CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and NPR. For better or worse, the dozens of national political commentators featured on all of these media had a significant hand in shaping the election.”

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 3,000 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute on the night of November 8, 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 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 www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.

God Uses Strong Christian Support to Place Donald Trump in the White House

The political pundits, who incorrectly predicted a Hillary Clinton victory, conceded that a strong turnout and avalanche of votes from Christian conservatives carried Donald Trump into the White House early this morning. But in the eyes of many Christians across the land, Mr. Trump was the recipient of a miracle and America has been granted one more chance to repent and turn the nation’s hearts back to God.

An Improbable Victory
In an election where Donald Trump was the least experienced candidate in the field, he shocked everyone by winning his party’s nomination – with opposition from the party power brokers – and then stumbled through a General Election campaign that featured the most negative tone of any in recent history. Political analysts wrote off his campaign, but he stubbornly hung on, stunning the experts that the election was even close coming into the final week of the race.

In the eyes of Christians, God’s fingerprints are all over his victory. Consider what the president-elect had going against him:

  • He was facing an opponent with decades of experience, a deep network of contacts, universal name recognition, campaign infrastructure, party backing, and a sitting president who worked hard for her election
  • He lacked any political experience, which was evident in his debate performances, his public speaking, his staffing choices, and his bare-bones and sometimes confusing policy statements
  • He was outspent by an estimated 2:1 ratio
  • His campaign had virtually no “ground game” – the effort of local staff and volunteers to identify supporters and turn them out to vote
  • He was not only mistreated by the media – he made a game of calling them out for their lies and bias, a strategy no previous candidate had dared attempt
  • Abandoned by the Republican establishment, his own party disowned him and many of its leaders very publicly criticized him and said they would not vote for him
  • Two out of three Americans believed he is unqualified to serve as president, and his “favorability score” was the lowest of any presidential candidate since polling began
  • Foreign leaders mocked him as unworthy of leading the country
  • National polls consistently showed him losing the race
  • Political analysts and pundits almost universally agreed that he was incapable of winning

Yet today he is President-elect Trump. His victory almost defies explanation; it makes little sense from a rational, empirical point of view. And that’s what a miracle is: God intervening to change our reality to align with His sovereign will.

SAGE Cons at the Point
Throughout the General Election campaign, the largest segment of support behind Donald Trump was the Christian conservative vote. While he was clearly not the preferred option of SAGE Cons – the Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservatives tracked by the American Culture & Faith Institute throughout the election cycle – he emerged the victor in the primaries and SAGE Cons took three months to line up behind him in massive numbers. Literally frightened and disgusted by the policy positions of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, SAGE Cons were the most reliable base of support he had.

While the SAGE Con constituency is not large enough to carry a candidate to victory on its own, no conservative candidate is likely to win a national race without their strong support. ACFI’s election night survey of 1,000 SAGE Cons indicates that more than 90% of them turned out to vote – and that 94% of them cast their ballot for Donald Trump! They provided such prolific support without much confidence that Mr. Trump would win: just half (52%) expected him to win.

Why did he receive such overwhelming support from a segment that admittedly found his character to be disappointing? Two-thirds (67%) said they preferred his stand on key issues and six out of ten (58%) said they disliked Mrs. Clinton. The survey noted that the issues to which they were referring were headed by the candidates’ stands on abortion (listed by 53%) and the Supreme Court nominations (49%).

Now the Hard Work Begins
The completion of the long and exhausting campaign season is simply the precursor to the hard work that must now begin, according to George Barna. He directed more than three dozen election-related surveys over the past two years as the Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute and offered some perspective on the Trump victory.

“Mr. Trump did not win because of superior political strategy or performance,” stated the researcher and author. “God produced a miracle in response to the prayers and fasting of His people. Christians throughout the nation have been seeking God’s forgiveness and grace on America for months. The challenge is now for the body of Christ to be agents of reconciliation and unity, and to now lead the country toward policies and behaviors that will honor God and His life principles.”

Barna continued his observation by saying that there is much healing to take place even within the Christian Church in the U.S. and that faith leaders must see this as a critical time for the country. “God has given us a bit more time to show that we are serious about turning our hearts toward Him. For our nation to make progress we must be broken of our obsessions with sin, self, and society’s approval. We exist to worship, obey, love, enjoy, and honor Him. We have a small window of time to get our priorities straight and show that commitment through our behavior and choices.

“But today should be a day to celebrate God’s compassion toward us. This is an amazing ending to an unbelievable and unique campaign season. We may never see anything like it again.”

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 1,000 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute on the night of November 8, 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 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.

Where Things Stand the Day before the Election – And Why the Christian Conservative Vote Matters

The big question being asked today across America – and, for that matter, the rest of the world – is who will win the presidential election tomorrow?

There are several critical considerations to keep in mind, according to nationally respected researcher George Barna. First, while polls indicate voter preferences, they are generally ineffective at predicting turnout – and turnout is the first factor that can make or break how well each candidate does. Second, despite the mainstream media’s obsession with the “horse race” numbers, the national vote totals do not determine who win be sworn in next January. That depends upon who wins at least 270 votes in the Electoral College, which is based on amassing wins in key states.

Barna evaluated surveys in 16 important states to provide insight into what matters as we evaluate the election results.

“Hillary Clinton,” he explained, “has been in the driver’s seat for months because of the Democrats’ advantage in states that supply large numbers of Electoral votes – California, New York, and Illinois, especially. To win, Donald Trump must carry every state that was won by Mitt Romney in 2012 plus Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio – all of which were won by Barack Obama in 2012.”

Pundits on both sides of the race are struggling to figure out if that will happen. Barna again turned to the latest polls for insight.

“Right now, Mr. Trump has the momentum in virtually every state outside of the northeast and the west coast. His lack of momentum in those states does not mean much because winning those states has never been part of his strategy for getting elected. The bigger issue is whether he can sustain – and in some cases, accelerate – his campaign’s momentum in the critical swing states.”

Barna has been conducting surveys related to the presidential race every day during the past two years. The American Culture & Faith Institute, which he directs, has completed more than two dozen election-related surveys during that time. He offered his current assessment of where things stand.

“The dynamics of the race have changed significantly in the last three months. Mr. Trump’s support has transitioned from being an alternative to Mrs. Clinton to being a candidate whose views many people embrace. That has altered peoples’ attitudes and enthusiasm about the race and enabled it to be much more competitive. Combined with the series of scandals surrounding Mrs. Clinton, many voters who had written off Mr. Trump felt compelled to revisit their views of him, and enough of them have become his supporters to make it a real contest. The increased importance voters have assigned to the Supreme Court nominations that will be made by the next president has also served to tighten the race.

“Mr. Trump is likely to win Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and South Carolina,” Barna said, focusing on a state-by-state analysis. “Each of those states was doubtful or in jeopardy just a few weeks ago. Iowa is significant because the Democrats won there in 2012.

“Mrs. Clinton is likely to take Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Those are states where recently her lead has been shaky, but she looks like she can pull it out in those places.

“That leaves the 6 states that will decide the winner,” Barna continued. “Florida appears to be dead even. If Mr. Trump loses Florida and its 29 electoral votes, it doesn’t matter what happens in the other six states. Keep your eye on Florida; it is perhaps the most pivotal state of them all.

“Like Florida, both Nevada and North Carolina appear to be a dead heat. Mr. Obama won Nevada’s four electoral votes in 2012 but Romney won North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes. Both states are truly up for grabs this time around.

“Mrs. Clinton has a small edge in Colorado, though Mr. Trump has the momentum. She will likely carry Colorado and win its nine electoral votes. She has a very similar, small edge in Pennsylvania but again, Mr. Trump has the momentum. Pennsylvania is significant because it provides 20 electoral votes. Based on a series of factors, she has to be considered the favorite, although Mr. Trump is still alive there. Pennsylvania is definitely still in play.

“That leaves Ohio,” Barna explained. “Right now, Mr. Trump appears to have a small edge in Ohio and he also has the momentum. It seems likely that he will take Ohio’s 18 electoral votes.

“So the overall scenario is this,” he said in summarizing his overview. “If Mr. Trump loses Florida, he loses the race. If he wins Florida but loses Pennsylvania, then he must win Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada to win the race. Alternatively, if he wins Florida and Pennsylvania but loses Ohio, then he must win Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada to win the race. Mrs. Clinton is still in the preferred position, but there is more uncertainty in these final three days of the election than we have seen in a long time. She has the lead but he has the momentum. If you like drama, this is your kind of race.”

The U.S. Senate is the other major part of the balance of power equation to consider on Tuesday. Currently Republicans control a small majority of the Senate with 54 seats. Losing four incumbent seats will deadlock the Senate, allowing the Vice President to be the deciding vote on split decisions.

Again, Barna turned to statewide polls to provide some perspective on what is likely to happen.

“The Republicans are likely to retain their seats in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and Georgia, while the Democrats have a comfortable lead in the effort to retain their seat in Colorado.

“Just as in the presidential race, there are multiple states in which the Senate races are neck-and-neck,” Barna commented. “Those states include Missouri, New Hampshire, and North Carolina – all of which have incumbent Republicans – and Nevada, with an incumbent Democrat who is retiring.”

“Then there are the states that are close but perhaps predicable,” Barna went on. “Pennsylvania is leaning toward the Democrats right now, which would be a pick-up for them. Indiana is now leaning toward the Republican candidate, so the GOP is likely to retain that seat.

“If the four states that are currently even wind up splitting, two seats per party, and the other races go as I’ve suggested, the Senate will be evenly divided, 50-50. But if one party wins the majority of the four evenly divided races, or earns a surprise win in another state, that party will then have a Senate majority.”

The Bottom Line
So what does all of this mean for the average voter?

First, the predictions by Barna and other analysts are predicated on the assumption that the people who have been telling pollsters that they will vote will actually do so. Barna urged voters not to become so encouraged or discouraged by such predictions that they figure their vote is not needed and thus fail to participate. Every American has both a responsibility to vote as well as an opportunity to make a difference in the future of the country. Christians, he noted, are compelled both as citizens of the United States and as followers of Jesus Christ to use the influence of their vote to guide the nation forward.

Second, the close nature of all of the races described above highlights how politically divided America is today. Anyone who wishes to have a say in the direction of the nation has a meaningful opportunity to do so by voting in this election. Decisions regarding many critical choices for the nation – regarding the Supreme Court, abortion, taxes, jobs, trade, immigration, healthcare, national defense, government spending and reach, and more – will be determined on Tuesday. Anyone who chooses not to vote essentially forfeits their right to complain about policy decisions and implementation strategies enacted during the next four years. And whatever their character flaws may be – and those are undeniable – the stark contrasts in the platforms of the major presidential candidates offer a means of expressing what you believe America should be in the years to come. Voting in this election represents a unique chance to influence the nation’s future and to leave a personal imprint on the culture.

Third, things invariably happen that alter our schedule. Research has shown that the people who have planned out how they will execute their vote – what time of day they will vote, how they will get to the polling place, ensuring that they have the identification documents they will need, knowing who they will vote for once they arrive, and so forth – are more likely to actually vote. Those studies underscore how important it is to think through the process in order to get the job done.

In the end, one of the great wonders of the American system is that the people have the power – but that power is merely theoretical unless citizens use it appropriately. Be sure to vote – and vote wisely.

About the Research
George Barna is the Executive Director of the American Culture & Faith Institute. He is a veteran of political research, having conducted polls for a wide variety of political candidates and state government organizations. He was also the founder of the Barna Group, which became a leading marketing research organization focused on faith and culture. He is also the bestselling author of more than fifty books about American society and faith, and is a frequent contributor to radio, TV, and print networks.

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 www.culturefaith.com. To receive a free copy of these newsletters, visit the website and register for the SAGE Con Weekly newsletter.