NOTE: This is another in a series of statewide reports based on research conducted by ACFI in battleground states. Other election-related reports by ACFI are available at www.culturefaith.com.
With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, campaigns are seeking to firm up their support from critical voter segments. For Republican candidates, conservative Christian voters represent one of the most important groups to rally. A new report from the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) based on surveys newly completed among Christian conservatives in six battleground states indicates that those faith-driven voters are solidly backing both Donald Trump and the GOP Senate candidates in those states. However, the research also highlights the different levels of support accorded to the six Senate candidates tracked.
SAGE Cons are definitely paying attention to the race. Overall, at least six out of ten Christian conservatives from five of the six states are paying “a lot of attention” to the election races with most of the rest (about three out of ten) paying “quite a bit of attention.” The exception is Wisconsin, where just 56% are paying “a lot of attention” and 31% are paying “quite a bit of attention” to news about the election.
The sources of information that are providing most of the information to Christian conservatives are independent online news sources and mainstream television. Half or more of the people from each of six the battleground states identified one of those as their primary election-information source. Following those were mainstream radio and cable television.
One obvious reason for their attentiveness to this election is its expected impact. At least three out of every four survey respondents from each state said they believe this election will make a “big difference” in their life.
Trump Support is Solid
Across all six of the battleground states in which the opinions of SAGE Cons were researched, Donald Trump holds a commanding lead over Hillary Clinton, generating support among Christian conservatives ranging from a low of 76% in Iowa to a high of 95% in Florida. His average base in the six states is 86%. Mrs. Clinton’s support in the six states ranges from a high of
In general, about three out of every four Trump supporters say they are “totally committed” to voting for him on November 8. Most of the rest – typically about one out of every five – say they are “mostly committed” to voting for him.
Despite the solid support aligned with the GOP candidate, most of the Christian conservatives backing him do not care for him as a person. The dominant reasons they are lending him their support is because of their deep distaste for Hillary Clinton (mentioned as a top reason for backing Mr. Trump by about six out of ten of his SAGE Con voters in these states) and preferring his position on key issues to the positions of Mrs. Clinton (also mentioned by about two-thirds of his supporters).
Solid Support for GOP Senate Candidates
In each of these six battleground states a US Senate seat is on the ballot. All six of those states feature an incumbent Republican seeking re-election. Surveys of the entire voting populations in each state indicate that all six races are tight. Many analysts are predicting a GOP victory in Iowa, Arizona, and Florida, a Democratic win in Wisconsin, and races that are too close to call in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
The candidate preferences of SAGE Cons, however, are not in doubt. The Republican candidates have landslide margins among Christian conservatives in each state. The current standing of the GOP hopefuls among SAGE Cons is as follows:
There were divergent reasons driving the SAGE Con support of the GOP candidates in each state. Sen. John McCain, the incumbent in Arizona, has the weakest level of support from SAGE Cons of any of the incumbents in these six states. McCain has long had a contentious relationship with Christian conservatives. Currently, he is largely supported by them because they strongly dislike his opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick.
The other five incumbents have notably stronger support from SAGE Cons and are supported as someone other than the lesser of two unpopular choices. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the incumbent in Iowa, is most appreciated because of his experience and track record. The incumbents in Pennsylvania (Sen. Pat Toomey), Florida (Sen. Marco Rubio), Wisconsin (Sen. Ron Johnson), and North Carolina (Sen. Richard Burr) are preferred by SAGE Cons because of their stands on important issues.
Issues of Importance
Although there is a wide range of issues that SAGE Cons characterize as vitally important to the future of the United States, the battleground-state research found that two issues, in particular, drive the decisions of Christian conservatives. The first of those is abortion, which was considered the most important issue for the future by SAGE Cons in Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. Their compatriots in Pennsylvania and Florida agreed that abortion was a crucial issue, but in both states a slightly higher proportion listed the Supreme Court nominations as the top issue of the day. SAGE Cons in North Carolina also listed that matter at the top, in a statistical tie with abortion.
The other highly-rated issues across all six states were: religious freedom, the size and influence of government, rule of law, moral decline, government spending, the economy, and immigration policies.
Similarities and Distinctions
George Barna, who directed the research for ACFI, noted that Donald Trump is running well ahead of Sen. McCain in Arizona (89% versus 78%, respectively); is running even with the GOP candidates in Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania; and is running behind the incumbents in Iowa (76% versus 95%) and Wisconsin (84% versus 97%).
The longtime researcher also pointed out that there are few undecided voters at this stage among SAGE Cons. “This segment has been tuned in to the election for well over a year,” he explained. “They are approaching the point of burnout and want to get the election over with. They have studied the issues, the candidates, and the implications of voting options they have. All but a few have made up their mind, they are pretty resolute about their choices, and they are raring to go.” He also suggested that a larger share of those voters seem to be focused on the Senate races than the presidential event at this point.
Regarding the races in two of the battleground states that will be the toughest for Republicans to win – i.e. Wisconsin and North Carolina – Barna said a GOP loss in those states could not be blamed on Christian conservatives unless their turnout numbers are unexpectedly low. “We’re talking about a voter segment where roughly 90% are likely to vote, making them both the most reliable voters supporting Republican candidates. In addition, SAGE Cons are the segment with the highest proportion who plan to vote for Republicans. Senator Johnson’s race is a great example. Right now, 95% of Wisconsin SAGE Cons say they will ‘definitely’ vote, 97% are expecting to vote for Mr. Johnson, and 88% of them are ‘totally committed’ to voting for him. If he loses the race, as many analysts expect, it certainly won’t be the fault of SAGE Cons.”
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ survey among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons.
There were six separate surveys undertaken for this report, one in each of six “battleground” states. The number of surveys conducted in those states were 350 in Arizona; 350 in Florida; 300 in Iowa; 400 in North Carolina; 350 Pennsylvania; and 250 in Wisconsin. The interviews were conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute in October 2016 among random samples of people who qualified as SAGE Cons.
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. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.
Additional information about this and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com