A new survey from the Pew Research Center released last week shows that most pastors and churches remained politically unengaged during the 2016 election cycle.
The survey, which was conducted from November 10-14, 2016, found that very few religious voters received information or advice on political issues from their places of worship. Only 14% of voters who attend religious services regularly (at least once a month) said they were provided with information on political issues or candidates by their place of worship. Only 5% said that their pastor or religious leader encouraged them to vote a certain way. Intriguingly, 2% of voters said they were encouraged to vote for a Republican candidate, and 2% of voters said they were encouraged to vote for a Democrat. The remaining 1% said that they were either encouraged to vote for both candidates or no candidate in particular.
However, it is interesting to note that white evangelical Protestants and Catholics were significantly more likely than white mainline Protestants to receive political information at their place of worship. Twenty-two percent of Catholics and sixteen percent of white evangelical Protestants reported that information on candidates or political parties was made available to them this year, while only five percent of mainline evangelical Protestants said the same.
These results were almost identical to the results of similar studies conducted after the 2012 and 2008 election cycles. It is unclear why houses of worship and religious leaders remain largely politically unengaged. Churches and religious organizations have a First Amendment right to participate in political activity. Pastors and religious leaders can freely discuss issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage from the pulpit. However, churches and other organizations who endorse or otherwise support specific political candidates can lose their tax-exempt status under the Johnson Amendment.