By Barna Group.
Although American voters acknowledge how poorly informed they are about the candidates they vote for, they just as frequently blame the media for doing an inferior job of capturing their attention and providing useful and credible information. A national survey of registered voters by Barna Group suggests the 2016 election is no exception. The survey also underscores how people’s religious beliefs and behavior are related to their engagement with the 2016 campaign—sometimes in unexpected ways.
Despite record-breaking audiences for the televised debates this cycle, as well as huge crowds flocking to campaign rallies, surprisingly few voters were closely following the primaries process through the beginning of February (when the survey was conducted). Less than one-third (31%) said they were following the news about the election “very closely” while almost half (45%) said they were following the activity “somewhat closely.”
Contrary to past election cycles, evangelical Christians were actually the faith group least engaged thus far with the presidential race. Only one out of five evangelicals (20%) said they were following news about the campaign very closely. Voters who associate with non-Christian faiths (such as Judaism, Islam and Buddhism) reported the highest level of engagement: 41% were following campaign news very closely, which is twice the proportion among evangelical Christians. Even religious skeptics (atheists, agnostics and unaffiliated) were substantially more engaged in the race than evangelicals (36% vs. 20%).
In another unusual twist, Catholic voters reported paying closer attention to the race than Protestants (38% vs. 26%). In the past four presidential elections, the reverse was true.