Fewer Americans are going to church these days, but a new national survey reveals that the most likely influence on who people vote for in this year’s presidential contest is their religious beliefs.

The survey conducted by Barna asked a nationwide sample of voters to rate the relative personal impact of ten different sources of influence. Yet, the picture is not uniformly rosy for the religious world. While religious beliefs rank on top of the list of influences, pastors rank at the bottom.

People Resist Admitting to Influence

Opinion research has long shown that Americans resist admitting that their views or behavior are influenced by external sources, and particularly those that overtly seek such influence, such as advertising. The same pattern is common when asking people to estimate the perceived impact of certain influences on their political choices.

Barna’s survey finds that none of the ten sources of influence are considered to have “a lot of influence” on who people will support for President by even as few as one out of every five respondents. The top-rated sources of influence are a person’s religious beliefs (18% say that had “a lot of influence”) and family members (10%). The other eight sources examined fall within the five to eight percent range.

When combining those who say a source exerted either “a lot” or “some” influence upon their choice of a presidential candidate, the rankings change only slightly. The top influence is still religious beliefs, listed by one-third of adults (33%).

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