Trump is a huge 'loser' with GOP Protestant pastors

(RNS) Donald Trump, who loves to call others "losers," is a big one himself in a new survey of U.S. Protestant pastors.

When LifeWay Research, an evangelical polling group, asked Republican pastors in mid-January who their pick would be if they were voting that very day, Trump was named by only 5 percent.

“Undecided” was the big winner with more than a third of GOP pastors (39 percent) in the survey. Indeed, 48 percent overall said they had no top choice in this “bizarre election season,” said LifeWay Research executive director Ed Stetzer.

Trump’s poor showing with pastors — despite his roaring popularity with voters — shows “a huge gap between the pulpit and the pew,” said Stetzer.

The top Republican choice by those who did name someone was Sen. Ted Cruz (29 percent). He has stumped in Iowa citing his Baptist preacher father’s dramatic conversion to faith. He was first pick among both evangelical and mainline Protestant pastors.

The findings reflect that "Protestant pastors tend to be more conservative than the population as a whole. And they are far more evangelical than they are mainline," said Stetzer.

So many are undecided, he said, because they're busy pastoring, not tracking politics. "Plus, they're not in Iowa so they don't have to decide yet."

For those Republican pastors who did decide, Ben Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist, came in second (10 percent) with a strong base among evangelicals. He was followed by Sen. Marco Rubio (8 percent), a Catholic who has been advertising his Christian devotion in Iowa.

Gov. John Kasich, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Chris Christie fell into the catch-all “others” category with less than 2 percent each.

Pastors who say they’re Democrats were more decisive: 38 percent picked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But Sen. Bernie Sanders (at 23 percent) fell behind the undecided (31 percent). And former Gov. Martin O’Malley couldn’t muster more than 2 percent.

Of the 1,000 Protestants surveyed, 54 percent said they are Republican, 23 percent were independent and 14 percent said they are Democrats.

The research was conducted Jan. 8-22. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

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