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Politics came from the pulpit in 2020

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios visuals

Two-thirds of American churches delivered overtly political sermons or messages in the run-up to the 2020 election, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of online sermons.

Why it matters: Many clergy felt compelled to address the controversies dividing the country — and possibly their own congregations — at a time of turmoil.


By the numbers: Between Aug.31 and Nov. 8, 2020, two-thirds of churches posted at least one sermon or message about the 2020 election. The messages varied among Christian churches:

  • 48% of sermons mentioning the election in evangelical Protestant churches discussed specific issues, parties or candidates. Evangelical pastors were more than twice as likely as others to use the phrases "Satan," "hell" and "pray [for our] president."
  • Historically Black Protestant pastors were far more likely to encourage voting and turnout, and to reference voter suppression, more than other groups.

When discussing racism, evangelical pastors disproportionately leaned on phrases such as "racial tension." Evangelicals also used terms like "police officer," "crime" and "convict" around three times as often as others.

  • Pastors in mainline and historically Black Protestant congregations used terms like "anti-racism" and "white supremacist" when talking about racism.

Meanwhile, Catholic priests were least likely to discuss any of these topics during services.

Details: The analysis of 12,832 sermons, shared online by 2,143 churches (due to the pandemic), is not necessarily a representative sample of all sermons delivered across the country.

  • It provides a glimpse of the messages that churchgoers heard during a pivotal period for the U.S.

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