Pope Outpolls Robertson, Falwell Among Evangelicals

The media reflexively turn to TV preachers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to represent the voice of evangelicals. And they both have reliably provided reporters and broadcasters with colorful commentary on an array of topics. But maybe in the future, Pope John Paul II would be a better spokesman for evangelicals.

A new nationwide poll has found that evangelicals view Pope John Paul II more favorably than either Falwell or Robertson. The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinian Rosner Research in Washington, D.C., found that Falwell's favoribility ranking among evangelicals was only 44 in a scale running from 0 to 100. Robertson ranked 54. The pope, however, came in at 59, besting both of the Religious Right leaders.

The poll also showed that evangelicals feel shunned by the media, while viewing themselves as a part of mainstream America.

The survey, released Tuesday and conducted for PBS's "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly" and U.S. News & World Report, showed that 75 percent of evangelicals considered themselves a part of the "American mainstream." Yet 75 percent of those polled said the media is hostile toward their values and that they must fight to get their views heard.

The survey of 1,610 evangelicals was broad, touching on their political and religious beliefs and the differences among African-American and white evangelicals. For example, more than 80 percent of white evangelicals oppose gay marriage, but 52 percent would rather see states ban gay marriage than amend the U.S. Constitution. A majority of white evangelicals, 69 percent, consider themselves Republican, while 84 percent of African-American evangelicals say they are Democrats or lean that way.