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Cruz dominates latest WORLD survey

Evangelical insiders say they’ll go with a third-party candidate if faced with a choice of Clinton and Trump in November

Paul Owens, left, prays for Ted Cruz at Fresh Start Church in Peoria, Ariz., Sunday. Associated Press/Photo by Courtney Pedroza/The Arizona Republic

Cruz dominates latest WORLD survey

WASHINGTON—Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, dominated WORLD’s ninth evangelical insiders survey, which found a large majority of participants ready to vote for a third-party candidate if Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination.

The new findings are part of a monthly survey of 103 evangelical leaders and influencers, 81 of whom participated in March. The results are not scientific or representative of all evangelicals but provide a glimpse into how some influential evangelicals are leaning in the 2016 presidential race.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out on top in the first eight surveys, but after his exit from the race last week, nearly all of his support went Cruz’s way, with 76 percent of survey respondents naming the senator from Texas as their first choice for president.

“It’s time for conservatives to unite around Ted Cruz as the GOP nominee,” said survey participant Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. “We don’t need a candidate whose unrighteous anger appeals to the lowest common denominator.”

John Kasich came in second in WORLD’s survey with 15 percent of respondents naming the Ohio governor as their first choice and 51 percent making him their second pick. Despite the shrinking field of GOP candidates, Trump continued to flounder in the survey, receiving the first-choice support of only 5 percent of respondents, while 13 percent made the billionaire businessman their second choice.

After months of optimism, enthusiasm took a sharp dive among survey participants: About 46 percent now say they are disappointed, lukewarm, or only satisfied with their preferred candidate. A slight majority of the evangelical insiders surveyed said they would write in a name or abstain from voting if Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton are the only options on the November ballot.

“The real threat to the GOP, if Trump is the nominee, is not that conservatives will vote for a third-party candidate, it is that they won’t vote,” said survey participant Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who urged conservatives to coalesce around Cruz. “The conservative, values-oriented voters who unfortunately stayed home in 2008 and 2012 should be Exhibit A.”

In the event a conservative third-party challenger arises amid a Clinton-Trump general election, nearly 80 percent said they would consider the outside candidate. Of those, more than 50 percent said they would, on principle, vote for a third-party candidate who had no chance to win.

Among possible third-party options, survey participants chose two of the most outspoken Trump critics: first-term Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry tallied roughly 35 percent apiece. Only five participants chose former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee and another outspoken critic of the current GOP front-runner.

If an open GOP convention occurs this summer in Cleveland, 50 percent of survey respondents said delegates should choose the best candidate for the party, even if it’s someone who wasn’t previously in the race.

The top three election issues selected by survey respondents remained unchanged from February: More than half cited domestic religious liberty (60 percent), abortion (56 percent), and Supreme Court nominations (55 percent).

WORLD’s survey of evangelical leaders and insiders

The complete results from the March 22 survey

1. If the presidential election were today, which active candidate do you prefer?

Ted Cruz, 76.0%, 60 John Kasich, 15.2%, 12 Donald Trump, 5.1%, 4 Hillary Clinton, 1.3%, 1 Bernie Sanders, 1.3%, 1 Third-party/write-in, 1.3%, 1

Answered: 79 Skipped: 2

2. On a scale of 1-to-5, how excited are you about this candidate?

1-Disappointed, 6.2%, 5 2-Lukewarm, 14.8%, 12 3-Satisfied, 24.7%, 20 4-Happy, 38.3%, 31 5-Elated, 16.1%, 13 Average response: 3.43

Answered: 81 Skipped: 0

3. Who is your second choice?

John Kasich, 50.7%, 38 Third-party/write-in, 29.3%, 22 Donald Trump, 13.3%, 10 Ted Cruz, 5.3%, 4 Hillary Clinton, 1.3%, 1 Bernie Sanders, 0.0%, 0

Answered: 75 Skipped: 6

4. How would you like to see the Republican Party handle a potential open convention?

The delegates should pick the best candidate for the party, even if it’s someone who was not previously running, 50.0%, 40 Only make sure one of the top two primary candidates is on the ticket, 26.3%, 21 Nominate the top candidate for president and let him choose his vice president, 23.8%, 19

Answered: 80 Skipped: 1

5. If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent the major parties in November, would you support a conservative third-party challenger?

Yes, on principle, even if the candidate had no chance to win, 50.7%, 39 Yes, but only if the candidate had a chance to win, 28.6%, 22 No, I would vote for Trump, 19.5%, 15 No, I would vote for Clinton, 1.3%, 1

Answered: 77 Skipped: 4

6. The following are actual or potential third-party options. Which do you prefer?

Ben Sasse, 35.6%, 26 Rick Perry, 34.3%, 25 No one specified, 10.9%, 8 Mitt Romney, 6.9%, 5 Paul Ryan,* 3.4%, 2.5 Marco Rubio,* 3.4%, 2.5 Rick Santorum,* 1.4%, 1 Ted Cruz,* 1.4%, 1 Scott Walker,* 1.4%, 1 Mitch Daniels,* 0.7%, 0.5 John Kasich,* 0.7%, 0.5 Gary Johnson (currently running on Libertarian ticket), 0.0%, 0

*Write-in choice (Note: Some respondents split their choice between two candidates)

Answered: 73 Skipped: 8

7. In a Trump-Clinton scenario with no significant third-party challenge, what would you do?

Write in a name, 41.6%, 32 Vote for Trump, 37.7%, 29 Abstain from voting, 14.3%, 11 Vote for Clinton, 6.5%, 5

Answered: 77 Skipped: 4

8. What are the top three issues you will consider when selecting a candidate? (Please check only three.)

Religious freedom (domestic), 60.3%, 47 Abortion, 56.4%, 44 Supreme Court nominations, 55.1%, 43 National security/terrorism, 26.9%, 21 Foreign policy, 21.8%, 17 Economy/jobs, 16.7%, 13 Federal debt/deficit, 15.4%, 12 Marriage and family issues, 15.4%, 12 Immigration, 10.3%, 8 Religious freedom (international), 9.0%, 7 Candidate civility, 6.4%, 5 Healthcare/Affordable Care Act, 3.9%, 3 Poverty, 2.6%, 2 Education, 1.3%, 1 Race relations, 1.3%, 1 Taxes, 1.3%, 1 Crime, 0.0%, 0 Environment/pollution, 0.0%, 0

Answered: 78 Skipped: 3

J.C. Derrick J.C. is a former reporter and editor for WORLD.


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I agree with BoyScout.  Staying home is not an option.  And lrealthoughts, many people voted for Jimmy Carter because he was a good Christian man, but he turned out to be a terrible president.  Yes, Trump lacks excellent moral character and he wouldn't be my first choice, but God can use him for good.  We have no guarantee who would be a great president, but I think we have a better shot with Trump than anyone the Dems put up.  (I'm still holding out hope for Cruz.)


I'm not going to stay home if it comes down to Trump v. Hillary, but I'll write somebody in.  If that turns out to help Hillary win, so be it.  Trump is no better than Hillary in my mind.


If Trump wins, he is going to have a shock.  He will have to deal with a Board of Directors - 435 members.  He has never had a Board like this: one that he doesn't fully control.  If he stays in character, and does not understand that what worked for him before will not work with Congress , I would not be surprised if he were impeached and thrown out of office  within a year, maybe 6 months.  Regardless of who the majority is in each house.    But I also suspect Trump will not win against Hilary.   I am hoping I do not have to see that particular contest.


XIon has a real good point.  But I think the Devil doesn't care!  It's like the choice of having strychnine in your mashed potatoes, or Sarin dissolved in your drink.   The US economy is probably in a death spiral  (just started) and I doubt either could/would do anything to fix that, while the US still continues to muddle along, and while there is still some chance. And with that, I can only see bad choices/decisions made by both candidates, with respect tot he economy and especially other areas. .   But  Boy Scout hits the one thing that is still in play.  Do we go with someone who we know would pick bad nominations, or do we pick someone who we hope might pick less bad nominations.   Is Hope a strategy?  Will this Hope work out as well as the last time, 8 years ago?    Is Donald (or Hilary) God's method of punishing the US, since exile isn't really practical for the US at present?  Is this Phase 2 of God's punishment? 


 Irealthoughts, true, Trump may prove hostile to much or all we believe in, but Hillary will without question. However, many if not most of the apparatchik Trump brings in will be from the Republican side, which means many will have values we agree with, and will operate (imperfectly, as all sinners do) with some positive principles. Further, a republican president should bring in republican legislators on his coat tails, so we have a reasonable hope that just and fiscally responsible laws will be more likely. If Trump winds up winning the primary battle, we will have to decide between a potential and a certain evil, requiring a vote for Trump lest we be complicit in electing that evil woman. However, we really do need to get behind Cruz even at this late date. I think he recognizes his status as a redeemed sinner, and we will always be able to quibble about something in his past or in his leadership as president (I.e., we shouldn't beatify him), but he knows and supports our constitution, and seems genuine in placing his personal faith in Christ, and in committing to live and govern IAW biblically based principles. 


In every election I have had to choose between the better of two evils.  So, contrary to BoyScout I favor the formation of a conservative third party.  The time to start one is not a year or six months before an election; but immediately following it; a third party could break the deadlock in Washington.  But PLEASE VOTE, even though you may have to hold your nose to do so; and please do not waste your vote on a write in candidate that cannot win.  REMEMBER SCOTUS.

Allen Johnson

Two points. First, the "choice" of the unnamed evangelical Christian leaders who tell us who God's candidate is (or isn't). What is the criteria for selecting those 103? Second, in the past this was much easier for the 103.  God runs a candidate (Republican) and Satan runs a candidate (Democrat).  This year is confusing.Jesus had a choice, too. Satan led him to a high mountain where he could see in a flash of time all the kingdoms of the world and their power (military, wealth, prestige). Satan said it was his to give (Luke 4), and Jesus could have it all if he would bow to Satan.My sense right now is that the United States is entering into a time of God's judgment. A president will not bail us out but might be a sign of this impending judgment. Or, maybe the citizenry, beginning with the Christians, liberal and conservative, can repent.