November 5, 2012 – Compared to the days leading up to 2008, when Barack Obama was a frontrunner and poised to make inroads among Christian voters, the 2012 presidential race remains without a clear leader. Yet most voters place a high urgency on tomorrow’s outcome: Two-thirds of all likely voters (67%) perceive the 2012 election to be one of the most important races in the past 50 years.

From the early primaries through the debates, Barna Group has been tracking the public perceptions of the candidates and the key issues. Here is a look at some of the factors that will affect people’s votes.

Top Candidate Influencers

Of all the factors likely voters will consider when choosing our next president, each candidate’s positions on specific policy issues will be the single most important component for their choice, according to a Barna survey of likely voters. More than four out of five (83%) said that positions on the issues are the most important factor in their decision of which candidate to support on Election Day. The issues that are of greatest significance are health care and tax policy.

The second most common factor that voters will examine when making their candidate selection is the character of the men running. Half of all likely voters (51%) listed this as a key matter for them.

Less common factors that will influence people’s choice of candidate include the party affiliation of the candidates (listed by 17% of likely voters); the political experience of the candidates (16%); the candidates’ religious faith (14%); their educational background (6%); their speaking ability (3%); personality (2%); endorsements received (1%); their age (1%); and their physical appearance (less than 1%). Of course, survey respondents may not be fully aware of the factors that influence their presidential selections; however, the research helps to illuminate how they think about their electoral mindset.

Though evangelicals’ top candidate influencers are generally in line with the rest of the population they are much more likely than other voters to consider a candidate’s religious faith to be a motivating factor. Half of evangelicals (50%) listed that as a critical insight compared to just one-quarter of non-evangelical born again voters (23%), and by less than one out of every twenty other voters.

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