As the party conventions intensify the race for the White House, asignificant new voting block has been revealed--"Bible Study Moms."

Married Christian women with children constitute 22 percent of all femalevoters and could replace the so-called "Soccer Moms" identified in the lastpresidential contest as one of the key groups for the candidates.

A nationwide survey found that 81 percent of the group are pro-life andthat their main concern--listed by 23 percent--is the decline in moralvalues. Fifteen percent cited fears about crime, 14 percent expressedconcern about social security and aid to the elderly, while only 5 percentmentioned foreign policy.

The study was commissioned by the Beverly LaHaye Institute (BLI), theresearch arm of Concerned Women for America (CWA) and was "an importantbarometer of women's thinking," according to senior fellow Janice ShawCrouse.

"This poll confirms what close observers have been seeing," she said."Mothers at the grassroots level--'Bible Study Moms'--are concerned aboutthe world in which their children are growing up. They are disturbed aboutthe decline in moral values and the increase in crime. They don't want thesenegative influences impacting their kids."

CWA founder LaHaye said that the poll also underlined that mothers were asignificant portion of the American electorate. "Mothers have always been abarometer of national thinking," she said. "Pocktebook issues didn't evencome close to moral and safety issues for America's mothers."

The survey of 1,000 found that 67 percent thought that the country was "onthe wrong track"--compared with 50 percent of women overall and 47 percentof all Americans. The "Bible Study Moms" were also more likely to beRepublican (56 percent) than Democrat (43 percent) while voters in generalare more evenly divided.

But Republican candidate Gov. George W. Bush cannot necessarily rely ontheir votes. For while 72 percent of "Bible Study Dads" said they wouldlikely vote for the Texas governor, only 58 percent of the women surveyedsaid the same.

"The reality is, most people need a reason to go out and vote," said CWAdirector of communications Wendy Wright, who pointed to the low voterturnout in the 1996 election. "With the strong feeling among 'Bible StudyMoms' that abortion is wrong and that there is a decline in moral values inour country, the candidates that are pro-life and have solid moral valueswill resonate with these voters and motivate them to vote."

Crouse said that the BLI survey had identified a significant block ofwomen voters largely ignored in the polling data and showed their particularimportance in the Midwest states, where their numbers are the greatest.

The survey, conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide, also found the "Bible StudyMoms" to be mostly Baptist (38 percent), white (85 percent) and homemakers(71 percent).