I wrote yesterday about Americans' willingness to deny plain facts about President Obama's Christianity. Scroll down past the marquee data on Obama in the Pew Forum survey on Religion, Politics, and the President, and you'll find some even more interesting data on Americans' attitudes toward religion.
First, even if more people get a kick out of saying President Obama is Muslim (the numbers saying he's Christian or Muslim flip depending on whether the respondents approve or disapprove of Obama's job performance), Americans in general seem to think that that religious persuasion or any other is having less influence on government policies. The percentage of Americans saying religion is losing its influence on government leaders has jumped 17 points since 2006, to 62%. That perception has increased among every group sampled: Independent, Republican, and even to a smaller degree Democrats; Protestant, Catholic, and unaffiliated.
If religion's influence on elected leaders is waning, an increasing number of Americans are saying, "Good riddance." People who say churches should stay out of political affairs have been a majority since 2008, 52%. Only 43% say churches should express views on social and political questions. Plus, 70% of all respondents and majorities of every major religious group say churches should not endorse political candidates. (Compare that with my poll results and Pastor Hickey's on similar questions.) I'm not saying the majority makes it right... but I will suggest this explains why Gordon Howie's pulpit grandstanding never caught fire with the South Dakota electorate.
The numbers saying churches should express views on social and political issues have decreased since 2006 among every subgroup identified in the survey. As you might expect, conservatives are more inclined to see a role for churches in politics than are indies and libs. Interestingly, college educated folks are more likely to support a political role for churches than are folks with grade-12 education or less. So here is an example of higher education correlating with a greater appreciation of an active role for religion in society. And I thought all of us evil secular humanist university conspirators were supposed to be beating religion out of the kids....
The conservative Christian political movement doesn't appear to have much steam. 14% of Americans say they agree with that movement; 17% say they disagree. 27% claim no opinion, and 42% say they haven't even heard of it (seriously? Jim Dobson? Sarah Palin? stop playing Farmville and read, people!) The progressive religious movement isn't cutting into those numbers too much; the Jim Wallis types draw only 4% agreement, 11% disagreement, and a whole lot of shrugging.
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