Many Americans Uneasy with Mix of Religion and Politics

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

08/24/2006 - The relationship between religion and politics is a controversial one. While the public remains more supportive of religion's role in public life than in the 1960s, Americans are uneasy with the approaches offered by both liberals and conservatives. Fully 69% of Americans say that liberals have gone too far in keeping religion out of schools and government. But the proportion who express reservations about attempts by Christian conservatives to impose their religious values has edged up in the past year, with about half the public (49%) now expressing wariness about this. The Democratic Party continues to face a serious "God problem," with just 26% saying the party is friendly to religion. However, the proportion of Americans who say the Republican Party is friendly to religion, while much larger, has fallen from 55% to 47% in the past year, with a particularly sharp decline coming among white evangelical Protestants (14 percentage points).

This national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted July 6-19, 2006, among 2,003 adults, finds that most Americans (59%) continue to say that religion's influence on the country is declining, and most of those who express this view believe that this is a bad thing. The public is more divided on the question of whether religion's influence on government is increasing (42%) or decreasing (45%). And in contrast to views of religion's influence on the country, most of those who think that religion is increasing its influence on government leaders and institutions view this as a bad thing.

The survey finds that religious conservatives, and white evangelical Christians specifically, have no equal and opposite group on the religious left. About 7% of the public say they identify with the "religious left" political movement. That is not much smaller than the 11% who identify themselves as members of the "religious right," but the religious left is considerably less cohesive in its political views than the religious right.

The survey traced the spiritual roots of the religious right and left to two broader faith communities. On the right, white evangelical Christians comprise 24% of the population and form a distinct group whose members share core religious beliefs as well as crystallized and consistently conservative political attitudes.

Read the full report Many Americans Uneasy With Mix of Religion and Politics on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.

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