08/24/2004 - As the Republicans gather in New York to nominate George W. Bush for a second term, more Americans see the Republican Party than the Democratic Party as friendly toward religion. And most express comfort with President Bush's reliance on his religious beliefs in making policy decisions. On the issue of gay marriage, Bush and his party benefit from the strong support of religious conservatives and division among Democrats.
But a second policy debate with a strong religious linkage embryonic stem cell research is emerging as an issue that may help the Democrats. The stem cell controversy is growing in visibility, and a majority of the public (52%) now feels that the potential benefits of such research are more important than preserving the embryos that would be destroyed up from 43% in March 2002. Significantly, swing voters are much closer to John Kerry's voters than to Bush's supporters on this issue.
The nationwide survey of 1,512 adults, conducted August 5-10 by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, shows that in a campaign dominated by the war in Iraq, terrorism and the economy, moral issues could have a significant impact.
Fully 64% of voters say the issue of "moral values" will be very important to their vote. Kerry and Bush run about even among voters on the question of which candidate could do the best job in improving the nation's moral climate (45% Kerry vs. 41% Bush).
At the same time, the public expresses ambivalence on general questions concerning the appropriate role for churches and other houses of worship in politics, and outright skepticism on specific issues relating to religion that have arisen during the current campaign. By nearly three-to-one (64%-22%), Americans say it is improper for Catholic church leaders to deny communion to Catholic politicians whose views on abortion and other "life" issues go against church teachings.