I like chewing over Pew polls, which provide some of the most thorough documentation of public opinion at the intersection of religion and politics. The latest one, released Thursday, is no different.
The most politically interesting finding is this:
The survey finds that the Republican Party is viewed less positively in its approach to religion by a
constituency that has played a pivotal role in electoral politics in recent years: white evangelical Protestants. Currently just under half of evangelicals (49%) say the GOP is friendly to religion, a decline of 14 points in the past year. Catholics also are far less likely to view the Republican Party as friendly to religion; just 41% say that today, compared with 55% about a year ago.
More broadly, the decline in the proportion of Americans who view the Republican Party as being friendly to religion occurred uniformly across the parties. The proportion of Republicans who say
the Republican Party is friendly to religion dropped by eight percentage points, while falling nine points among both Democrats and political independents.
As the ubiquitous John Green told the NYT:
“It’s unclear how directly this will translate into voting behavior,” Mr. Green said, “but this is a baseline indicator that religious conservatives see the party they’ve chosen to support as less friendly to religion than they used to.”
He speculated that religious conservatives could feel betrayed that some Republican politicians recently voted to back stem cell research, and that a Republican-dominated Congress failed to pass an amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.
“At the minimum, there will be less good will toward the Republican Party by these conservative religious groups, and a disenchantment that the party will be able to deliver on its promises,” Mr. Green said.
Of course, the Democrats remain in much worse shape on this dimension, with only 26% of respondents regarding them as religion-friendly, this in a country where 71% of the repondents want more religious influence on the country and 51% want more religious influence on government (and 67% regard the U.S. as a Christian nation, whatever that means [and I’m not sure it means much]).
The report also attempts to explore the religious left, and discovers that it’s for the most part more religious than left. Stated another way, "On many matters of politics and policy, the views of progressive Christians are not much
more liberal than those of the general public." There’s a gap, in other words, between the left and the religious left, not to mention between the rank-and-file of the religious left and its so-called leadership, which has, I think, positioned itself closer to the secular left. How many divisions does Jim Wallis have?
If you want more, read this piece by the estimable Julia Duin.
And Steve, you’ll want to look at the stuff on religion and the environment, where I found this conclusion interesting but unsurprising:
people say that their religious views are the most important influence on their thinking about environmental regulations.
Asked to choose among a list of five possible influences – what they have seen in the news, a personal experience, their
education, their religious beliefs, or their friends and family – just 8% said religion was the most important influence.
And the number who chose religion was basically the same for those who said environmental regulations are worth the
cost as for those who said regulations hurt the economy.