Within the past year, public sentiment has shifted. It has
been changing slowly, but steadily. Sometime in the past
reached the crossover point. Now there is a simple majority
who think that religious groups should stay out of politics.
Americans Question Religion’s Role In Politics
Some Social Conservative Disillusionment
August 21, 2008
Some Americans are having a change of heart about
mixing religion and politics. A new survey finds a narrow majority of
the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep
out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day
social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had
voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues.
Perhaps more importantly, the gap between liberal persons and
conservative persons has vanished. Fifty percent of
say that churches should keep out of politics. Some persons
they are uncomfortable when they listen to politicians talk about how
religious they are. That percentage has increased: 40% in
to 46% in 2008.
The survey cannot tell us why this shift has occurred. It
however, tell us the demographic bloc in which the greatest amount of
One of the findings of the survey, was that conservatives are
increasingly likely to view the government as hostile to religion.
Specifically, in 2004, 29% of respondents said that the
Republican Party is “unfriendly to religion.” In 2008, 53% of
people expressed that view. This was interpreted in the Pew
report as meaning that social conservatives are discontented.
Supporting that view, is this finding:
The greatest increases since 2004 in the view that
churches and other
houses of worship should not express themselves on political matters
have occurred among less-educated Republicans and people who say that
social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage will be important
to their vote. For example, among people who rate gay marriage as a top
voting issue, the percentage saying that churches should stay out of
politics soared from 25% in 2004 to 50% currently; there was little
change over this period on this question among people who do not view
same-sex marriage as a very important issue.
This group, those who are discontented with the major Party’s
receptiveness to religion, are increasingly likely to say that churches
should stay out of politics. This is true even though their
religious values have not changed.
It is not possible to know what motivated this change in attitude; all
we can do is speculate about that. Perhaps they think that
churches should stay out of politics because they think it is
pointless: No one is listening, so why say anything?
Another interesting finding, is that there has been a decline in the
percentage of registered voters who list abortion and gay marriage as a
By far, the biggest change was that +23% in Energy. Also
is the drop in persons who think of terrorism as a top concern.
In fact, health care now ranks above terrorism.
That makes sense, because of the simple fact that health care will save
more lives than the war on terrorism ever could.
The report is about the shift in attitudes toward the separation of
church and state, though, so it would be difficult to use it to draw
conclusions about the other subjects.
What are the implications of the survey results? Religious
conservatives may be less inclined to seek political solutions for what
they perceive to be social problems. Elections tend to be
determined by voter turnout. With more voters being highly
motivated by the economy,energy, health care, and education, perhaps
the candidates who are most active on those issues will be the most