More Americans want less religion in political discourse

March 22, 2012

More Americans than not think political leaders are talking too much about their religious beliefs, according to a national survey released earlier this week. 

The survey, conducted March 7-11 by the Pew Research Center, found that nearly four-in-ten Americans (38 percent) say there has been too much expression of religious faith from political leaders. Thirty percent feel there has been too little, while 25 percent believe there has been a proper amount of religious discussion in politics. 

The findings are almost a mirror image of the 2010 edition of this poll, in which more Americans felt there was too little religious expression from politicians (37 percent) than too much (29 percent).

Some other interesting findings in the Pew survey include:

  • Most Americans (54 percent) continue to say that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics. It's the third consecutive poll conducted over the past four years in which more people have said churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics than said they should express their views on social and political topics, according to Pew. That's also an about-face from 2006, when 51 percent of Americans believed churches should speak out and 46 percent said they should keep quiet.

  • More people view the GOP as friendly to religion than say the same about the Democratic Party, a pattern observed for much of the past decade. ... At the same time, 51 percent of the public say that religious conservatives have too much control over the Republican Party.

  • Opinions about whether the Obama administration is friendly toward religion have shifted modestly since 2009. Currently, 39 percent say the administration is friendly to religion, 32 percent say it is neutral and 23 percent say it is unfriendly. The balance of opinion was comparable in August 2009, although somewhat fewer (17 percent) said the administration was unfriendly to religion.

  • Since October 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the rise in the number saying there has been too much religious expression by political leaders has been most pronounced among Democrats and independents. Nearly half of Democrats (46 percent) now say there has been too much discussion of religious faith and prayer by politicians, as do 42 percent of independents. The number of Republicans expressing unease with the amount of politicians’ religious talk also has increased (from 8 percent in 2001 to 24 percent currently). But Republicans have consistently been less inclined than either Democrats or independents to say there has been too much religious talk from political leaders.

You can read the full results here.