Americans Divided Over Role Of Religion In Politics, New Poll Says

Reflecting a growing gulf between traditionalists and more moderate religious\n believers, Americans are increasingly divided over how faith and politics should\n interact, a new poll indicates.

The 2004 National Survey of Reli­gion and Politics, conducted by the\n Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, shows traditionalist believers backing\n the mixture of religion and politics while more progressive Christians, non-Chris­tians\n and secularists are wary.

Notes the report, “Overall traditionalist Christians and minority religious\n groups reported a closer connection between religion and politics, while Modernists,\n non-Christians and the Unaffiliated groups showed a looser connection.”

Asked if organized religious groups should stay out of politics, 53 percent\n of “modernist” evangelicals said yes, and 47 percent said no. For\n traditional evangelicals, the figures were 35 percent yes and 65 percent no.

Among mainline Protestants, 61 percent agreed with the statement, and 39\n percent disagreed. Modernist Catholics agreed by a margin of 64 percent to\n 36 percent, but among traditionalist Catholics the results nearly flipped,\n with 38 percent disagreeing and 62 percent agreeing.

The highest percentage of agreement was found among atheists and agnostics.\n 74 percent said organized religious groups should stay out of politics, and\n 26 percent said they should not. Among those who said they were “unaffiliated,” 64\n percent agreed and 36 percent disagreed.

Among Jews, 57 percent agreed with the statement, and 43 percent disagreed.

Other findings of the poll include:

• The American people oppose school vouchers ,\n 45 percent to 39 percent. Support was highest among evangelical Protestants\n and Roman Catholics and lowest among the unaffiliated, atheists and agnostics.

• Fifty percent support public funding for faith-based\n groups. Thirty-four percent oppose the funding. Support was highest\n among evangelical Protes­tants and Catholics and lowest among Jews, the\n unaffiliated and atheists and agnostics. (The poll did not ask respondents\n if government should regulate the faith-based groups it funds and ban religious\n discrimination in the programs; other polls have shown strong support for\n these ideas.)

• Support for posting the Ten Commandments in\n government buildings remains high. Evangelicals showed the highest level of\n support at 83 percent. Mainline Protestants and Catholics backed the postings\n by 68 percent and 67 percent respectively. Only Jews, the unaffiliated and\n atheists and agnostics showed less than majority support.