November 2014 Church & State | People & Events

Nearly half of Americans believe religion should play a bigger role in U.S. politics, a recent poll showed.

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project found 49 percent of respondents want to see houses of worship express their views on political and social issues. That was a 5 percent uptick from the last time this survey was taken, in 2010.

The same poll also found 41 percent of Americans believe political leaders do “too little” when it comes to praying and expressing their religious faith. The last survey found only 37 percent of respondents felt that way.

The poll also found an increase in the number of people who say they believe churches should be allowed to endorse candidates for office. Thirty-two percent now feel that way, even though such partisan activity is a violation of the federal tax code’s prohibition against campaign intervention by houses of worship.

Pew also asked about same-sex marriage and found that 49 percent said they support it while 41 percent expressed opposition. (Other polls have shown higher rates of support for marriage equality.)

The poll also found a divide in how Americans view the political parties and religion. Forty-seven percent of respondents said the Republican Party is “friendly toward religion,” as opposed to just 29 percent for the Democrats. But that doesn’t mean the Religious Right is completely happy with the GOP; 34 percent of white evangelicals said Republicans have “not done a good job of representing their views on abortion because the party is too liberal.”

In its analysis of the results, Pew said there is an increasing gap between religious and non-religious Americans.

“The findings reflect a widening divide between religiously affiliated Americans and the rising share of the population that is not affiliated with any religion (sometimes called the ‘nones’),” Pew said. “The public’s appetite for religious influence in politics is increasing in part because those who continue to identify with a religion (e.g., Protestants, Catholics and others) have become significantly more supportive of churches and other houses of worship speaking out about political issues and political leaders talking more often about religion. The ‘nones’ are much more likely to oppose the intermingling of religion and politics.”

“It’s not easy to understand what’s in people’s heads when they hear these questions,” AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn told CNN. “If the question was ‘Should your local church be able to share views on abortion and maintain tax exemption?’ you might get a more nuanced response.”