A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows that most Americans believe religion is losing its influence on the public stage including politics and that they are concerned because of this.
Pew has asked this question since 2001. That year, 51% of Americans believed religious influence was on the decline. In 2014, this number had jumped by nearly 25%. Today, 72% of Americans believe religious influence on public life is on the decline.
However, while they watch this decline of religious influence, a very different culture is forming and most Americans don’t like what they are seeing.
Increasingly, Americans are of the opinion the church should play a bigger role in politics and social issues. Pew said in its release, there is a “growing appetite for religion in politics.”
The following is a break down of a few of the survey results, conducted the first week of September, 2014:
On church and politics
- When asked if church groups should express their views on political and social issues, 49% of respondents said they should. This is up from 43% in 2010.
- When asked if churches should support specific candidates (versus specific issues), 32% of respondents said yes, up from 24% in 2010. Though this percentage increased, it is clear Americans are not comfortable with the church endorsing specific politicians.
On politicians and religion
- Along a similar vein, 41% of those surveyed said politicians do not express religious views or pray in public enough. This is up from 37% in 2010.
- 65% of those polled also believe politicians should have “strong religious beliefs.” This percentage is consistent with past polls.
- The majority of those surveyed also believe the Obama administration is not friendly towards religion. In the latest poll, only 30% of Americans believed the administration is friendly towards religion, down from 39% in 2009.
On same-sex marriage
- The poll found 49% of people are in favor of same-sex marriage. This was down from 54% when this same question was asked earlier this year. Pew noted this was the first time it registered a decline in support for same-sex marriage, which has seen a steady increase in support for a number of years. Pew said it did not know if this is just a blip or start of a trend. In this fall’s survey, 41% of Americans are opposed to same-sex marriage.
- When asked if businesses should provide services to same-sex couples even if they have strong religious objections — 49% said they should be required to provide services, 47% said they should not be required while 4% remained undecided. There was an interesting split along gender lines — 52% of men said businesses should be allowed to refuse, while 54% of women said they should not be allowed to refuse.
In an interview with Religion News, Pew’s associate director Greg Smith commenting on America’s declining religious influence said:
“Most people view this as a bad thing. That unhappiness may behind their desire for more religion and politics.”
He further described the increasing desire for the church to become more involved in politics and social issues as a “surprising reversal of trends.”
- Public Sees Religion’s Influence Waning: Pew Research
- Religion loses clout: Why many say that’s a bad thing: RNS