By Simon Brown
It seems that Americans have heard just about enough about religion in political campaigns.
A new survey released by the Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life found that 38 percent of Americans said politicians have spent too much time expressing their religious faith and praying. That’s up from 2010, when 29 percent of Americans said there was too much religious expression by political leaders.
According to Pew, “[t]he number saying there has been too much religious talk from political leaders now stands at its highest point since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago.”
The survey even found that there has been an increase in this sentiment across party lines.
The biggest spike came from people who identify as Democrats, 46 percent of whom said politicians talk too much about faith (up from 32 percent in 2010). Dissatisfaction is also growing among people who identify as Republicans, 24 percent of whom said candidates spend too much time on religion. In 2001, only 8 percent of Republicans had the same gripe.
Among those who identify as Independent, a coveted demographic for both political parties, 42 percent said politicians talk too much about religion, a 6 percent increase from 2010. (In 2001, only 14 percent of Independents thought there was too much emphasis on religion.)
The Pew survey also asked respondents about how much involvement churches should have in politics. Sixty percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents and 44 percent of Republicans said churches should not be involved in politics.
(It should be noted, however, that respondents were asked if churches and other houses of worship “should stay out of political matters.” The question shouldn’t have been phrased that way, because there’s a big difference between a church endorsing a candidate – which violates federal tax law -- and a church discussing a national political issue, which does not.)
This survey is yet another example of how out of touch some politicians are with the electorate – and it’s far from the only example. LifeWay Research, which is the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, found that just 16 percent of Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate who speaks regularly about his or her religious beliefs.
It’s no secret that politicians work hard to stay “on message” during a campaign, but it’s clear that some candidates have played the faith card too many times. The American public is tired of this broken record and wants to hear a new tune. Candidates should be discussing the myriad of problems facing this country, not how often they pray.
What people really want is a stable economy, more jobs and a better life for themselves and their families. Politicians who spend most of their time talking about how often they pray isn’t doing much to deliver any of those things.