New Poll: Candidates Should Not Use Religion to Influence Voters

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Majority of Religious Americans Want Religion Separate from Government

Washington, D.C. – A strong majority of Americans tell presidential candidates not to use their religion as a political strategy, a new poll finds.(View Poll Data 91k) In fact, 60 percent of Americans who regularly attend religious services say that presidential candidates should not use their religion or faith to influence voters. Among all Americans, 68 percent hold this view. Notably, this sentiment is consistent across political party affiliation, with nearly 60 percent of self-identified Republicans agreeing and three-quarters of Democrats (75 percent) and Independents (70 percent) concurring. Furthermore, by a three-to-one margin, Americans believe that clergy and religious leaders should not have a great deal of influence on voters’ decisions (great deal of influence, 8 percent versus no influence at all, 31 percent).

These are among the findings of a new poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, Inc. for First Freedom First, a project of The Interfaith Alliance Foundation. Voters overwhelmingly send presidential candidates and their campaigns the message that religion and government each work best when kept separate.

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance noted, “These results are a clear message from voters to presidential candidates and those in office that Americans value their First Freedom. Religion should not be reduced to a political tool used to influence the voters because it damages both the sanctity of religion and the integrity of government. Americans are electing a Commander-in-Chief, not a Pastor-in-Chief.”

The new poll also found that:

  • Nearly 80% of Americans believe that it is important that the next president nominate Supreme Court justices who will protect the separation of religion and government.
  • Fully three-quarters of both those who regularly attend religious services (75 percent) and those who do not (81 percent) believe that this is important.
  • Among registered voters, nearly 70 percent (68 percent) say that presidential candidates should not use their religion or faith to influence voters.
  • A scant 13% of those who regularly attend religious services believe that clergy or religious leaders should have a great deal of influence on their votes.
  • People of color are even slightly more likely to believe the next President should nominate a Supreme Court Justice who will protect the separation of religion and government than voters overall.

“While it is important for religious leaders to speak out on the great moral and political issues of the day, the American people have made it clear that they do not want their religious leaders dictating their electoral decisions,” added Rev. Gaddy. “And when the next vacancy arises on the Supreme Court, I hope whomever is president will remember the will of the American people and nominate a judge who is committed to the separation of religion and government.”

The telephone survey was administered by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation as part of their twice-weekly omnibus survey and sponsored by The Interfaith Alliance Foundation. Results reflect a random sampling of 1000 people nationwide. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent. More information can be found at: www.firstfreedomfirst.com.