Pew Research Poll Says 63% of Americans Say Religious Organizations Should Stay Out of Politics

The Capitol and Washington Monument are seen at dawn in Washington, on Jan. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As Americans gear up for a long and bitterly contentious presidential election year, their message to religious leaders and institutions couldn’t be clearer: Keep out.

That’s the finding in the latest Pew Research poll, which found that 63% of Americans say churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics, and 76% said religious congregations should not make political endorsements.

“Most U.S. adults want religious groups to stay out of politics” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

The poll, which Pew conducted online this past March from among 6,364 U.S. adults, also found that slightly more than half of U.S. adults say that the Republican Party is friendly toward religion (54%). Only one in five, (19%), think the Democratic Party is friendly toward religion. (According to Pew, Republican respondents said the Democratic Party is unfriendly toward religion, while most Democrats view their own party as neutral toward religion.)

“It used to be Republicans were viewed as friendly toward religion and Democrats were viewed as neutral,” said David Campbell, professor of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame. “Now you see a growing number of people saying, no, the Democrats are unfriendly toward religion.”

“Just over half of Americans say GOP is friendly
toward religion” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research

But the view that religion should not have as big a role in politics cut across religious faiths. Jews and the religiously unaffiliated are more likely than Christians to oppose mixing religion and politics. Even among Christians, however, 70% say churches and other houses of worship should not endorse candidates for political office, and more than half (54%) say churches should keep out of political matters.

Those views extend to the pulpit, too. While most people who attend religious services are satisfied with the amount of political discussion they’re hearing in sermons, they tend to trust clergy less on political hot-button issues.

Only 39% of people who attend religious services at least a few times a year have “a lot” of confidence in their clergy to provide useful guidance on abortion. They feel far less confident in clergy guidance on issues of immigration and climate change. Only 20% trusted their clergy’s guidance “a lot” on immigration issues and only 13% trusted their clergy’s advice “a lot” on climate change.

Catholics, in particular, are consistently less likely than Protestants to say they trust their clergy on all three issues.

“On abortion, for example, 34% of Catholics say they have a lot of trust in their clergy to provide guidance that helps form their opinion, compared with 46% of Protestants overall and 57% of evangelical Protestants who say this,” the report concluded.

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Source: Religion News Service