Survey: U.S. split on candidates' religion talk

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jan 20, 2012 5:52 PM
Survey: U.S. split on candidates' religion talk
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Presidential candidates who discuss their faith on the campaign trail may not be helping their bid for the nomination, according to a LifeWay Research survey of American adults.

The online survey asked, "When a candidate running for office regularly expresses religious conviction or activity, how does that impact your vote?"

According to the survey, only 1 in 6 Americans (16 percent) are more likely to vote for a candidate who regularly shares his religious beliefs.

While 30 percent indicate they would be less likely to vote for a candidate expressing religious activity, 28 percent say it would have no impact on their choice of candidate. Twenty-one percent of Americans say it would depend on the candidate's religion.

According to age distinctions, the survey revealed younger Americans ages 18-29 (24 percent) and ages 30-49 (24 percent) are more likely to select "depends on the religion" of the candidate. Those age 65 and over are the most likely (37 percent) to say a candidate's expression of religious conviction or activity would have no impact on their choice of candidate.

"Millennials are not known for active involvement in matters and practices of faith," said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. "Yet this survey reveals that young adults do have stronger feelings and that they are more likely to vote differently depending on which religious convictions a candidate expresses."

Americans who consider themselves to be a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian are more likely (28 percent versus 11 percent) to select "more likely to vote for the candidate" expressing religious conviction compared to Americans who do not share their religious beliefs. Similarly, these Christians are more likely to select "depends on the religion" compared to those who do not identify with these beliefs (36 percent versus 20 percent).

Americans who never attend a place of worship are most likely (67 percent) to say a candidate's expression of religious conviction or activity would make them "less likely to vote for a candidate." Only 3 percent would be more likely to vote for the candidate.

"Different people get a different picture in their mind when a political candidate shares or shows their religious convictions," McConnell said. "While some Americans warm up to this, many don't see it as a positive."

African Americans are most likely to be put off by a candidate's religious expression -- just 2 percent say they would be "more likely to vote for the candidate." Hispanic Americans (41 percent) and African Americans (43 percent) indicate they would be less likely to vote for a candidate expressing religious conviction or activity.

"In fact, two-thirds of Americans who never attend a place of worship appear to flee from candidates who repeatedly put their religion in front of them and 4 in 10 Hispanic and African American adults take it as a cue that the candidate is not for them," McConnell said.

Methodology: The survey, conducted Sept. 23-26, 2011, sampled an online panel representing the adult population of the United States. Responses were weighted by region, party, age, race, religion, gender and education to reflect the population. The completed sample of 2,144 surveys provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

Russ Rankin is LifeWay's manager of editorial services. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/Baptist Press) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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