(Week of 9/8/2012) Last week’s kerfuffle at the Democratic National Convention over an amendment reinserting the word "God" to the Democratic platform caused a minor debate among political pundits over the role of religion in American politics. This week’s Economist/YouGov poll finds that Americans are sharply divided over how religion figures into the country’s identity and whether politicians from both parties talk too much or too little about their religious beliefs.
When asked which of three statements about the role of religion in the U.S. comes closest to their view, 28% choose the statement "the U.S. is a Christian nation", while another 20% choose the statement "the U.S. is a Biblical nation, defined by the Judeo-Christian tradition." On the other side, 37% of Americans choose the statement "The U.S. is a secular nation in which religious belief, or lack of it, isn't a defining characteristic."
Poll takers split markedly along partisan lines in their answers to this question. 82% of Republicans think the U.S. is either a Christian nation or defined by the Judeo-Christian tradition, but only 26% of Democrats agree. 55% of Democrats think the U.S. is a secular nation, but only 12% of Republican agree. Independents are more closely aligned with Democrats on this question.
Given these differences in how partisans understand the role of religion in America, it is perhaps not surprising that they also split on whether politicians from each of the main political parties talk too much or too little about their religious beliefs. In the case of Republican politicians, 43% of American think they talk too much about their religious beliefs, while 43% think they talk about them the right amount and 13% think they talk too about them too little. But among Democrats, the percentage who think GOP politicians engage in too much religion talk rises to 63%, while among Republicans the percent who think GOP politicans talk about their beliefs the right amount rises to 72%.
In the case of religious talk from Democratic politicians, the reverse is the case. 18% think they talk about religious beliefs too much, 50% think they talk about them just the right amount, and 32% think they talk about them too little. But while Democrats overwhelmingly think Democratic politicians talk about their religious beliefs the right amount, most Republicans think Democratic politicians engage in too little talk of religion.
A majority of independents agree with Democrats that GOP politicians talk about religion too much, and a plurality agree with Democrats that Democratic politicians talk about religion the right amount.
Photo source: Press Association