Americans don’t want religious pitches
from presidential candidates, poll says
By Heather Donckels
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS)—Even though thousands of evangelicals flocked to Washington for the recent Values Voter Summit, more than two-thirds of Americans think presidential candidates should not use their religious beliefs to sway voters, a new poll shows.
The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the Interfaith Alliance in October, asked 1,000 adults to agree or disagree with the following statement: “Presidential candidates should not use their religion or faith to influence voters to support them.”
Sixty-eight percent said they agreed.
Even regular churchgoers think presidential hopefuls should not use their faith as a campaign tool. Almost 60 percent of survey respondents who regularly attend religious services agreed with the statement.
Candidates went “too far” at the Value Voters summit as they tried to “out-Christian” each other, said Baptist minister Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance.
“We’re not electing a pastor-in-chief. We’re electing a commander-in-chief,” Gaddy said.
Candidates certainly can speak about their religion and beliefs as “points of identification for who they are,” Gaddy said, but they push the limits when they imply voters should support them because of their religion.
“We are not electing a person on the basis of their theology or on the basis of their personal spirituality,” he said. Instead, the American people should be looking for a candidate who can support democracy and help the United States be a “good citizen of the world community.”
The poll also showed about 58 percent of Americans think religious leaders should have little influence on voters’ decisions, and 78 percent believe it is important the next president nominate Supreme Court justices who will maintain the separation of church and state.
The poll of 1,000 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.