The Pew Research Center has published an interesting survey on the political parties and religion. The finding that is getting the most press is that only 29% of respondents view the Democrats as religion-friendly, down from 40% just a year ago.
In general, the public seems to view the parties and their attitudes toward religion as mirror images. Almost exactly equal numbers think the secular anti-religion forces have too much control over the Democrats, and the religious conservatives too much control over the Republicans. In almost exactly equal proportions, respondents see the Republicans more concerned with protecting religious values, and the Democrats more concerned with protecting individual freedoms.
In one critical respect, however, this parallel breaks down. The public is equally divided on the question whether conservative Christians “have gone too far in trying to impose their religious values on the country.” But in answer to the slightly more specifically worded question whether liberals have gone too far in trying to keep religion out of schools and government, 67% answer “yes,” and only 28% “no.” This amounts to a national consensus; it is noteworthy, too, that the numbers are even more stark among black respondents: 75% think liberals have gone too far in trying to keep religion out of schools and government.
These numbers have to be very troubling to the Democrats, but, given the centrality of these issues to the party’s activists and donor base, it’s hard to see the Democrats making much of a change.
One more thing: one of my pet peeves is dumb poll questions. Here, the Pew people put in some questions on peoples’ attitudes toward evolution. One question asked: “Some people think that humans and other living things [have evolved over time]. Others think that humans and other living things [have existed in their present form since the beginning of time]. Which of these comes closest to your view?”
The idea, I suppose, is to make evolution skeptics sound dumb. But I’ve never heard of anyone who believes that “living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” Nevertheless, 42% of respondents, evidently grasping the point the Pew folks were driving at, said that alternative came closer to their view.
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