Monday, June 13, 2005

AP Poll: Yes, Americans Are Religious

I was out of town for a few days and didn't see this AP survey, reported here in The Post.
WASHINGTON -- Americans are far more likely to consider religion central to their lives and to support giving clergy a say in public policy than people in nine countries that are close allies, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. Yet, the U.S. embrace of faith has its limits. AP Poll: Religion Key in American Lives

From here the news gets a little glass-half-empty-ish. Of course statistics blah-blah-blah can make them say anything. But there are some interesting numbers here.
Nearly all U.S. respondents said faith was important to them and only 2 percent said they did not believe in God, according to the polling conducted for the AP by Ipsos.

Almost 40 percent in this country said religious leaders should try to sway policymakers, notably higher than in other countries.

"Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian policies and religious leaders have an obligation to speak out on public policy, otherwise they're wimps," said David Black, a retiree from Osborne, Pa., who agreed to be interviewed after he was polled.

OK, we know that guy, right? If it wasn't for him, this web site wouldn't be here.
Still, 61 percent said they didn't think religious leaders should influence government decisions.

"I think religion and politics are too closely intertwined in this country," said Dillon Hickman, a businessman from Uniontown, Ohio, near Akron. "A lot of religious leaders take too active a position in politics. And it's getting moreso."

And then ... this is interesting:
Only Mexicans come close to Americans in embracing faith, among the countries polled. But unlike Americans, Mexicans strongly object to clergy lobbying lawmakers, in line with the nation's historical opposition to church influence.

The polling was conducted in May in the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain.

"The United States is a much more religious country than other similar countries, looks a lot like what you call developing countries, like Mexico, Iran and Indonesia," said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.

Weird that you have Western Europe on one hand, and the US, Mexico, Iran, Indonesia on the other. Those are what they call "developing" countries. They are coming out of religious domination, into the light of modern industrialism. And us ...?

So, it's true, Americans are more likely than people in other industrialized countries to say that religious leaders should try to influence government decisions. Our 37 percent is higher than Canada's, Mexico's, South Korea's, France's, Germany's, Italy's, Spain's, or Great Britain's. But -- it's only thirty-seven per cent. A little more than a third of Americans actually feel that religious leaders should be involved in government. Sixty-one percent say no, religious leaders should not "try to influence government decisions."

That's not close, 37 to 61.

And remember, that's averaged over the whole country. For instance, that includes Texas, Alabama, Kansas ... and Maryland. The poll was not sufficiently large to report regional or state means, but the good money says that people in Maryland, and in particular in Montgomery County, are less likely than the national average to welcome the intrusion of religious leaders into political and government affairs. So, take 37 per cent, adjust for Florida and Georgia and Arkansas, and see what you got left.

I'll tell you: you got a blue county that doesn't want its public school curriculum determined by religious extremists.

This poll tells us that Americans in general are more religious than people in other developed countries, and more willing to let religion into government. But nothing near a majority of Americans are willing to give up the separation of church and state. Even now in the post-2004-election phase, when the tidal wave of fundamentalist fervor is rising to its peak, a large majority of Americans want religion and government to stay separate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, more hysteria from Jim.

In one paragraph you go from an nearly rational discussion of religious influence on politics to cries of "religious extremism!!!!!1!!!!"

How's your heart these days? Maybe you need to mellow a bit.

June 13, 2005 4:49 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Gleeful, I hate to keep humoring you with responses. My heart is great, in more ways than one. This survey shows that most Americans want religion to stay out of government. Some minority of people feel differently. Some feel so differently that they actively work to insert their religious beliefs into public policy. I, and others, call this fanatical minority "religious extremists."

June 14, 2005 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, you're missing the problem here. Again.

Not everyone who thinks religion has a place in the public sphere is an EXTREMIST WHO WANTS TO ESTABLISH A THEOCRACY--QUICK, GET A PITCHFORK!!!!!!

June 14, 2005 9:27 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

There is a smallish minority of people who believe that religion belongs in government at all. Of those, there is a miniscule hard-core group who actively support the idea. A common term for such an activist counternormative minority is "extremists."

June 14, 2005 12:29 PM  

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