Catholic Americans increasingly say that the Obama administration is unfriendly to religion, a new survey says, though Americans as a whole appear to be growing more skeptical towards a role for religion in public life.
The Pew Research Center said that there has been a “noticeable shift” among white Catholics’ opinion of the Obama administration, which could be tied to “effects from the controversy over the administration’s policies on contraception coverage.”
In August 2009, 15% of Catholics and 17% of white Catholics said the Obama administration is unfriendly towards religion. In March 2012, 25% of Catholics and 31% of white Catholics said the same, the Pew Research Center’s March 21 report said.
However, 42% of Catholics believe the administration is friendly to religion, while 25% believe it is neutral.
Among all Americans, only 23% say the administration is unfriendly to religion, while 39% consider it friendly. White evangelicals were most likely to agree the administration is unfriendly, while black Protestants were least likely. About 52% of Republicans, 21% of independent voters, and only 5% of Democrats think the administration is unfriendly towards religion.
The survey also polled respondents’ beliefs about the major political parties’ religious attitudes.
About 54% of Americans said the Republican Party is friendly to religion, while 35% said the Democratic Party is. Twenty-one percent said the Democratic Party is unfriendly to religion, and 13% said the same of the Republican Party.
Another interesting finding involved 51% of respondents saying that “religious conservatives” have too much control over the Republicans, and 41% saying “secular liberals” have too much control over the Democrats.
The Pew Research Center said that the survey also found “signs of public uneasiness with the mixing of religion and politics.”
Fifty-four percent of respondents said that churches should keep out of political matters, while only 40% said they should express views on social and political questions. This is a significant change since 1996, when 54% of respondents favored church involvement and 43% did not.
Sixty percent of Democrats, 58% of independents and 44% of Republicans took a negative attitude towards churches in politics, as did 60% of both Catholics and white mainline Protestants. Only the religiously unaffiliated were more hostile to church involvement, at 66%.
The split was evident even in the Republican Party presidential primary. Fifty-seven percent of supporters of former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney said churches should keep out of political matters, while only 38% of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum’s supporters agreed.
However, respondents aged 18-29 were most open to hearing churches express their views, with 45% favoring this approach and only 50% thinking churches should not be involved.
The Pew Center survey polled 1,503 adults from March 7-11. It claims a margin of error for the total sample of plus or minus three percentage points.