September 17th, 2010
01:15 PM ET

How faith shapes politics - or doesn't

A national survey released today shows that while many Americans say faith drives their stances on social and political issues, there's little consistency on how and when it does.

Opinions on hot-button matters like abortion and same-sex marriage are more often influenced primarily by religion than are issues such as immigration, the environment and poverty, according to the Pew Research Center survey, "Impact of Religion on Political Views.”

Of the more than 3,000 adults surveyed over a two-week period this summer, 35 percent said religion mattered most for them on the issue of same-sex marriage. Of just those who oppose such marriages, 60 percent named religion as their top influence. On abortion, 26 percent named religion, with 45 percent of opponents weighing in this way.

Forty-four percent of those surveyed said their clergy speaks about same-sex matters, and 59 percent said they hear from clergy about abortion.

But even though 88 percent of regular churchgoers said their clergy speaks about poverty and hunger, only 10 percent cited religious beliefs as their top influence when considering the government’s role in assisting the poor.

Clergy speaks about environmental protection to 47 percent of those surveyed, but just 6 percent said their positions were primarily faith driven. And while 24 percent said they hear about immigration in their houses of worship, only 7 percent gave religion top-billing when it comes to influence.

Education, personal experiences and media coverage often have more influence than religion on opinions about poverty, the environment and immigration, explained Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

He said it’s hard to know why people report the influences they do, but deciphering what issues have important religious links and what issues do not is key to understanding how faith factors into American politics.

Among the discoveries he ranked as most interesting was the realization that religion doesn’t necessarily push Americans in a conservative direction. A full 32 percent of those opposed to the death penalty (or 19 percent overall), for example, cite religion as the most important influence in forging their opinion.

Also outlined in the survey is a list of what issues are considered “very important” to voters. Ninety percent said the economy; 88 percent said jobs; 78 percent said healthcare, followed by other issues including terrorism, taxes, energy, Afghanistan and immigration. At the bottom of the list: 43 percent said abortion and 32 percent said same-sex marriage.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Abortion • Belief • Environment • Gay marriage • Homosexuality • Politics • United States

soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Muneef

    With all respect to comment to your views on Larry King to Interview Stephen Hawking about the form of God?? The form of God in the Quran as says to be of Light more like of the moon light since, says Alqamar Nora. God Allah has given his form of being in Quran Sura 24:35 puzzle of which I challenge Mr.Stephen Hawking or NASA to decode it and if they did they would not declare it because Quran is a challenge to science and I am sure if this guy is intelligent enough through understanding the miracals of the Quran would be able to decode many miracles that could be found.

    September 27, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Maybe if we Want to learn some logic we ought to watch the arrivals, wakeupproject. For religious and non religious to learn to think and made their Choices and that can be achieved if decided to face your fears and confront Evil in it's many faces..look into the heart for judgment and not at the colour of their skins or of their eyes or their faith and belief.
    It is a war by the negative dark forces against the positive light forces which is found among all religious or non religious nations and communities within them comes those are dark and those who are light but the dark forces worked their way towards unity between them to work on planting disputes and separations among the good forces(The free thinkers) breaking them to otam's with doubts therefore weakening them and their free will and free choice into a new world Godless, soulless order??

    September 23, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  3. Eric G.

    Before anyone can have a logical debate about their religious beliefs, they should study logic. Arguments from assumption, ignorance cannot be taken as a valid position. Religious followers seem "h3ll bent" on debunking scientific theory because they think science is deliberately trying to disprove their beliefs. Science is oblivious to religious belief. Science requires no belief. Science just cares about evidence and reasoned understanding. Please stop wasting what little time you have on this planet trying to disprove science. If you really want to make a difference, spend your time working to provide verifiable evidence that your god exists. I cannot stress "verifiable" evidence enough. Some believers look at the world around us and think it is so amazing that it is, in and of itself, proof that their god exists. This goes right back to the argument from ignorance. If you cannot grasp a theory about how things happen, it does not mean that your god must have been responsible. All it proves is that you cannot grasp it and you need to take the opportunity to learn.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Critter

      @Eric G.

      Dang! I wish I had said that! You did it again! Aarrgghh!

      September 21, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • peace2all


      You think 'you' wish you had said that ...... I'm the one who's fingers have been falling off trying to tip-toe around nicely with the fundies.

      @Eric G.

      Always comes in with the really good ones.... He has been doing this for months.... So, from me 'triple Aarrgghh'.!!!!! 🙂


      September 21, 2010 at 3:35 am |
  4. Leah

    Wooh! I didn't think my post would be that long. It was no disrespect to the people I mentioned nor to science itself. It was just my thoughts on religion vs science. I'm not saying either or is correct.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • peace2all


      No.... no disrespect taken here... we again, as I posted with ICEMAN, and you can reference my postings with Peter F, you can see our back and forth debates with respect...... we are all trying to learn in mutual respect. So, no offense taken.

      I know they were just your thoughts.....could they be anything else...but your thoughts...? Just like mine are 'my thoughts' on the matter or subjects in discussion.

      I think that not only have I posted on this many, many times.....but you also have some very sound postings from not only @Reality, but also @Eric G... and as impressive from @Critter.

      I if you look at all of our collective thoughts, which maybe you have, but also.....include my last post to ICEMAN, as I posted in a different way to build some bridges between us.. and science and religion. Please take a look.... Would love to hear your thoughts on that...

      So..... first let me say, that I think my fingers are about ready to fall off on all of the postings on this and the many other articles of late.... As much as I would like to leave a long and well-thought out response to your well-thought and sincere post, I just don't have the time right now.

      However, since we are here out of mutual respect and to possibly *learn* from each other.... I will say this... as I read your post, I think that we are saying a lot of the *same* things just in different terms.

      If I may(respectfully), from looking at your post, I would like to pose a few questions to you as I see them as possible areas for *learning* for you personally.... If you are one who is into learning.

      As I will be the first to admit... I certainly don't know everything, and I do welcome *learning* when someone takes the time to point out maybe some areas that I may be missing. I truly love learning...

      Again, it would take toooo long to go into everything in your post, but if I may on a few things that 'jumped out' at me:

      1) You said...."Some things are just not meant to be explained"-- How do you know that....? And....why would some things not be meant to be explained....? And who decides....which are and which aren't...you...me...scientist....?

      You see that is an unquestioned *assumption* in your post. There are absolutely *no* rules or laws stating somewhere that "Some things are just not meant to be explained" Your unquestioned assumption is coming across as if ...it is an absolute fact. You see.... possibility to learn here...

      2) Another one... You said...."I find it extremely difficult to think that this Earth, etc.. etc..."---I would suggest that just because 'you' find it extremely difficult to think.. of something being so.... Doesn't mean that it isn't exactly as science is proving things on a subject. Again, I will use the example as I did with ICEMAN that 500 years ago..."Virtually 'everyone' couldn't even possibly 'conceive' and certainly would find extremely difficult to think that we would be going into space.. And if you go back a few thousand years ago... even more unbelievable. You see, just because we ...'can't possibly imagine or think that something is 'possible' doesn't mean that it isn't just exactly as described, or will be discovered in the future..

      Does that make sense... ? I often, myself, have to stop myself, and catch myself and say.....just because I don't think it is possible... doesn't mean I am right about it.

      And this is the last one....as my fingers are wearing out here.... as I would like to write more, but:

      3) You said....and if you will allow me to paraphrase here.... basically that "things that are going on in life = or equate to things written in the bible ( I am assuming you are meaning sort of the coming of the end of days....book of revelations)...?

      There have been so many 'extreme' evangelicals who have interpreted the bible as such and many over the years have been saying it is the end times... Some have even predicted dates... and yet, all have always been wrong. We as humans will seek out patterns in the world to justify our beliefs. Or, if I may put it another way... "your beliefs set out to *prove* what they assume." Does that make any sense...? I bring it up, because you mentioned that "we would be *fools* to think otherwise" Again, more unquestioned pattern assignment and assumptions.

      Anyways Leah..... i must go.. and take a break before said fingers fall off..! Nice posting with you.... I appreciate positive and intellectual debates.... where we all ...hopefully mutually benefit...

      Peace to you....

      September 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • Muneef

      A Beautiful story about QURAN.
      Why do we read Quran, even if we can't understand a single Arabic word???
      *An old American Muslim lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson. Each morning Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading his Quran. His grandson wanted to be just like him and tried to imitate him in every way he could.
      One day the grandson asked, "Grandpa! I try to read the Quran just like you but I don't understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Qur'an do?"
      The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and replied, "Take this coal basket down to the river and bring me back a basket of water.
      The boy did as he was told, but all the water leaked out before he got back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, "You'll have to move a little faster next time," and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket, and he went to get a bucket instead.
      The old man said, "I don't want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You're just aganot trying hard enough," and he went out the door to watch the boy try in.
      At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got back to the house. The boy again dipped the basket into river and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, "See Grandpa, it's useless!"
      "So you think it is useless?" The old man said, "Look at the basket."
      The boy looked at the basket and for the first time realized that the basket was different. It had been transformed from a dirty old coal basket and was now clean, inside and out.
      Son, that's what happens when you read the Qur'an . You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, you will be changed, inside and out when you read time by time . That is the work of Allah in our lives.."
      The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh & his family) says: *"The one who guides to good will be rewarded equally"

      @Leay. First word came to Prophet Muhammed by Holy Spirit was The word Read in the name of your God.sura 96, so that means you are inquisitive and in the right direction which we call in Islam Momen from Iman but to find out what you want is Listen&Read then judge your God given Mind&Heart = your path to (Heavens or Hells) Chice is Yours.
      I wish all American are like you questioning why are we here for and what is it that wanted from us to do other than slaving our way to God for rewards of after life as earth life is only a transit station for us it is the real life is endless life and becomes after earth life and after judgement day at it we either rewarded Heavens or hells.! You are in the right path friend even if had to read all that said to be holy and holy just make a choice that you will not regret, no not on earth but up there at point of no return. God Bless.

      September 21, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  5. Leah

    I've skimmed through some of Reality and Peace2All's comments. They make themselves sound like they know everything (used extremely loosely) – no disrepect, to me you sound like you do – but I don't think they truly comprehend the whole "faith" thing. Yes you do have valid points, both of you do.

    Science can't explain everything. It's too flawed and some things are not meant to be explained. I find it extremely difficult to think this Earth was created from nothing and that we all "evolved" from microscopic organisms into what we are today. Most athiests – the respectful and the disrepectful – argue that the Bible was written by man thus is flawed. Wait, isn't science the same way? Everything we see and understand, even the things we don't, is based off of the interpretation of man. The bible was written by man but inspired by God. Before you go bashing, these are just thoughts and are not meant to be answered.

    Please prove to me how the Earth was created based on FACT not theories. (I hate it when some people use theories as facts)
    Please prove to me that God does or does not exist.
    Please prove to me that our lives isn't really a video game, such as SIMS, and "God" isn't just the player of the game.
    Please bring back George Washington alive and concious (no zombie mojo going on).
    Please tell me what goes on when we die.

    Before you go bashing, these are just thoughts and are not meant to be answered. I believe in God BUT trust science. And no I'm not a bible thumper. I haven't read the bible in years. You have faith your doctor can heal you. You have faith your insurance isn't going to screw you over. You have faith you're going to make it to and from work safely. You have faith that your tv will turn on. You have faith that your house haven't been robbed and is still standing. You believe that you are in control of your life (But are you really? Are you sure your not a puppet on a string? – metaphorically). Then why can't you have faith that someone is looking after you when you don't pay attention when you're crossing the street or your in a dangerous situation? Because you can't see him? But that's the whole point in faith.

    I've had too many good things that I can't just chalk up to coincedence (I know I butchered the spelling). Good things that happen in a hopeless situation. And I bet this months pay check that you, those who don't believe, will be the first ones to pray to God when things go down for you (such as a hurricane or an earthquake). You can deny that. I know you will.

    Even if the Bible is a "book of fairy tales" (I find it amusing that people call it that yet have never even picked it up), life as it is today, the things that are going on, is too dangerously close to what is written in the Bible. You can't deny that. You would be a fool if you do. The bible isn't supposed to be literal. The parables in there are lessons that we need to learn in simple terms. For example, do I believe that Johan survived in a fish? No. Was that the point of the parable? No. The point of it was, if you don't do what you're told, there will be consequences. Another example, are you really going to tell your 3 yr old where babies come from? No. You're going to use the stork-story or something of that nature. That's the point of parables. To explain something complex in something that we CAN understand.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  6. Muneef

    @peace2all. Wonder if you have a copy of the Quran in English and its English translation then as well wonder if by reading it you came across what it says about JC birth and about if was crucified? Interesting. No harm is meant. Peace2all.

    September 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.