As politicians talk more about faith, voters seem to want less
President Barack Obama at a White House Easter prayer breakfast in April.
April 27th, 2012
09:48 AM ET

As politicians talk more about faith, voters seem to want less

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the debate: By Lisa Desjardins, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Is Washington a holy city? It might seem that way, with all the talk about religion and morality in the 2012 election.

But all that God talk may be rubbing voters the wrong way.

"It's getting ugly out there," said Tim King, an evangelical Christian who works for the progressive religious group Sojourners. "There are a lot of Christians who are using their faith as a political weapon, which it's never meant to be."

King, who calls himself "politically homeless," says that while both parties talk about faith and invoke Scripture, he and other young evangelicals he knows sense an undercurrent of political gamesmanship in all the religious talk.

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"You don't get to win the argument because you have more Bible verses," he told CNN Radio. "You need to make the case about why your policies are good for everyone."

King is part of what looks like a national shift. In March, the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life saw a first in its ten years of polling: the largest group of voters in its survey, 38%, said that politicians are talking about religion "too much" right now.

"In fact, we saw an all-time high number of people taking that view," said Greg Smith, one of the researchers who produced the Pew report.

The survey found that 30% of Americans think politicians talk "too little" about faith and that 25% said it's the "right amount."

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There is a political factor, with twice as many Democrats saying politicians talk too much about religion as Republicans. But both parties saw sharp increases in the number of voters who want to hear less about religion from politicians.

Religious talk played a big role in recent elections, with Barack Obama distancing himself form his longtime pastor in 2008 and George W. Bush benefitting from a surge in so-called values voters in 2004.

“I think morality is being talked about a lot more in 2012," said David Brody, chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"Not necessarily religion, but now we've seen the budget cloaked in moral terms by Roman Catholic (Congressman) Paul Ryan and by Catholics who think he's wrong, on moral grounds," he said. "Immorality has been invoked a lot more in 2012."

Brody noted another possible factor, saying that many voters question the sincerity of how some candidates talk about faith.

"There are some (politicians) who are natural when they talk about faith," Brody said, "there are other politicians who may do it more for political purposes."

For now, it seems that the more politicians talk about religion, the more voters want them to stop such talk.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics

soundoff (507 Responses)
  1. Jesus was a space alien

    I have not problem with God....he just needs to save me from his followers.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  2. bad belly blues

    What's really scary is if one of these fanatics actually gets elected. Imagine a person we depend on to run our country thinking there is actually a spiritual man god that supposedly lives in the heavens and is watching over our every move.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Bernie

      What's really scary is if Obama gets re-elected and continues his push toward having GOVERNMENT watching over our every move. Religions provide a very needed opposition to totalitarianism; and government provides the same in opposition to the exclusivity tendencies in the monotheistic religions. Most anti-religion folks fall into bigotry toward religion by using disparaging language about what they actually know very little and are even less inclined to learn about -that is bigotry.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • jimtanker

      Oh really? Ever hear of the Patriot Act that your mesiah created? Bush was the one that created this mess.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Jim

      and yourself it seems..

      April 27, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Cq

      Bernie has a point. The real reason why Stalin, Mao, and Hitler put down organized religion was because of it's influence over people. Of course, sometimes the totalitarianism state is based on religious power, like in Iran, but it certainly wouldn't tolerate any rival religion holding power, which is what makes the rise of evangelical power here in the US so scary. Should they come to power, all other religions as well as other Christian denominations would be disenfranchised, and what kind of liberty would we have then?

      April 27, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Snow

      The road goes both ways and at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is power.. people will use whatever means (religion being the easiest, but any other ways as well, as seen in USSR and North korea) to control the masses. Silly sheep buy into that rhetoric and get suckered in for somebody else's ambition.

      April 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  3. paul.cos

    There are places in this country where religion has infested the political discourse so much that i cant tell the difference from the evangelical republicans and the taliban....fascism will come to this country wrapped in a flag ,carring a bible

    April 27, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  4. Jesus was a space alient

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. -Voltaire

    April 27, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • keith

      Love it!!! If these peeps are so religious why do they lie to get into office?????

      April 27, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  5. samptechs

    It's interesting that religion has become a Republican cudgel when it was Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, that first emphasized faith-as-a-factor to the presidency...

    Anyways, candidates should remember that they're running for public office and not the pulpit. Religious people do not have a monopoly on morality, nor do atheists/agnostics have a lock on logic. Be smart, be conscientious, be sensitive to the needs of the people (of all creeds), and remember that it's the economy that needs the attention.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Bernie

      Now, this is an INTELLIGENT comment. We see very few of these types of comments in the comment boxes.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Jim

      oh my, using logic, reason and respect...that is frowned upon in these parts.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • doughnuts

      A concise reasonable statement offering a synthesis of views?

      You ain't from 'round here, are you?

      April 27, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  6. Ax

    Let us pray. Dear Heavenly Father, please save us from your followers. Amen.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  7. jessica

    there should be a separation of faith and politics, just as there's a separation of church and state. it's getting overly ridiculous.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • keith

      @jessica "just as there's a separation of church and state." There really isnt, case n point, that teacher in Texas who became pregnant and wasnt married but according to the contract she signed it stated that as a MENTOR not teacher she broke the rules. And those rules had been tested previously, the Supreme Court ruled that that Religious School was not bound my the US LAWS, but of its own..

      April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  8. 2u

    Perceived sincerity neither proves that a person is sincere, nor does it prove the truth of what the person is sincere about.

    This is much like the delusion that mere popularity of something proves that something to be true or moral or realistic or sane.

    As much as I like the idea of a representative democracy, none of the mechanisms we use as a country provide anything of the sort in a consistent way. Instead of representation in Congress, we get every concern and issue ignored in favor of the very richest most powerful people who violate our representation by bribing Congressmen to abandon their sworn duty and represent only them instead of all Americans.

    Most of this is because of the ignorance and gullibility of the general population who are defrauded by candidates who never intended to represent the general population but only lied to get elected to a position where they are, apparently, free to violate their duties in a most corrupt manner depending on the individual.

    So if the general population is at fault for having no choice but to elect yet another fraudulent and unrepresentative politician to some public office, then at least the prerequisites for running are faulty, the process absent of any oversight, the office free of any accountability, and the whole government essentially run by people who do not respect the law, to put it nicely.

    And Congress is not the only place this happens. But the question of what the underlying problem is grows in importance with every violation. We do not have much time to do things or correct things. Government often creates change incrementally. Simple tasks take months. Single cases of any sort might take years to finish. Obstruction of government functioning is a huge problem. Red tape is the nice word for it.

    I propose that we seek changes to the rules. Ones that will be oriented towards growing a meritocracy out of the sewage pit that our so-called democracy has become.
    To only allow qualified people to hold positions, to restrict the ability of a greedy person, greedy for wealth or power or both, to hijack the workings of government for personal gain in wealth / power.
    I would seek changes in this direction for all the obvious reasons. The system is not only broken, it is monstrous.
    America is now a police state that tortures political prisoners. We get people like Romney running for office who clearly and openly lies about so many things it's a wonder they don't wrap him in a straitjacket for being a pathological liar.
    In Romney's case, I do not think people like him should be allowed to run for any public office whatsoever.
    To change this would, sadly, be nearly impossible at the current time.
    As voters, we are hiring these people to represent us, yet we are not allowed to screen any of them in any way beyond a few useless arbitrary requirements.
    I could lay this at the feet of the actual people responsible, but so many of them hide behind the scenes. They darken the corners of our legislatures, our government offices, our law enforcement departments. They are legion. They are numerous. And they are traitors. A bit strong, perhaps, but it is true nonetheless. To deliberately undermine the proper functioning of our government is clearly treason. And while I don't like the idea or the effects of ultra-nationalism, the fact is that they are terrorists, domestic enemies, criminal elements that do nearly all the damage that can be done to this country.

    Maybe one day humanity will have a world government, but the way things are being done, it would only be a worthless world dictatorship or totalitarian regime. There is no sign of anything better on the horizon. Obama promised hope and change, yet what he implied was never delivered. His Chicago ideas of how to get things done has shown itself a poor resource, just as it has for other Chicago politicians. DC does not run things or react the same way as is done in the clearly corrupt Chicago political machine.
    Rahm went back to his comfort zone and bought the mayorship. Old political zombies are shuffled around in the halls in DC.
    Yet no one addresses the roots of the problems Obama faces, were he serious about doing his best it wouldn't matter.
    The forces protecting the status quo have a criminal death grip on the world and this nation. Nothing less than a massive purge and other corrective actions will change this fact.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  9. H

    So 30% think they don't talk about religion *enough*? That is a frightening statistic. Sometimes it seem that is all they talk about, and a third of people want more?

    April 27, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Margaret

      It seemed like they were all trying to out-Christian each other. "No, I'm the better Christian, I am more Christian than you, You are not a Christian." How can anyone believe them. Show me examples of your good Christian values not by how often you go to church but what you do everyday. Anyone can say they are a Christian, the prisons are full of them, and for a few dollars yu can send away for a certificate saying you are a preacher.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • MarkSimonPaul

      the flesh will always hear what it wants to hear. These guys didn't talk about religion before because they were weak. They only started talking about it in the last three years since "We the People" brought the subject matter up. You see "We" still do have pull in our government. If we all came out and said we want to hear more on the price of beans in China they would start talking about it. They are reactive and have no clue of what they are going to be able to accomplish in office. Perfect exaple. Obama stated before he got elected he was going to start bringing home troops cause we had an uproar of citizens who were tired of missing their troops for 6 years. It took him 3.5 years to accomplish because he got a taste of reality once in office and realized what he promised was simply outragious! They want your vote and they will kiss your grandma's feet for it and tell you it smells like roses.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  10. jokerster

    The more the politican talks about relegion, the further away I go....I'm Catholic, but I'm not a follower, I have a mind of mine own and I will do what I think is right....

    April 27, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Chris

      you can't be Catholic and not a follower. Just like my friend, he thinks he's catholic but he absolutely never follows any of the tenants. He eats meat whenever, doesn't do lent, and he uses BC so...

      April 27, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Primewonk

      Well Chris, in the US, 98% of post-pubertal Catholics use or have used contraception. Obviously thses folks cannot be real Catholics. Sso this drops the effective # of Catholics to only 1.5 million in the whole country.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  11. mommytwice

    Religion has no place in politics and never has. We are not a theocracy. The far right has figured out that the only unifying factor they have is God and guns, so religion has now seeped back into politics. Remember JFK having to give a speech convincing the public that he could govern properly WITHOUT allowing his faith to influence him? That's as it should be. The current GOP needs to be knocked back into the reality of what a democracy actually is.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Jim

      Your opinion doesn't line up with history or reality mommy2x.

      Even Jefferson (along with Congress) funded a Roman Catholic mission-church in the new territory by providing them with funds for religious activities.

      You are free to believe whatever you desire but that doesn't mean that you are in-line with reality. Opinions are like bellybuttons, everyone has one so no one's is special. History is what it is and facts are facts.

      There is a big difference between government having people in it and policies affected by beliefs (religious or otherwise) but that is a far cry from a theocracy or an establishment of one religion over another which is what the Founders were leery of.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Timothy

      JFK – pew sitting Catholic.

      Romney – Stake President (equiv to Archbishop according to his own 2008 campaign), Bishop, Missionary, draft-dodger, ambition to be an Apostle like his ancestor

      Comparing JFK and Catholics to Romney and his Mormons isn't a comparison.

      April 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  12. Pika

    Religon is Destroying the World!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  13. Randy

    I wouldn't take much stock in the words of a Sojourners representative/follower. Liberalism has no place in Christianity.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • mommytwice

      and religion has no place in politics at all.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • andrew1865

      Jesus told his followers to give up all their money and help the poor. Even for now that's pretty liberal. I can't imagine how left-wing they saw him when he was alive.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Scott

      Jesus promoted universal peace and acceptance of all religions, provided free health care to anyone, and defended those whom religion had claimed to be unclean (the stoning of the adulteress comes to mind).
      Last I checked, those were liberal pov's.
      So, Jesus has no place in Christianity?

      April 27, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Chris

      Jesus never existed...well I mean he mows my lawn, but the one you're talking about is only mentioned in the bible...this dude was such a badass that no one else wrote anything about him. He's not shown or talked about anywhere else in history at that time.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • MarkSimonPaul

      We aren't sick of God being mentioned with politics we are sick of Politicians thinking they are Godly. They make decisions almost on a daily base that conflict with the law of moses and and the teachings of Jesus. I see the president and his colleagues in prayer but spend their time worrying about who needs medical insurance, vaccinations, and turning third world countries into free countries. This is a free country by the way and I don't feel any freer than a chimp in an a half acre cage with banana trees you have to pay to climb. God wouldn't want us spending our efforts on pedly things like that. Faith is about trusting God to do those pedly things. He can handle it, let our government worry about getting this country back into its Glory Days! Definition of Governement – a branch or service of the supreme authority of a state or nation, taken as representing the whole: Now if their are so many people up in arms against how the country is being run, then are they representing us as a whole????????

      April 27, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Primewonk

      Randy wrote, " Liberalism has no place in Christianity."

      WOW! This is an example of how far the (im)moral majority has stooped. Your Jesus, if he existed, was the biggest liberal ever.

      But you ignorant fundiots (fundamentalist îdiots) have this per.verted view of him as a cross between Chuck Heston and Arnold Schwartzenegger, with the 10 commandments in one arm and an Uzi in the other.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Jim

      And taking the political advice of someone who is putting poitics first and examination of Christ's teachings under the lens of his/her politics is not good advice.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  14. Lisa

    "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." Matt. 6:7

    I really do wish more folks kept this to heart. I go to Christian blogs and it's like a competi.tion who can post the longest, most cheesy prayer at the end of every remark. Pompous hypocrites!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Margaret

      Doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible it is better to pray in a closet? You know instead of letting all your neighbors know just how Godly you look? Why not get a neon sign that says I am praying now.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Jim

      Don't forget the same Jesus who spoke those words prayed in public and taught others how to pray.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Lisa

      Yes, in the next verses it states:

      5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." Matthew 6:5-7


      Matthew 14:23 "And when he had sent the multi.tudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone."

      Matthew 26:36 "Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder."

      Mark 1:35 "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."

      Mark 6:46 "And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray."

      Luke 5:16 "And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed."

      Luke 9:18 "And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?"

      Luke 22:45 "And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,"

      Acts 10:9 "On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:"

      Matthew 23:14 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."

      Mark 12:40 "Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation."

      But then Paul reverses all that, which is what many Christians choose to believe Jesus actually taught. Then again, he was a Pharisee.

      1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

      April 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Yes, its been very annoying to hear seven republican presidential candidates babble us with their faith and beliefs! Its been equally annoying to hear them all saying that God told them to run! I'm sure God knows fully well that there can only be one sitting president at a time! So what God have these looney rightwing candidates been talking too? Perhaps God was in fact telling them to run! That is, run the other way!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • momoya

      What I'd like to ask the losing candidates:

      "If god told you to run, then what reason did he give for allowing you to lose?"

      Because presumably, these guys can actually talk to the most powerful being imaginable and all.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • keith

      Exactly!! When yur watchin a sports game n it comes down to the end, 1 side is prayin they win the other side is prayin tthe other team loses, yet at the end of the games its like "Thank God, Praise the Lord, I couldnt have done it without GOD." Really an imaginary figure or belief doesnt dictate the end result. Has nothing to do with FAITH. Sport is played on the battle field. Dont care what people believe it but get a life.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • angry white guy

      God is a cleaver being, by telling those 7 to run he blessed america by exposing those frauds

      April 27, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Margaret

      When they lose after God told them to run, it is because God is mysterious in his ways that we mere mortals cannot understand. Okaaaaaay.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  16. Spock500

    Hmm . . . has it been four years already?

    April 27, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  17. royabb

    Since there is no god there is nothing to discuss

    April 27, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  18. Alex

    Republican politicians have been using Christianity as a blunt weapon for many years. It must end.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • johnfrichardson

      Religion has always been a political tool for herding the sheeple.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  19. jimtanker

    Yes, less religion is ALWAYS a good thing.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  20. The Real John


    Me from other country, who is Obama Brack?

    April 27, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Huebert

      If you ask a Democrat, an independent, or a moderate Republican he is the president of the United States of America.


      April 27, 2012 at 10:31 am |
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About this blog

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.