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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. Numyorangay

    God is sick of God in politics. He's saying leave me the hell alone. They're all freaks.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      Probably tired of his obsessed fans.

      April 28, 2012 at 3:02 am |
  2. Jim

    I'm sick of the left and the right rying to claim some type of moral high ground when neither side actually has the fuller picture within their own partisan policies and approaches.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • angeson

      My neighbor watches Fox news on his porch all day and all night. At the mail box yesterday he announced "Obama is screwing up America. I believe he hates white people because of slavery. I hope somebody assassinates him before he destroys us all." Ratcheting up all this hate for nothing. America isnt going to do anything for me and my brother no matter which elitist is in the big chair.

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

      angeson,

      The same type of hateful things are said and have been said about Republicans, Bush, Cheney, et all.

      Repubs want to kill the handicapped
      I hope Dick Cheney dies from his heart attack
      I hope Clarence Thomas eats lots of butter and fried chicken and dies from heart disease like many black men do

      Hate is certainly not partisan. Either not seeing the hate on your side by being blind or by being partisan is a problem for us all. I have no dog in this partisan fight (I'm neither a D or an R) and maybe it allows me to see and hear thehate more because I'm not limiting myself to Fox or MSNBC or the Huffington Post or some Brietbart site but the info is for all to see if people have eyes and hearts to see it.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  3. stanton

    EVANGELICALS ARE THE ONE'S WHO MADE IT THIS WAY,THE REPUBLICAN TEA PARTY ARE THE AMERICAN TALIBAN!!!! JUST LISTEN TO SOME OF THEIR RHETORIC!!!!! IT MAKES ME SICK THE WAY THEY INVOKE THE NAME OF GOD TO SHOVE THEIR IDEALS DOWN OUR THROAT'S!!!!!!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • ewobi

      Tea Party is the Taliban? Then you must be part of the new Liberal Nazi SS.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Moderate independent here and I agree with Stanton.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  4. ry290

    "There are a lot of Christians who are using their faith as a political weapon, which it's never meant to be."

    I thought that's why religion was created in the first place...

    April 27, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Beth

      Amen brother.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • MonsterHead

      win!

      April 27, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  5. Nick

    I think its easy to judge others when you think your way of life is superior even if you make the same mistakes as everyone else. Keep religion out of politics. Religion is based on fear.. fear of hell.. fear of judgment.. Yes, I will quote Yoda.. "fear leads to anger.. anger leads to hate.. and hate leads to suffering".

    April 27, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  6. stacy100

    I only want less when the politician is faking it....(OBAMA). If someone is a Christian, their life will speak louder than their words. This article cracks me up....written by a non-christian.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Dan

      Obviously if someone is a non-christian than their opinion is garbage. Just like your ideological perceptions.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      That just means you are ether part of the 30% or 25% .. reading comprehension is your friend.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  7. Matt in Oregon

    As an atheist the idea of pandering to a religious base has always baffled me. I dont care what a candidate does or doesnt believe about the supernatural, only his ability to perform his duties well. It seems the height of absurdity to base one's votes on which god a candidate chooses to believe in.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Jim

      Most of the time a politician's perspective on God (or the afterlife or a lack of either) affects their whole life in one way, shape, matter or form. Someone who thinks that God expects us to be our brother's keeper would have a different view on things than someone who thinks there is nothing past this life and that there is no erason to help another person outside of sentiment. Of course I picked extreme positions and understand most fall somewhere between these poles but the point is that someone's eternal perspective and belief in how God does or doesn't have expectations for his creation will affect his/her politics. There is no getting around that basic assumption and worldview because we all have one and it drives how we view the rest of life.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Jim – why do you need a god to be good? Why do you (falsely) assume that atheists areen't moral, or see a reason to help their fellow humans? Why are you a bigot?

      April 27, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Jim

      Primwonk,

      It appears that you have some preconceived ASSumptions that cloud your ability to see the obvious. Or, you lack reading comprehension skills. Either way, if you can read the plainly written word, you can see I didn't come close to saying such a thing in my comment. In fact, I point out that I used extreme positions AND that most people are somewhere between those poles right in my comment.

      It appears that either you cannot comprehend the plainly written word or, your beliefs cloud your viewpoint and you have made my point for me. Thank you for that help.

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

      Notice that "sub-prime wonk" bails when his/her baseless claims are met with the cold-hard truth?

      It is people like pw that give atheists and agnostics a bad rap.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  8. Bhicks

    Yes we are.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  9. saopaco

    If they are going to discuss religion all the time, at least switch it up. Why can't we hear about Buddhist values, lol

    April 27, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  10. Bill

    The problem with mixing Religion with Politics is the same as mixing Ice Cream with Manure. The religion is ruined but the politics still stinks.

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

      Love it. Plus one to you.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Ol' Yeller

      And vice/versa....

      April 27, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Jim

      Astute observation.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  11. myweightinwords

    A person who lives according to the tenants of his or her faith will never need be asked what that faith is. Nor should it matter.

    When it comes to a job, any job, the only thing that should matter are whether or not the person being considered for the job is qualified and capable of doing the job.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Jim

      AMEN!

      April 27, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  12. Robairdo

    Agreed religion has no place in politics.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  13. momoya

    Actually, I'd like to hear a lot MORE religious talk from the candidates.. Not because I think it's important for the campaigns or election strategy, but because I want to see more crazy myth stories in the nation's conversation.. Surely both Obama and Romney have some absolutely nutzoid beliefs about their religion, can CNN or other news organizations could conduct polls to see how many/few people agree.. In other words, I want religious people to see their weird views mirrored by the potential president, and then we get to talk about WHY so many/few people believe similarly.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  14. Dan

    There is far too much emphasis on religion in American politics. Who cares if the best candidate believes in God, Jesus, Buddah, Allah, Vishnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It's policy that should make them the best candidate. These politicians are trying to ride the morality train to victory. It's a joke, wake up America.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  15. Pst

    I'm not sick of God in any way shape or form.

    What I AM sick of is people like Obama (ab)-using the name of God to try and get Christian votes or make themselves look better.

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

      I'm pretty sure every preseidnt has done that.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Dan

      Good call, none of the other candidates do that. You're blind.

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

      You mistyped "Romney" as "Obama" there.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • waheid

      No one, in this election season or previous ones, have invoked religion as much as conservatives. Most people who wear their religion on their sleeves are hypocrites. It has been said that the patriotism is the last refuge of a fool. Likewise, religion is the last refuge of a hyprocrite.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • ZCarter

      So which part of Obama's polices does he invoke the name of your Sky-God? What quote that Obama has said has convinced you that you're 'sick of him using (the Sky) God to further his political agenda?

      April 27, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Margaret

      If we took all the words Obama has used in the name of God and the ones this last crop of republican candidates have used, you could build the Great Wall of China just from the republican words. A lot of people still think Obama is a Muslim, and if he is, he sure won't get his share of the virgins, he would be a terrible Muslim.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      Cause of course Obama is a worst offender in that camp, for sure! ...yep.

      April 28, 2012 at 3:00 am |
  16. mike

    If only right-wing Christians were more concerned with PRACTICING Christ's teachings than spouting off about them.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • citarg

      Thank you Mike! I say the samething. First off, keep politics and religion separate (Thank you very much!). Secondly, any candidate that wears faith on the sleeve and not in the heart should not be trusted. Thirdly, you speak about faith or GOD and you don't get my vote. Also, please note, if you are a Christian (which I am), you CAN NOT call yourself a Conservative Christian. Most of the times these people who call themselves just that are INTOLERANT CHRISTIANS. Christ was the biggest LIBERAL (and proud of it too!) going. Think about it...how can you call yourself a Conservative Christian and follow Christ's teachings and his message? Duh?!?! Hello? anybody home?!? Think about it! Keep Politics and Religion separate.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Jim

      I agree.

      Of course the left-wing is just as hypocritical and refuses to live Jesus' teaching just as much as the right-wing. Although the government certainly has a role in caring for the people, it is not the group that Jesus called to care for the children, the poor and the widows or orphans. Being "generous" with other people's money is just as sinful as not caring for people with your own time and resources. One is theft and grandstanding and the other is greed.

      Now we know you didn't mean to try to push a partisan, political agenda instead of a full picture of the hypocrites, right?

      April 27, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • citarg

      Jim, yes you are correct. The left is equally as bad. Both sides are hypocrites.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Jim

      citarg,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Jesus was far from a liberal but nor was he a conservative. He espoused the exact same teachings that the conservatives taught (the Pharisees) and was against the liberal policies of the Saducees. But, he pointed out the hypocricy of both groups while espousing the full and deeper meaning of those values the conservatives spoke of and the liberals of His day rejected.

      Jesus was neither a L or C nor a R or D.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      Amen!

      April 28, 2012 at 3:01 am |
  17. Eric

    RELIGION AND POLITICS ARE BAD ENOUGH ON THEIR OWN! PUT THEM TOGETHER AND ITS JUST THAT MUCH WORSE. LIKE FIRE AND GASOLINE

    April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • ZCarter

      YOUR POINT IS MADE SO MUCH BETTER BY USING ALL CAPS, YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY VERY INTELLIGENT AND SMART BECAUSE YOU USE BIG LETTERS.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • ....

      Typing in all caps is considered shouting. Who wants to read a post where the person screams at you the entire time? The majority of users simply ignore those posts, and any valuable information is lost. Please do NOT use all caps, you will only be perceived as ignorant, inconsiderate, and lazy.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  18. abcontador

    No more religion - in politics, schools, or work,
    It needs to go - Its time to use all of the wasted resources that is being using on Christianity and Islam for something that actually benefits the human race and doesn't cause continuous strife.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • mike

      You can't force people to drop religion. People can do what they want in their free time, however silly it is.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Ol' Yeller

      "You can't force people to drop religion. People can do what they want in their free time, however silly it is."
      I guess this would be news to the Navajo tribe, who after generations of using peyote in their religious parctices were told by the US Government they could no longer do so without facing felony charges.
      Certainly you cannot force a person to NOT practice their religion, and as an agnostic I would never advocate for that, but at the same time it is obvious the clause regarding the establishment clause is one sided. You much more likely to see laws passed supporting a certain religion, than you are to see on shot done because it does.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Jim

      aaahhhh...the extremists are out again..... So nice to see the likes of Stalin and Mao with their enlightened mentality and how the other 90% of humanity are morons and they need to bend to your will.

      And you are differnt from the Taliban how? One wants religion to dominate every sphere and you want to force people to not believe? Your tactics (forced elimination of an idea or belief that you don't like) are the same and your aim (power to make everyone else bend to your will) is the same as the extreme religionists.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  19. ZCarter

    James Madison said it best:

    "Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform." (Annals of Congress, Sat Aug 15th, 1789 pages 730 – 731).

    April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  20. harryzoyster

    No, we're sick of Obama in politics.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • jayh

      Wrong!

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

      Obama's been the only politicians on either side of the aisle that hasn't made me want to puke over the last few years. He's the only rationale human being in DC...

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

      You think you are sick of him wait until Morman Mitt gets wound up.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:42 am |
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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.