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. Eilbet

    I first noticed the increase in 'religious commentary' a couple of years ago, almost like a fad. It has grown and now seems to infiltrate everything from tv programming, to commercial advertising and of course politics. It seems everyone wants to 'out god' each other. Ridiculous of course, personal (mythical) beliefs have no place in any of those mediums. What you believe and what you give your money to is your business, don't make it mine. In my experience it seems to be those that profess christianity the loudest are most often the worst offenders of plain decent humanity. Raised a catholic, I think all organized religions are essentially cults to one degree or another. I don't see any reason why a human being can't make a decision to treat other human beings with respect and dignity without someone dressed in a funky robe telling them that it's the right thing to do and then holding out their palm for payment on that wise advice – what a joke!
    My only real concern with the 'religious' beliefs of politicians is the level of influence they are under from their 'group' (read cult).

    April 27, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  2. kdpdx

    Religion has no place in politics.

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

      AMEN !!!!

      April 27, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • tony

      Religion has no place in children's upbringing, and especially not schools, where they are told that everything they hear there is true.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Snap

      Went to a Christian private school. Most people think I'm well educated, but it took until the age of 30 before I could completely unyoke my mind from the mental slavery their day-to-day preaching did to me. Only through careful analysis, thought, and the courage to question the hypocrisies of the teachings I received. I also am of the opinion it is bad to put to much emphasis on indoctrination of a child. Won't they have an entire life to learn about God? Why does it have to be when they are at an impressionable age that doesn't question?

      April 27, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  3. Mattski

    I wouldn't mind at all as long as politicians with a strong Christian orientation actually supported Christ's message. Christ taught us to turn the other cheek and that we are our brothers' keepers. Sometimes it seems that the most Christian oriented candidates, and even members of the clergy, preach a very un-Christian message when it comes to politics.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • jason snowpeas

      Why dont you form your own internet and go there sigh! I would appreciate if people kept religion in their homes and no where else. As government represent all people, to avoid alienating any group members should avoid religion public speech of religion at all. If am muslim wont talk of Jesus being a God be overly offensive to me? If we do decide to add religion to the discussion, then whose religion should we choose? I am rasta and fire burn the pope, would my feelings in a public forum be appropriate?

      April 27, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  4. Open Doors Unlimited

    A God fearing politician. Now that's funny! All politicians believe they are God.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  5. Joe Sixpack

    Talking about God and faith is how incompetent politicians get ignorant people to vote for them.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  6. Steevo

    Funny how we criticize and mock other countries that have governments based on religious fanaticism (i.e. Iran) while a large segment of our voters are also religious fanatics who seem to think their view is the only "morally correct" way to feel about an issue (i.e.abortion). Although our government was founded on the principal of separation of church and state, that doesn't seem to be pertinent to those fanatics who want to let God and the Bible govern our country.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  7. gg

    There's more talk of religion in politics now because the religious Americans have never been under attack more than we are now. Obama's policies are turning this country into a Godless nation. Other presidents have protected religious rights, but not Obama.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Steevo

      I believe you are hallucinating. No one is attacking religion. Stop drinking the kool-aid now and sober up.

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

      I feel so bad for victims like yourself. Not free to practice your religion.... it's just so sad.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • just sayin

      "Obama's policies are turning this country into a Godless nation."
      This shows how much of enemy to The People you are. Christian Taliban best describes you. The reality is no churches are being shut down or Christians hearded up and cast to the lions. Your idea of Christians being attacked it well delusional...which is not all that surprising.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • sam stone

      awww....feeling a bit put upon? feeling persecuted seems to be a requirement of christianity

      April 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      No, the over-religious types that want to FORCE their "beliefs" onto all other Americans by misusing the Law are NOT "under attack" when we ask you to respect OUR right NOT to share your "beliefs," gg. Shame on you. Please learn to respect everyone else's Freedom From YOUR "religion."

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

      Site one piece of evidence for your claim please.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Boo hoo. Bull. The right wing-nut religious folk started their attempted takeover 20 years ago. They finally realized that we live in a nation of laws based on the Consti.tution and that a majority of people were beginning to appreciate that fact. Of course they want nothing to do with that. They were used to being able to push unconsti.tutional laws that met their religious beliefs onto everyone else. Somebody pointed out to them that slowly but surely they were losing their dominance over our culture. Now they are scrambling to regain their power not realizing that it is too late. People now understand that we do not have to follow any particular religious rules.
      This has nothing to do with Obama and everything to do with moving beyond ignorance and embracing the true meaning of America.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • TiredOfBS

      just sayin got it right! This whole talk of Obama turning this country into a godless nation is a joke. Is that how powerful your god is; Barack Obama can turn people against him? Quit listening to Shawn hanity and Rush Limbaugh and you will slepp better at night.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Oh yes, we will never forget the day he made the Executive Order to shut down all houses of Worship... only he didn't!
      Oh yes, we will never forget the Muslim President who was criticized by the same group for being Muslim AND for attending a Christian Church for 15 years with a Preacher of whom some people railed against as being unChristian... It appears the Christians will never be happy untilk we turn the Government (and out privaye homes, well, the bedrooms anyway) over to them. For that reason alone I believe it is high time we stop paying attention to anyone (Muslim, Christiian, Buhddist, whatever) who even hints thatr their decision making is not based on common sense and what is best for the country... It should be Family, Nation, then whatever God you believe in; you Birds of Pray have got it all wrong....

      April 27, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  8. achepotlex

    yea, shut the fkuk up already about your hateful Santa Clause...move to Iran if you want a theocracy...this is America..we don;t have to believe your BS, we don;t have to dress anby certain way, or act any certain way....your time is upt, god freaks.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Rob

      atheist governments murdered over 100 million innocent people in the 20th century

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

      Since we are just making numbers up... Religion has murdered billions of people in the name of god since the beginning of history. Also, Hitler was christian. Russia might have been athiest, but it didn't murder anyone in the name of athiesm. That was different altogether. However, the crusades, witch hunts, inquisition, etc. were done in the name of god.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • F.E.S.

      How many innocent lives did Christian governments take during the crusades and Inquisition? Indoctrinate much?

      April 27, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Jeff

      Rob, please name those governments and events...if you can.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Scott

      Your statement is a bold faced lie. Go brush up on your history and retract it.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Rob – those folks killed people not because they were atheists, but because they were power-mad despots. You might as well say that they killed folks because they were right-handed, and all right-handed folks are evil murderers.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Ol' Yeller

      @Rob... even if your statement was based on fact it wouldn't even come close to the number of people murdered in the name of Christianity over the centuries. So please.... Stop. It isn't atheists who are wanting to make laws to support their belief system and keep power.
      You're embarrassing yourself....

      April 27, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  9. Glass Half Full

    Randy, Randy, Randy, "Liberalism has no place in Christianity"?! Jesus, the Christ, WAS a liberal, who believed in separation of church and state. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's. Remember Jesus' words to the rich man wanting to know how to get into heaven? Give all that you have to the poor and follow me. How's that for liberal. The day Mitt Romney does that, I'll vote for him.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • tony

      So clearly written in the Bible, so obvious, so always blatantly censored by the religious conservatives.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Wendi in PA

      I like you. I'm sick of hypocrisy in the name of Christianity; this was the most excellent AND eloquent call-out I've seen in a long time.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • RABishop

      Two quick points:
      1. "Render unto Caesar..." is not about separation of church and state, but was rather Jesus' response to a question asking if it was lawful (within the context of religious law) for Jews to pay taxes and thus submit to the earthly authority of a governmental body, in this case the Romans. He felt that individuals living within a society must obey the rules of the government as well as those laws proscribed by their religion.
      2. Outside of that, I agree with your post. I consider myself a devout Christian, but I and my wife are far more concerned with social justice involving the needs of the poor, underprivileged and "least of these", to quote Jesus again, than we are with following the conservative Christian agenda. If all of the so-called Christians took more interest in caring for their neighbors and less in trying to legislate morality through governmental means, then maybe Christians as a whole would have a better image than they do.


      April 27, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  10. tony

    Religion is about ignoring the fact that hundreds of thousands if innocents were wiped out in the last two Tsunamis.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  11. Dave in Portland

    Politicians use religion as a tool, plain and simple. They know it is a way to pull in blocks of voters. There are enough people in this country who will blindly vote for whichever candidate comes off as the most devout that it makes it worth their while to court that block.
    I do not for one moment believe that any politician actually believes what he/she says they do. It's all a big game to them and they'll do anything to win. Power is the goal and manipulation is the tool used to attain that goal.
    We're just too blind and/or programmed to do see through it and do anything about it.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  12. te

    Keep your religion out of my government and I'll keep my government out of your religion.

    The Founding Fathers

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


      April 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Cajuncountry


      April 27, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Joe Sixpack


      April 27, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Thank you!

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

      The best bargain ever struck.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • BD

      If only......

      The biggest problem with religion is that it causes some people to believe they have a right or duty to impose the precepts of their religion on others.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Jim

      Too bad the Founding Fathers had religion in government from the beginning.

      Heck, even TJ and Congress gave money to a Catholic mission to provide for the mission-church's needs in the new territory.

      Ignorance of history and trying to re-write it for your own, silly, personal and false reasons is dangerous.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  13. angry white guy

    Morality is a human triat not a religous one, we as americans should lookout for our citizens well being.rich or poor. How you worship should stay in the church or home. People seem bent out of shape that we have a afro american president. look at it this way, his dad was african his mom was white. He is a decent man with good values, he is just as american as me.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Ol' Yeller

      So you admit you're not Amercian? j/k...

      April 27, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  14. Snap

    We talk about a person's faith in politics because we're all afraid of the faithful that believe differently then us. So we pepper them with questions trying to nail down what the believe so that we can guess what kind of decisions they will make. I hate it, but I really don't see how you could get faith out of politics because a person's faith does impact their decisions day-to-day, and a voter needs to vote based on what a person will do with their authority.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  15. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    If there is a God, even it is probably sick of being in politics.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  16. JLS639

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

    Ha! Read some history, Mr. King. The exceptional cases are when religion has not been used as a political weapon.

    "sense an undercurrent of political gamesmanship in all the religious talk"

    And I sense a certain amount of animosity between cats and dogs... Was the the writer's summary to state the bleeding obvious as a "sense?"

    "George W. Bush benefitting from a surge in so-called values voters in 2004"

    Values voters don't care if you lie to start a war as long as the enemies are heathens and values voters don't care if you whittle down the health insurance of children to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and said war. What is important to values voters is how often you say "Jesus" and that you defund health programs because of their non-existent funding of abortions.

    Oh, and don't tell me how the "leaders" of the values voters objected to those tax and spending policies and that war. The rank and file did not care. Values voters, by their actions, never cared much for human life.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  17. martin blanch

    are readers sick of columnists writing stories to stir up controversy

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

      Moderation doesn't make good copy.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  18. lilbluepill

    ...ive been sick and tired of all the christian religious talk about mores and morality for a number of years...and in my experience, more they talk about how they are soo moral/christian...the bigger the a********** they really are. in my years of expreiencing most of the so-called evangelical and conservative christians, i find them to be arrogant, conceited, self-rightious, hateful, and dismissive of all other religions that are not christian...why would i want to convert to be like them? the way they present themselves to others of not their own faith...they will never buy themselves into their so-called heaven. being a christian like this leaves for too much negative karma to overcome in one lifetime...

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

      I have my beliefs, but I would not describe them as mainstream Christian. Based on your generalizations from your "years of experience," I would say you need more years to broaden your perspective. I don't agree with many Christians, but your generalizations are pretty far off. I would suggest moving somewhere else, maybe attend religious services of multiple faiths and genuinely try to see issues from their perspectives. I'm not saying you have to agree with them, just try to understand the perspective because your generalization represent a very small percentage of Christians.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • DJL

      Saw a quote a few weeks back that went something like this:

      'Ever notice how someone who wants to share his or her views on religion, never wants to hear yours?'

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

      @BobbyGB The church does a good job of convincing Christians there are "good" ones and "bad" ones. When Christians as a group do something evil they say it was the "bad" ones doing it. When they do something noble, they claim it was the "good" ones. The truth is it was the same people doing both. The mind has an enormous capacity to make every thing you do with conviction seem like the right thing to do, even when you are making other people's lives a living hell.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • BobbyGB

      @Snap I agree, some churches do preach that way, buy not all. Most of the ones I have encountered claim that we are still living a life of sin, some sin more than others. But still, the ones who are making life hell for others I do not feel reflect the practices of the majority of Christians. Westboro is essentially made up of one family and yet they receive an inordinate amount of attention because of their message. I do not believe the 9/11 hijackers are reflective of the majority of Islam. I have known too many Muslims to think otherwise, just the same with Christians. My main point is that sweeping generalizations are often times inaccurate and from a polarized perspective. I encourage people to explore perspectives outside of their comfort zone before making a judgement on a group of people based on small but highly publicized situations. I made my previous comment because lilbluepill used the word "most" when in fact describing the few.

      April 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  19. whatsnaname

    "There are a lot of Christians who are using their faith as a political weapon"....insert hypocrite for Christian and that would be a more correct statement. We're supposed to value a disconnect between church and state and I wish we'd go back to that basic.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  20. Mormon Expert

    Those of us that are logical thinkers dont want religion in every discussion but the jesus huggers do

    April 27, 2012 at 10:47 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.