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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. Voice of Reason

    Atheists for public office.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      How about the best person for office? Not a White person for office, or a Black person. I would even challenge to say not even a Woman for office.

      Someone that can show noticeable changes in the economy, and protect our boarders.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      I am not convinced that a person who believes in the supernatural would be the best candidate. Any religion, any race, any gender does not matter to me, it is their rationale of our existence that would draw me to a vote.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • tb63

      HAL for office?

      April 27, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • HAL-9000

      I'm afraid I can't do that tb63.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Well that is something about character but at the same time I would vote for an Atheist if he or she could lower unemployment, keep our military strong, and educate our kids.

      Economics is a unifying point for the majority of Americans. If we made a list of what we want from our leaders we would see that he has a Faith or that he or she does not have Faith but all of the list economy would appear.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Mark – well, considering that the US was founded as a secular nation, and our consti.tution guarantees we can tell any version of any god to take a flying leap, and that same doc.ument says you caanot impose any type of religious test for any office, and we have treaties with other nations specifically stating we are not a christian nation –

      I fail to see how the fundiots have a leg to stand on,

      Sorry.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  2. desstro

    All these christian conservatives want is to hijack the country by forcing their beliefs on all. America is a country of the free. Not a country of the religious. Jesus had nothing to do with creating America.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      The wild thing they are making the same claim about ones like you that the other side is hijacking the government.

      I guess that is why we are becoming more and more a polarized society. Everybady makes the same statements but just change the target.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  3. 75-year-old closet atheist

    The few atheists friends I have are moralists. Every real Christian I know is a moralist. Ordinary people want the best for society and can certainly work together without needing to derive moral authority by citing a higher power. There are many basic ideals that we can all agree upon, many beliefs that we will never agree upon even within religious denominations.

    We need to keep church and state completely separate and continue to try to develop our society in such a way that it provides justice and fairness to everyone as much as is within the function of the government to do so.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      You need to come out, you will be liberated.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Shame thing is that I agree a bit with you but so late in life you really should have come out a bit.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  4. tb63

    Yes. I'm sick of religion being mixed with politics. Keep them separate.

    This is not a Christian nation.
    This is not a Jewish nation.
    This is not a Muslim nation.
    This is not a Hindu nation.
    This is not a Buddhist nation.
    This is not an Atheist nation.

    This is a secular nation.

    Period.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  5. Hmmm

    Another attempt by CNN to drag somthing in to news so that Aboma can get few votes. Why not talk about Michelle the wanneb celebrity and one of the contestant for Hottest women earth spending US 467000 in her Spanish trip.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • uh huh...

      This is a discussion about religion in politics not Obama, if you want to contribute please try to stay on topic (and write legibly). Also, the President's ethics record is immaculate compared to his predecessors who pandered to religious sentiments and fears. Please vent your unfounded frustration else where.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. desstro

    GOD has nothing to do with politics. Religion has nothing to do with politics, ethics or morals otherwise Osama would be Gandhi.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  7. lip

    Dear Lord, Please save me from your followers.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  8. Evangenital

    The bible is a fairy tale book, but this country loves to believe in that type of non-sense. Well, the Pilgrims' DNA is still in full force.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  9. Ricky

    This country was founded on the idea of separating church and state, and I only vote for candidates that respect that separation. During the first 70 years, Congress worked during Christmas day if it was a week day, to show they did not favor any religion. That is the American way, then the European Catholics and Evangelists immigrants started to change that. We have to go back to the way our founder fathers treated religion, as private matter that was not to be mixed with politics....

    April 27, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  10. isabel221

    Religion and politics MUST be separated and a law has to be passed.

    Bigots like Rick Santorum, Gingrich, Allen West must be disqualified from politics period!!!!

    Our country was founded on SEPARATION of RELIGION and STATE!
    If the politicians can't get that right, then leave our nation and at the very least not be allowed into politics which they plan to hijack.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      The argument has and will always be that the separation is that since the English Crown was the head of the church that the separation is so that the government can not interfere with the churches.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • *facepalm*

      @Mark,

      No, it isn't. Go and read some of Jefferson's writings on the matter – he coined the phrase separation of church and state after all. Jefferson was most definitely not worried about government involvement in church and VERY much worried about church involvement in government.

      April 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  11. kdpdx

    Without religion, the GOP wouldn't even exist. It's the only way that they can get the ignorant to vote.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  12. BenTx

    I would have respected the author more if she would have said "I believe christianity should not play a part in politics and so does my company. Do you agree? " instead of "all this God talk MAY be rubbing voters the wrong way".

    April 27, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  13. bla

    I wish they were.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  14. Alina1

    There is place to talk about God, that place calls Church.
    As one of these women said : "There are a lot of Christians who are using their faith as a political weapon, which it's never meant to be."

    April 27, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  15. Mike

    Yes, I'm sick of hearing it in politics, in the news, and on my facebook page...if you have a great relationship with god, or that jesus is always welcome in your living room, well thats grand...but keep it to yourself I dont need to know that he will answer all prayers cause trust me he dont...I been outa work since Jan '11 and I pray to find a job...guess what Im here spouting off when I should be working !!!

    April 27, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  16. palintwit

    No sh!t Sherlock. Keep your religion the hell out of my face.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  17. Rich

    I am one of those people who is sick of hearing about religion. A person's religion should be irrelevant to their ability to govern. Religion does some good, but more often what I'm seeing is the harm it does, whether it it the Taliban or the Evangelicals, trying to force your version of god on to others is harmful.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  18. RichardSRussell

    Faith is the world's worst method of arriving at conclusions — far worse than evidence and rationality. Anyone who thinks it has any utility in determining public policy has pretty much disqualified themselves from elective office.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Rich

      I agree 100%

      April 27, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  19. rizzo

    I am of course getting tired of religion in politics. Some of the ideas that religion imparts upon politics are good, such as helping your fellow man, but religion is not necessary for those ideas to exist and indeed can confound those ideas when mixed with other messages from the same religion. I'm not even going to get into how horrible it is to call the president a 'Secret Muslim' as if being a Muslim should disqualify one from being president...

    April 27, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  20. RLC

    I hope that I live long enough to see an atheist win a presidential race is the U.S..

    April 27, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Evangenital

      I hope you are a teenager.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I certainly do not expect to see it, but there is a glimmer of hope for my kids.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • doughnuts

      Me, too. But I'm not going to hold my breath till it happens.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:33 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.