Americans say the role of religion in public life has diminished, according to a new Pew Research poll.
Pew reports that 72 percent of Americans think religion is “losing its influence on American life,” a growth of five percentage points since the 2010 midterm elections.
But an increased number of Americans think that religion should play a larger role.
The percentage of Americans who report that they believe churches and other places of worship should be able to “express their views on social and political issues,” is up to 49 percent from 43 percent. Thirty-two percent believe churches should be free to endorse specific candidates, while 63 percent believe they should refrain from doing so.
Those who responded that they felt that there had been “too little” expression of religion from political leaders has grown to 41 percent. The number of Americans who believe it is important for members of Congress to have strong religious beliefs remains at 59 percent.
By an 18-point margin, Americans are more likely to see the Republican Party as “friendly” to religion than the Democratic Party. The number of Americans who see the Obama administration as friendly to religion has shrunk to 30 percent.
Those who self-identified as being affiliated with a religion were more likely to support an increased role for religion, and those who reported that they weren’t affiliated were more likely to oppose an increased role.
Byron R. Johnson, professor of social sciences at Baylor University and founding director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, wrote in the 2014 Heritage Foundation Index of Culture and Opportunity that “media accounts suggest a consistent if not dramatic decline of the faith factor in America,” but that these headlines are “misleading, inaccurate and biased.”
The Index indicates the number of Americans who report attending church weekly has held steady over the last 10 years at about 30 percent.
Johnson also noted the number of American atheists has remained steady at 4 percent since 1944, and church membership has reached an all-time high.