June 22nd, 2007 13:47 EST
Faith and Perceptions Guiding Political Views in SHU Poll
In 1796, George Washington gave his farewell address to the nation and indicated that, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.” The notion of morality and religion, as the fabric of America, stills holds prevalence today, as many individuals believe that religion is synonymous with morality and vice versa. Therefore, many perceive religious individuals to uphold a moral code, which coincides with the results of a recent poll conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute.
A nation-wide telephone survey was conducted of 958 Americans and illustrates that religion may have a role in the 2008 presidential elections. In fact, the poll found that 60.7% of respondents believe a presidential candidate should be a religious person while 39.3% do not. Slightly less than half, 48.4%, indicated that their own personal faith always, or sometimes, guides their take on politics. In regards to the particular religious affiliation of a presidential candidate, it appears that the respondents will not consider a particular affiliation in the decision making process. In fact, only 27.8% consider a candidate’s religious affiliation, while 66.0% do not and 6.3% are unsure. However, the small percentage who will consider religious affiliation translates into a large number of individuals.
“While 27.8% is a minority,” said Jerry C. Lindsley, Director of the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute, “it represents nearly 34 million people, based on the 2004 voter turnout, who will consider the particular religious denomination of such candidates as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney-- a Mormon.”
According to Dr. June-Ann Greeley, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of SHU’s Center for Catholic Thought, Ethics and Culture, religious affiliation may affect the support voters will bestow upon a candidate. In her estimation, the 27.8% of respondents, the ones who said they would consider the religious affiliation of a candidate, could mean that they will vote or will not support a particular candidate based solely on affiliation.
The American people have developed perceptions about the 2008 elections. According to the poll, the Democratic Party is the favored party for the November 2008 presidential election. Regardless how the respondents plan to vote, come 2008, 60.3% firmly believe that the Democrats will regain the White House.
“When you remove undecided voters from the data, 80.6% believed the Democrats will win the White House-- a perception that will be hard to overcome,” Lindsley said, adding that 17.5% under the age of 30 will support the Republican Party, which highlights that the youth in America has become loyal to the Democratic Party.
The poll indicates that 27.5% plan to vote all or mostly for the Democratic Party in 2008 while 20.4% plan to vote all or mostly for the Republican Party, and 39.0% plan to vote evenly between both parties.
Dr. Gary Rose, Professor and Chair of SHU’s Government and Politics Department, feels that the pressing issues circulating closer to Election Day may influence voters. “If national security is the principle concern of the electorate, the Republicans will have the advantage,” he said.
The poll shows that 51.2% of respondents are concerned about the Iraq War, 23.2% with the escalating gas prices, 12.3% with the cost of and access to health care, 10.5% immigration policy/illegal aliens, 8.4% poor economy, 5.6% high taxes, 4.5% environment/pollution, 4.1% terrorism, 3.7% global warming, and 3.3% violence.
“If the domestic issues are primary, then the Democratic Party will carry that day. That’s the traditional way American politics have played out over the years,” said Rose.
Although perceptions of party influence and important issues will affect voters, religious faith is still a strong contender. Greeley said the poll shows that most Americans consider religion an important factor in choosing a candidate. “We think we can understand something meaningful about a person, a politician, if we have a sense of his/her religious beliefs because, clearly, religious belief is still esteemed by a majority of Americans,” she said. Washington would agree.
“And let us, with caution, indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Excerpt taken from George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796.