Poll says Americans looking for religious president


FAIRFIELD, Conn.— A nationwide telephone survey has found that nearly 61 percent of Americans offering an opinion believe that a presidential candidate should be a religious person. Just over 39 percent disagree with the concept.

The telephone survey, released June 14, was conducted by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute, which polled 958.

In addition, 48.4 percent of the respondents said their own religious faith always or sometimes guides their views toward politics. An equal percent, however, (48.4 percent), said their own faith seldom or never guides their views.

When choosing a presidential candidate, 27.8 percent consider a candidate's specific religious affiliation relevant to their decisions. Another 66 percent do not and 6.3 percent are unsure.

Dr. June-Ann Greeley, assistant professor of Religious Studies and director of SHU's Center for Catholic Thought, Ethics and Culture, said that even though some voters consider a candidate's religious affiliation relevant, Greeley said it could either mean that they would vote for a candidate because of the candidate's religious affiliation or they would not support a candidate on that basis.

Either way, Greeley said, the poll shows that for most Americans, religion is important in selecting 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.

The poll also shows Democrats emerging as the party of choice in the November 2008 presidential election.

Despite how survey respondents planned to vote themselves, 60.3 percent expect the Democrats to regain the White House while just 14.5 percent believe Republicans would retain the White House. One quarter, 25.2 percent, are undecided.