What role does religion play in the 2016 campaign?
For many Americans, faith is a big part of life. For others, religion has no significance. Whatever your belief, religion does have a role in politics, even with the separation of church and state. A big portion of this role is how different beliefs affect candidate’s policies and how the beliefs of both the candidates and voters affect the election results.
In the upcoming 2016 election, religion plays a surprising part. Pew Research Center, the nonpartisan “fact tank” based out of Washington DC, recently analyzed how faith and the 2016 campaign are intertwined. I think it’s important to point out that the subtitle of the analysis reads, “GOP candidates seen as religious — except for Trump.” One of the first points the article makes is that not only is Trump viewed as the least religious GOP candidate, but also the least religious candidate overall. Only 5% of American adults view Trump as very religious, compared to a 10% who view Hillary Clinton as such. In comparison, 37% said that Trump is not at all religious, while 22% said that they believed Clinton to be not at all religious. Among Republicans, Donald Trump is commonly viewed as a “good” president, but is not widely viewed as a religious person. This is an interesting occurrence, especially because the Republican party is often thought of as a religious party.
The results are consistent even when Republicans alone are surveyed. Among the GOP candidates, which included Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz, Donald Trump was seen as the least religious candidate. A wide range between 47% of people viewing Carson as very religious and again only 5% viewing Trump as very religious leaves some important questions for the Republican party, especially now that Trump is officially the Republican nominee. Does religion matter?
Pew Research Center reports that 64% of Republicans feel that a president who shares their religious beliefs is either very important or somewhat important. On the Democratic side, only 41% said that corresponding religious beliefs were very or somewhat important. Similarly, Pew Research Center also conducted a survey analyzing traits and whether they would make a person more likely or less likely to vote for the candidate. 51% of American adults that took the survey said that a candidate being atheist would make them less likely to vote for the candidate. Even though another report found that this number has been declining from past years, the number is still significant. It still shows that a big part of America does care about religion when it comes to politics. As described in Pew Research Center’s report, being viewed as religious is generally an asset for candidates, which makes sense considering 51% of American adults say that they would be less likely to vote for an atheist candidate. But what does this mean for Trump, who was so different from the other Republican candidates, and who is now Republican nominee?
In another poll completed by Pew Research Center, they found that the majority of Republicans, 56%, believe that Trump would be a good president, despite not being religious. In the poll, which included the other top Republican candidates, 17% viewed Trump as not religious. Cruz, Rubio, and Carson were all viewed as not religious by only 1–2% in comparison. However, Trump pulled through with the highest percentage believing he would make a good president.
In the analysis, it is explained that the religious beliefs of candidates have been historically important for voters, and are still today. However, the findings of the Pew Research center show that faith has a strange and surprising role in the 2016 election. Perhaps the most interesting discovery is that the Republican nominee is still viewed as a great president, but not religious. Does this mean America is becoming less religious, or are candidate’s corresponding religious views becoming less important to voters? No concrete answer can be concluded, but perhaps the result of the 2016 election will prove to reveal some conclusions on how religion affects politics. All in all, Pew Research Center displayed an in-depth look on how faith and the 2016 election affect each other, which revealed some interesting things about Trump and the wishes of the American people.