Poll shows Americans want politicians to use faith when making decisions

Poll shows Americans want politicians to use faith when making decisions

President Joe Biden arrives for Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP).

The majority of people across the country, especially Catholics, prefer that President Joe Biden and other politicians use their faith to make decisions, a new study from the St. Leo’s University Polling Institute shows.

NEW YORK – The majority of people across the country, especially Catholics, prefer that President Joe Biden and other politicians use their faith to make decisions, a new study from the St. Leo’s University Polling Institute shows.

Specifically, the study found that 67.4 percent of Catholic respondents want Biden to use his faith to make decisions.

Marc Pugliese, an associate professor of religion and theology at St. Leo’s, noted Biden’s support for legalized abortion has brought into question whether his decisions are guided by his personal convictions, or, if they’re politically motivated.

He cited the Hyde Amendment as one example. Biden supported the Hyde Amendment – that bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortion – until his 2020 campaign.

“I believe it is conceivable, but by no means certain, that the president opposes abortion on moral grounds, but for other reasons he may judge to be good, supports its legality,” Pugliese said. “Even if this is the case, then his rapid seemingly reversal on the Hyde Amendment may still introduce questions of mixed motives.”

That 67.4 percent drops when non-Catholics are incorporated. The national percentage of people that want Biden to use his faith to make decisions is 56.4 percent, the study shows. Pugliese said it’s important to recognize that Biden often speaks in broader terms about faith and not just in the context of Catholicism, which resonates with non-Catholics.

“I think that those who view Biden’s faith positively and agree that it should influence his decision-making are seeing this as his ‘personal’ faith and spirituality, not the fact that he is Catholic or a member of an organized religion,” Pugliese said.

For the study, St. Leo’s Polling Institute polled 1,000 respondents nationally from February 7-14. Of the respondents 271 were Catholic, 410 were non-Catholic Christians, 198 were non-religious, 104 were from other religions and 17 were unsure of their religion.

65.7 percent of Catholics surveyed, and 65.6 percent of total respondents also believe that too many politicians use public displays of faith to gain votes or promote their image. That said, the majority of Catholics and total respondents prefer that politicians are spiritual. And they’re fine with politicians citing scripture as part of a position or argument, the study shows.

Despite the respondents’ preference for faithful politicians, the majority said Biden’s Catholic faith didn’t make them more inclined to vote for him. That was true for 39.5 percent of Catholics, and 30.3 percent of total respondents, according to the study.

The percentage was higher, however, among respondents in the 18-35 age group at 43.6 percent. From there it decreased to 35.4 percent for respondents ages 36-55, and dropped again to 21.4 percent for those 56 and older, the study shows.

“This might seem surprising given the relatively higher rates of religious disaffiliation among younger people in the U.S. However, we must keep in mind that still roughly half of the U.S. millennial population identifies as Christian and that the ‘nones’ (no religion) are not monolithic in their postures towards spirituality and religion,” said Stephen Okey, an assistant professor of religion and theology at St. Leo’s said.

“Many continue to identify with important parts of religious traditions they were raised with, while many others pick and choose among the beliefs and practices of a range of traditions,” he continued.

When it comes to politicians using public displays of faith for political gain, Okey notes that even though some of Biden’s public stances conflict with the Catholic Church, he doesn’t necessarily fall into this category. He cites that throughout his career Biden has consistently attended Mass and invoked texts, hymns and traditions from the Catholic faith.

“That authenticity wins him significant support, especially among younger demographics who place authenticity at a premium,” Okey said.

Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg

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