Skewing Pew: The Latest American “Religion” Poll

A new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that Americans continue to view the GOP as friendlier toward religion than the Democratic Party. Forty-eight percent of persons polled regard Republicans as friendly versus twenty-nine percent of those who regard the Democrats in such a way.

But clearly President Obama’s outreach efforts to evangelical communities during the campaign and since his election have paid off. His administration ranks higher than the overall Democratic Party on the friendly meter. While views of the Democrat’s friendliness have declined among most all major Christian groups over the past year, thirty-seven percent of persons polled believe the president to be religion-friendly.

There is a major problem with this poll, however. It is poorly named and conceptualized. Rather than asking respondents about the Republican or Democratic Partys’ friendliness toward religion in general, they should have asked about Christianity in particular. This seems to be the representative data here.

The respondents are broken down politically according to conservative Republicans on one extreme and liberal Democrats on the other. Yet among religious communities, they are divided only among White evangelical, mainline and black Protestants over against white non-Hispanic Catholics and the religiously “unaffiliated.” I suspect the numbers would have been somewhat different if researchers had asked specifically about friendliness toward Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or Sikhs. Not to mention if they had asked these questions among Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish or Sikh faith communities.

Would the GOP, who continue to use the term “Muslim” as a racial and religious slur against President Obama, have received a forty-eight percent “friendly toward religion” response from these communities? I suspect not. Such polls show the way a default understanding of America as a Christian nation continues to obscure our views of religion in America. As a result, the jingoistic and xenophobic Christian nationalism that is spouted from certain wings of the Republican Party is euphemistically altered in this sort of skewed data collection and presented as “friendly toward religion.”

Pardon me while I go puke!

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