Wednesday, August 17, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Most Americans support separation of church and state: Poll

A new survey shows only a small fraction of Americans believe the federal government should openly advocate for Christian values.

(CN) — A new Pew Research Center report found that more than half of Americans support a separation between church and state.

The findings released Thursday are drawn from a survey conducted in March, which asked 12,055 U.S. adults about religion's role in government.

A majority of respondents, 54%, said the federal government should enforce the separation of church and state, and 69% believe the U.S. should never declare an official religion.

However, only 35% Americans think that cities and towns should keep religious symbols off public property, with 39% supporting the display of such symbols.

To conduct the study, Pew researchers gave each respondent the option of choosing between two differing statements on a topic of government and religion, or they could simply choose to not answer the question. This resulted in each question having a percentage of respondents who gave no opinion.

Not only did the survey find that a majority of Americans support the separation of church and state, but a larger majority supports the idea that the government should advocate for values shared across different religions.

The study found that 63% of Americans believe that the moral values espoused by the federal government should be shared by people of many different religions, with only 13% saying the government should specifically promote Christian values.

In addition, 67% of U.S. adults believe the U.S. Constitution was written by humans and reflects their vision, and not the vision of God. Only 18% of respondents said the Constitution was inspired by God and reflects God’s “vision for America.”

The data is also broken down by political affiliation and shows how intertwined political and religious views are among Americans.  

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to support a more Christian government, although many Republicans still support a hands-off approach to the mingling of church and state.

The survey found that while 60% of Republicans support the idea that cities and towns should be able to display religious symbols on public property, only 27% believe the federal government should stop enforcing the separation of church and state.

Within the breakdown of Republicans came the finding that white adults who support church-state integration were more likely to have a positive view of former President Donald Trump and to hold anti-immigration views.

“These results are consistent with much of the existing research on Christian nationalism, which demonstrates that among white people, Christian nationalism is linked with support for the Republican Party, enthusiasm for Trump, hostility toward immigrants and denial that racism is pervasive or systemic in America,” the report states.

Despite that finding, the data shows that only a minority of Republicans think the federal government should advocate for Christian values, with 55% believing that the moral values of the government should be shared with people across many faiths.

These opinions are sharply contrasted by those of Democrats, who more strongly believe that a separation of church and state should be enforced.

Democrats expressed this belief strongly in relation to religion in public schools, with 60% believing that teachers should not lead students in prayer. Only 30% of Republicans said the same.

Similarly, 80% of Democrats believe that the U.S. should never declare an official religion, and 78% said the Constitution was written by humans to reflect their vision, not necessarily the vision of God.

Despite clear and stark differences between Republicans and Democrats on the separation of church and state, only 14% of U.S. adults support the idea of church and state integration, with 18% falling somewhere in between with a mixed view.

The mixed view category was made up of respondents who in some questions supported the separation of church and state, but in others supported an increase in church-state integration. That group makes up slightly less than one in five Americans, but shows that many U.S. adults have a nuanced view on the role of government in religion.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...