Half of self-described conservatives now express the view that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics; four years ago, only 30% of conservatives expressed this view. Overall, a new national survey by the Pew Research Center finds a narrow majority of the public (52%) now says that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues. The survey also finds that most of the reconsideration of the desirability of religious involvement in politics has occurred among conservatives. As a result, conservatives’ views on this issue are much more in line with the views of moderates and liberals than was previously the case. Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared. There are other signs in the new poll about a potential change in the climate of opinion about mixing religion and politics. First, the survey finds a small but significant increase since 2004 in the percentage of respondents saying that they are uncomfortable when they hear politicians talk about how religious they are — from 40% to 46%. Again, the increase in negative sentiment about religion and politics is much more apparent among Republicans than among Democrats. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.