Rift Between Democrats and Religious Growing Larger

Rift Between Democrats and Religious Growing Larger

When Democratic Party leaders “found God in the 2004 exit polls,” as
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. likes to say, no one expected
instant results. Many of the party’s early efforts to attract religious
voters, after all, were scattershot and not a little awkward. No one
knew quite what the “faith staffer”—a new breed of legislative aide—was
supposed to do, and random-seeming insertions of Bible verses into
floor speeches came off as Tourette’s syndrome for Democrats. In the
longer run, though, the new focus on forming relationships with
religious communities and voters has been the right move for a party
that had essentially limited its religious outreach to black churches.
Democratic campaign trainings now smartly include tips for
communicating with Catholic voters. Candidates are starting to appear
on religious radio outlets. And Democratic National Committee Chairman
Howard Dean has even stopped saying things to intentionally antagonize
evangelicals.

Which is why it is startling that in the two
years since this Democratic revival began, the party’s faith-friendly
image has dimmed rather than improved. The Pew Research Center’s annual
poll on religion and politics, released last week, shows that while 85
percent of voters say religion is important to them, only 26 percent of
Americans think the Democratic Party is “friendly” to religion. That’s
down from 40 percent in the summer of 2004 and 42 percent the year
before that—in other words, a 16-point plunge over three years. The
decline is especially troubling because it cuts across the political
and religious spectra, encompassing liberals and conservatives, white
and black evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews

(Excerpt) Read more at slate.com

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