Anyone who’s been paying attention to the Democratic primary campaign would recognize how much God talk there’s been.
Joe Biden frequently brings up his Catholicism (and has been denied communion for his pro-choice views). Elizabeth Warren quotes the Bible during debates and talks about being raised as a Methodist and teaching Sunday School. Pete Buttigieg is always talking about Christianity and how it’s not antithetical to his being gay — and how he wouldn’t use it as a weapon against other people the way Mike Pence did in Indiana. Bernie Sanders has embraced his Jewish heritage even if he doesn’t always bring it up unprompted.
You get the idea. It’s not like there’s an open atheist running for the nomination. I would also add that I’m not particularly bothered by the way any of the candidates talk about religion; they’re all clear that their personal beliefs are separate from their legislative goals.
But according to a survey released today by the Pew Research Center, most Americans do not see those top-tier candidates as religious at all.
For example, while 55% of Americans see Biden as “very” or “somewhat” religious — which is entirely accurate — 39% say he’s “not too” or “not at all” religious.
Meanwhile, only 32% see Buttigieg as religious. 38% see him as not religious while 30% have no clue about his beliefs at all.
Though Sanders is the only candidate who is described as “not too” or “not at all” religious by a majority of Americans, public opinion also leans more toward the view that Buttigieg and Warren are not very religious. For instance, 25% say Buttigieg is “not too” religious and 13% say he’s “not at all” religious, while 28% view him as “somewhat” religious and 4% say he’s “very” religious. Buttigieg is an openly gay, churchgoing Episcopalian who speaks regularly about his faith. When campaigning, he often emphasizes his differences with religious conservatives and says that “God does not belong to a political party.”
All of this says a lot about how little Americans are paying attention to the primary. For those of us who are deeply invested in the process, we have to remember that far more people know jack about any of these people, even if they’ll ultimately vote for the Democrat.
These results, however, may lead the candidates to play up the God angle as we get closer to November and a definitive nominee. If they are religious — and all of them are — they’re going to want to make sure voters know it. That’s partly because Republicans are going to do everything they can to pretend they’re not religious at all. Or that if they’re Christian, it’s somehow the wrong kind of Christianity.
Remember that some people live in a different reality altogether. The same survey also found that while 70% of Democrats correctly said Biden was very/somewhat religious, only 37% of Republicans said the same. (58% of Republicans wrongly said Biden was “not too/not at all” religious compared to only 23% of Democrats.)
If Sanders is the eventual nominee, you can bet some Republicans will try to smear him by saying he’s an atheist. Then again, they’ll do that with anyone, because no religious label is ever good enough for them. Even if a proud Protestant clinches the nomination, it’ll be deemed too liberal for the white evangelicals who make up the GOP’s base.
Christ isn’t good enough for them. Republican Jesus is all that matters.
(Featured screenshot via YouTube)