Does Religiosity Equal Conservatism?

Religion is often as influential on Americans' political behavior as race, age, or gender, according to a report released this summer by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
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More precisely, the more religious people are, the more politically conservative they tend to be. The study found that the conservatism extends to beliefs regarding international security as well as social issues such as abortion and homosexuality.

However, while evangelicals claim to hold many of their conservative views because of their religious beliefs, much of that conservatism has been drawn from other sources, according to the study.

On the issues of abortion and homosexual marriage, for example, religious beliefs are exceptionally influential. Of the pro-life respondents to the survey, 51 percent said their religious beliefs were the most important factor in their views of abortion. Similarly, 52 percent of those opposing homosexual marriage say the reason they hold their views is their religious beliefs.

MIXED MESSAGES: For other issues, however, religious beliefs played much less of a role. For instance, the survey notes, "Although the plight of the poor is a common theme in most religious traditions, and was the issue most commonly mentioned by churchgoing respondents as being discussed by their clergy (87 percent), there is little evidence of direct religious influence on public opinion about government assistance to the poor." Religious beliefs were the most important influence on their attitudes on this issue for 6 percent of the respondents. Similarly, only 3 percent of Americans say their views on the environment have been mostly influenced by their religious beliefs.

"For social issues like abortion and gay marriage, in the evangelical church in particular you've had a very consistent message," says John C. Green, an academic consultant for the project and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics ...

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