Some 70% of Americans do not designate the Obama administration as friendly toward religion, according to a Pew poll released Monday.
The share of Americans that sees the Obama administration as friendly toward religion took a dramatic drop to 30% from 37% in 2009. The percentage that rates the administration hostile to religion increased from 17% in 2009 to 29% in the latest poll.
These findings come from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 2-9 among 2,002 U.S. adults.
Some of this suspicion of Obama seems related to the administration’s perceived hostility toward religious liberty, manifested particularly through the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Since 2009, 19% more white evangelical Christians and white Catholics, whose leaders have been vocal opponents of Obamacare, believe that the administration is unfriendly toward religion.
Distrust of the administration’s support for religion may also stem from perceptions about Obama himself. Some 60% of Americans believe it is important for members of Congress to have strong religious beliefs, which indicates that personal religious conviction is important to most Americans.
The poll also found that in the lead-up to the midterm elections, 56% of Americans think that religion is losing influence in American life–and that this is a bad thing. Among adults, the percentage of those who believe that religion is losing influence is even higher–72%.
Moreover, significantly more U.S. adults say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political questions–49%, up from 43% four years ago. Even the percentage of those who think churches should endorse political candidates in elections is up by 8 percentage points since 2010, though these are still a minority (32%).
The share who say there has been “too little” expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders is also up 4% over the same period, from 37% to 41%.
The survey is important because it tracks public attitudes about religion in public life, and offers indicative attitudes affecting the political landscape prior to the 2014 midterm elections.