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Candidates’ Perceived Religiosity Influences U.S. Voters, With One Exception

Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults said they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who did not believe in God, and the same number indicated that it was important for a candidate’s religious perspectives to align with their own.

These findings were included in a Pew Research Center report revealing the results of a survey assessing the importance of religious beliefs in U.S. elections.

Participants were asked to note the traits – including religious tradition – that would make them more or less likely to vote for a candidate (or to indicate that it didn’t matter).

While “being an atheist continues to be one of the biggest perceived shortcomings a hypothetical presidential candidate could have,” the report noted, a candidate’s specific religious tradition also impacts voters.

Sixteen percent of U.S. adults said they would be more likely to vote for a Roman Catholic (8 percent would be less likely and for 75 percent it didn’t matter).

An evangelical Christian would receive mixed responses (with 22 percent more likely to vote for them, 20 percent less likely and 55 percent who didn’t care), as would a Jewish candidate (8 percent more likely, 10 percent less likely and 80 percent didn’t matter).

Candidates who were Mormon and Muslim would have more trouble gaining voter support according to the survey, with 23 percent saying they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon and 42 percent for a Muslim.

“Having a president who shares their religious beliefs is important to many Americans,” Pew commented on these results, “with about half of U.S. adults saying it is ‘very important’ (27 percent) or ‘somewhat important’ (24 percent) to have someone in the White House who shares their religious perspective.”

Sixty-four percent of Republican respondents indicated that it was very or somewhat important for a candidate to share their religious beliefs, compared to 41 percent of Democrats.

Donald Trump is an exception to these trends, the survey revealed. He “is widely viewed as a potentially ‘good’ or ‘great’ president by GOP voters in spite of the fact that, compared with other leading candidates, relatively few Republicans think Trump is a particularly religious person.”

Only 5 percent of U.S. adults perceive Trump to be a very religious person, while 25 percent say he is somewhat religious, for a net of 30 percent.

By comparison, Ben Carson nets 68 percent, followed by Ted Cruz (65 percent), Marco Rubio (61 percent), Hillary Clinton (48 percent) and Bernie Sanders (40 percent).

“Of the 56 percent of GOP voters who think Trump would be a good or great president, a substantial minority of them (17 percent of Republican registered voters overall) say they think Trump is not religious. The pattern is very different for the other leading GOP candidates,” Pew explained.

The complete report is available here.