Pew poll: Democrats more supportive of faith-based funding than Republicans

A new Pew Research Center poll has some interesting findings for advocates of expanding access to government funds for religious groups that provide health and social service programs, including the major Orthodox groups (Jewish “defense” organizations like the ADL generally oppose such programs).

According to the new survey, 69 percent of Americans say they support allowing such “charitable choice” schemes, with only 25 percent opposing.

But that’s a drop from 75 percent in 2001, when former President George W. Bush was talking up his faith-based initiative.

One particularly interesting finding: Republicans are “less supportive of this program now than they were during the early months of the Bush administration”  — 66 percent today, compared to 81 percent in 2001.  Democrats, on the other hand, are MORE supportive, with 77 percent now supporting faith-based programs.

One thing has not changed: “a majority of the public views the possibility that the government might get too involved in religious  organizations as  an important concern (69 percent). And a smaller but still sizable majority views the idea that people who receive help from faith-based groups might be forced to take part in religious practices as an important concern (60 percent.)”

When asked what kinds of groups – religious, non-religious or the government- can provide the best services for the needy, “a plurality (37 percent) chose religious organizations. That is up slightly from 2008 (31 percent) and matches the percentage expressing this view in 2001.”

But not all religious groups; reflecting today’s popular biases, Muslims do not fare as well as those of other faiths.

Some 52 percent say they are opposed to allowing mosques to apply for government funding  (36 percent oppose Jewish synagogues getting taxpayer dollars;  38 percent oppose evangelical churches and 36 percent oppose Catholic churches getting public funds).

Finally, as Pew notes with a big headline, “religious hiring remains unpopular.”  Only 21 percent say groups getting government funding should be able to “limit hiring to those who share their religious beliefs.”

President Obama, much to the distress of many liberals who wanted a big rollback of Bush-era programs, is trying to craft some middle ground on faith based funding.  The Pew poll suggests that may be a good strategy.


About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.