- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

The season of giving and receiving has arrived, and with it come the results of a phone survey taken Aug. 11 through 27 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life of 4,013 adults. So, what did they say?

They were asked many questions. (Some of the other results will be featured in coming weeks on the Faith page.) One of the questions was: Can religious organizations, rather than nonreligious groups or government agencies, best provide services to needy people? Though little has changed since former President George W. Bush’s 2001 faith-based initiative began, pollsters found modest shifts.

Thirty-seven percent said religious organizations can do the best job of providing services to people in need; 28 percent said nonreligious, community-based organizations can best perform the task; and 25 percent said federal and state government agencies can best service the needy.

“The balance of opinion about this issue was nearly identical in 2001” (37 percent religious organizations, 28 percent government agencies and 27 percent nonreligious groups), Pew said on Nov. 16. “In 2008, roughly equal percentages said religious organizations” (31 percent), government agencies (31 percent) and nonreligious groups (29 percent) “could best provide help for the needy.”

Pew also noted that adults’ views “have become considerably more partisan” since President Obama took office. For example, 56 percent of Republicans said religious groups can best serve the needy, up 16 points from 2008. In 2001, just 49 percent agreed. Little has changed among Democrats and independents when compared with 2008 and 2001.

Also, 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants said religious organizations can best perform the role, up 13 points from 2008. In 2001, 53 percent of white evangelicals held that view. Among white non-Hispanic Catholics, 38 percent this year compared with 27 percent in 2008 said religious groups are best able to serve the needy.