- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

CHICAGO — Churchgoing Americans grew less patient in the past four years with politicians making compromises on such issues as abortion and homosexual rights, according to a survey released yesterday.

At the same time, those polled said they were growing bolder about sharing their beliefs with others — even at the risk of offending someone.

The trends indicate religion has become “more prominent in American discourse … more salient,” says Ruth Wooden, president of Public Agenda, the nonpartisan research organization that released the survey.

The results could indicate “more polarized political thinking,” Ms. Wooden said.

“There do not seem to be very many voices arguing for compromise today,” she said. “It could be that more religious voices feel under siege, pinned against the wall by cultural developments. They may feel more emboldened as a result.”

On the question of whether elected officials should set their convictions aside to get results in government, 84 percent of those surveyed agreed in a similar Public Agenda survey in 2000. However, that number dropped to 74 percent in the new poll.

Researchers found a sharper decline on the same question among weekly churchgoers, from 82 percent in the first survey to 63 percent in the second.

The election indicated voters in 11 states back same-sex “marriage” bans, and President Bush won re-election with heavy support from religious conservatives.

Those who identified themselves as weekly churchgoers voted for Mr. Bush over Sen. John Kerry 61 percent to 39 percent, a post-election analysis by the Gallup Organization showed.

The Public Agenda findings came from a telephone survey of 1,004 adults last summer that tracked the same issues covered in a similar survey of 1,507 adults made in 2000. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Those surveyed were nearly all Christians, not by design but because the sample reflected the makeup of the population, the group said. A 2002 Pew Research Council survey found that 82 percent of the U.S. populace considered itself to be Christian, while 10 percent identified with no religious group.

About 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as weekly churchgoers, said Corwin Smidt, director of the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College in Michigan. Some surveys have placed the figure at 25 percent.

The Bible teaches believers not to compromise on scriptural principles that reveal God’s will.

In the Public Agenda survey, 32 percent of those who attended church once a week said they were willing to compromise on abortion issues — a 19-point drop in four years. Among the same group, the question of compromising beliefs on homosexual rights was acceptable to 39 percent, down 18 points from 2000.

The poll found that 37 percent overall felt that the deeply faithful should be careful not to offend anyone when they “spread the word of God,” a decline from 46 percent four years earlier.

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