Poll Finds Opposition to Politics in Church

Most Americans oppose political parties obtaining church rosters, says a new poll that found bipartisan opposition to a step the Republicans have taken to identify voters.

The Republican National Committee (search) has sought church directories from Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics who support President Bush (search), a move it said would help them mobilize new voters. Republicans argued that the directories are public documents available to anyone, and the request violated no law. They have continued the practice.

But religious leaders expressed concern that the outreach could violate limits on politics in church.

The poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (search) found that Republicans and Democrats were about equally opposed to the practice, with about two-thirds from each party saying they thought it was improper. The survey was released Tuesday.

Public perception is that the Republicans have stronger ties to organized religion, according to the poll. Some 52 percent said Republicans are friendlier to religion, while four in 10 said Democrats.

Polls have found that four in 10 Republicans consider themselves evangelical Christians and Bush tends to run stronger than Democrat John Kerry (search) among regular churchgoers.

On another question that has dogged the presidential campaign, about two-thirds of those surveyed said Catholic leaders should not deny communion to politicians who take positions at odds with their own. Some Catholic leaders have said they will deny communion to candidates who support abortion rights, including Kerry.

Fifty-one percent said church leaders should express their views on political matters while 44 percent said they should keep out of politics.

The poll found the presidential race remains close, with Kerry at 47 percent, Bush at 45 percent and independent Ralph Nader (search) at 2 percent.

The poll of 1,512 adults was taken Aug. 5-10 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly higher for the sample of 1,166 registered voters. It was conducted for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.