WASHINGTON – Democrats' efforts to improve their image with religious voters after the 2004 presidential election appear to be getting off to a bumpy start.
Fewer people see Democrats as friendly to religion now than felt that way a year ago, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
That number has dropped from 40 percent in August 2004 who thought the Democrats were friendly to religion to 29 percent now.
"The change is seen across all groups," said Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center, which conducted the poll for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
After Democrats fared poorly with religious voters in the 2004 election, the Democratic National Committee initiated numerous efforts to strengthen its standing with religious voters.
The DNC hired someone to coordinate religious outreach, encouraged state parties to work more closely with the religious community, and had Chairman Howard Dean meet with clergy and others in the religious community during his travels around the country.
"We're at the beginning," said Democratic spokeswoman Karen Finney, who said religious voters share many of the values of the Democratic Party. "But we know we need to do a better job of talking about our values in a way that people see we share their values."
More than half of those polled, 55 percent, said the Republican Party is friendly to religion.
A majority of political independents, 54 percent, said religious conservatives have too much influence over the GOP. Fewer than half of independents said those who are not religious have too much impact on the Democratic Party.
The poll of 2,000 adults was conducted July 7-17 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.