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Americans found unhappy with calls by both religious ‘left’ and ‘right’

Religion’s influence is declining in the United States, 59 per cent of Americans believe, but they are also unhappy with calls to action by people deemed to be religious conservatives or liberals, a new survey finds.

The annual survey on attitudes about religion in the United States, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, found that most of those polled who expressed concern about religion’s declining influence in the US are worried about the perceived decline.

However, those polled were nearly equally divided when asked whether religion’s influence on the US government is growing or declining; 42 per cent said it is increasing, while 45 per cent said it is decreasing.

The Pew survey found various findings about the role of religious liberals and conservatives in US public life. On the one hand, the poll confirmed the oft-cited belief that the Democratic Party has, as the survey said, "a serious ‘God’ problem", with only 26 per cent of those surveyed feeling the party is friendly to religion.

However, the survey indicated that the Republican Party of President George W. Bush has problems of its own, with the percentage of those feeling the Republicans are friendly to religion dropping from 55 per cent in 2005 to 47 per cent this year.

The decline was sharpest, the survey indicated, among white evangelical Protestants, perceived as a "base" of the Republican Party.

In other findings, the survey found that only about 7 per cent of the US public identify with what some see as a burgeoning "religious left" political movement. By contrast, some 11 per cent of those surveyed label themselves as members of the so-called "religious right".

While the survey found that white evangelical Christians comprise 24 per cent of the population, a larger grouping, 32 per cent, call themselves "liberal or progressive Christians".

But, the survey found, those who place themselves in the conservative camp remain a more cohesive group – sharing many religious, religious and social positions – than their liberal counterparts.

The Pew survey was conducted from 6 to19 July among 2003 adults throughout the United States.

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