Pew released their annual poll on Religion and Politics.  Most of the focus has been on one set of questions surrounding President Obama’s religion. The banner headline in the press is the 18% of voters believe that the President is a Muslim.  While that has been grabbing the headlines, there are results that are much more interesting and significant, including a significant party preference shift of Jewish and Catholic voters.

On the positive side, Americans want their leaders to have the moral compass of religious belief:

Though the public expresses reservations about churches’ involvement in politics, there is widespread agreement that politicians should be religious. Fully 61% say that is important that members of Congress have strong religious beliefs; just 34% disagree.

Majorities across all major religious groups – with the exception of the religiously unaffiliated – agree it is important for members of Congress to have strong religious beliefs. More than eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (83%) express this view, as do roughly two-thirds of white non-Hispanic Catholics (66%) and white mainline Protestants (64%). And about seven-in-ten black Protestants (71%) say it is important that lawmakers have strong religious beliefs.

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On the negative side American’s believe that religion is losing its influence on both their personal life and their leaders.

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) currently say that religion is losing its influence
on American life, compared with 59% who said this in July 2006. More people now say religion’s influence is on the decline than at any time since 1994, when 69% of respondents in a Gallup poll said religion’s influence on American life was waning.

More people also say religion’s influence on government leaders, such as the president and members of Congress, is declining. Currently, 62% say that religion is losing its influence on government leaders, compared with 45% who said this in 2006.

The poll shows the GOP making large inroads in two religious groups that have traditionally voted strongly Democratic, Catholics and Jews.

Half of white Catholics (50%) now identify themselves as Republican or lean toward the GOP, up nine points since 2008. Republicans also have made gains among Jewish voters; 33% now identify or lean Republican, up from 20% in 2008.

While pew did not ask the questions, the shift away from the Democrats for these groups are probably driven by the same economic interests and feeling of being ignored by their government as the rest of the country. Accelerating the shift for the Catholics may very well be the President’s strong pro-choice policies and for the Jews his anti-Israel positions.

Read the entire poll by clicking here.