Does Faith Dictate Which Politician Gets Elected?

By Rachel Martin

January 20, 2012 Updated Jan 20, 2012 at 12:24 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Indiana’s NewsCenter spoke with local residents who shared whether they think faith and religious background matters when it comes voting for political candidates.

It seems a lot of attention is being paid to Republican Presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney. Not only because he's the overall GOP front-runner, but also because of his religious background. Between Romney and ads on TV and billboards, the Mormon faith is a hot topic. But, does a politician's faith affect votes?

It's no secret that Romney is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. If he's not in the news for political reasons, often the focus is on his religious beliefs. But, if Romney is ahead in the primaries, does being a Mormon really matter to Americans?

People made a big deal of his beliefs during the 2008 campaign, but this time around it appears to be a little different. Even though Americans appear more accepting of Romney, 20 percent of Republicans, and 23 percent of Protestants, say they wouldn't support Romney because he is a Mormon, according to the Washington Post.

So, does faith and religious background matter when it comes to the polls? Indiana’s NewsCenter talked with several people in Fort Wayne who were hanging out at Buckets Sports Pub & Grub on the city’s west side.

Mike, Fort Wayne by way of Maryland, says religious background doesn’t matter to him. “The important thing to me is can the man run the country properly?”

Rodney Ley piggy-backed off Mike saying, “I don’t think it should matter. Their character’s important and also what they have to offer.”

“It’s not really relevant,” said John Mitchell. “Their faith, that’s a private matter and most of the time it doesn’t enter into decisions anyway, I don’t think.”

Jerry Hoag, Columbia City, rebuts that. “I am a Christian and I believe that your religious background influences the decisions that you make in the long run.”

Jennifer Flores says politicians take religious influence to the extreme. “Faith comes in too much in politics nowadays. Christianity and being religious influences a lot of officials in office. It should be an opinion.”

“Religion does play a little role because this country was founded on God’s principles,” said Todd Burnworth. “It’d be nice if a Presidential candidate had an understanding of where we come from and try to uphold that.”

Adam Geise said, “A person's specific religion does not have any outcome as to whether or not I would vote for him, but the fact that they have a religious background would show that they have a life that's more structured.”

“As a man, person to person, absolutely I hold a man by a standard by a faith he does or does not have, with a limited scope of government, no,” said Brandon Smith who was visiting Fort Wayne from Mississippi on business.

Michael Wolf, political science professor at IPFW, says even though a politician's faith isn't as big a deal now as it was in the past, faith still plays a big part in elections. However, he says, it's not necessarily the denomination that people care about, it's whether that person is religious.

“Generally people look to whether they think this person is like them,” Wolf said. “The religious breakdown has been less the brand of religion that it has been the practice of religion, how frequently does someone go to church.”

But as far as Burnworth is concerned, “As long as he believes in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that's all that matters.”

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