Public Religion Research Institute released the results a new poll today examining public opinion on the contraception coverage mandate, religious liberty and other related issues. The data are probably causing some discomfort for those desperately trying to frame the contraception debate as a “war on religion.” From PRRI’s press release:
On the heels of a months-long heated debate on religious liberty, a new national survey finds that a majority (56%) of Americans do NOT believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today. Roughly 4-in-10 (39%) believe religious liberty is under attack.
The new PRRI-RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, allowed those who said religious liberty is under attack to explain in their own words why they felt the right of religious liberty is being threatened. Despite the recent heavy media focus on contraceptive coverage in the religious liberty debate, only 6% cited the contraception mandate issue. The most frequently cited reasons were perceptions that religion was being removed from the public square (23%) or that government was interfering with religion (20%).
“Some religious leaders, most prominently Catholic officials, have attempted to define the debate on the Obama administration’s contraceptive coverage mandate as a question of religious liberty, but most Americans do not believe religious liberty is under attack today,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, PRRI CEO. “Nearly 6-in-10 Catholics do not believe that religious liberty is being threatened. The only religious group in which a majority believes religious liberty is being threatened in America today is evangelicals.”
This survey also finds those most likely to believe religious liberty is under attack are Republicans, white evangelical Protestants, and Americans age 65 and older.
I was also struck by the fact that 73% of millennials and 58% of political independents don’t buy the argument that religious liberty is under attack. That makes for tough sledding in this election and a bleak long-term outlook for conservatives who are pushing this argument for partisan gain. Public opinion is a volatile thing, so it would be a mistake for defenders of the contraception coverage mandate to rest on their laurels, but it’s definitely encouraging that the huge mobilization against it hasn’t persuaded most Americans.
Here’s a breakdown of what people who think religious liberty is at risk see as the specific threats:
Perkins is clearly upset by the 20,000 people of faith who have called on MSNBC to drop him from their programming. In a rambling response, Perkins claimed “homosexual activist groups” are trying to “silence” him because they’re “afraid of the truth,” falsely attacked Bishop Gene Robinson and boasted about his recent appearance on MSNBC:
Wildmon: There’s something about, I didn’t read the whole story, something about you appearing on some news show the other night and now the homosexual activist groups want you banned for life or something, I don’t know.
Perkins: Well what’s new about that? They are afraid of the truth and they are probably listening because I know they like to monitor this program and that’s what it is, they are afraid of the truth. They do not want to have open debates, they know the facts simply do not line up, and so instead of publicly showing up and debating or putting their ideas out there on the table they simply want to silence Christians, that’s what it’s about. [emphasis added]
Perkins: You might remember the Episcopal Bishop Eugene [sic] Robinson who split the Episcopal Church because he’s openly gay and wanted to marry his lover or whatever you call it, and he gathered 20,000 signatures and presented them to MSNBC demanding that they keep me off of MSNBC because you know I’m on there you know talking about politics or whatever and usually it’s nothing to do with homosexuality, they just don’t want anybody who does have views that are counter to theirs.
Wildmon: I’ll tell you what, you’re in good company, the other day Kirk Cameron went on Piers Morgan on CNN, and man, Piers Morgan asked him a question about homosexuality, he said it was ‘unnatural,’ he just got torched.
Perkins: I talked to Kirk, I talked to him yesterday actually I was actually interestingly enough I was coming out of MSNBC where I was on yesterday with Martin Bashir, and I would actually encourage folks to go watch that interview that I did with him—they have it on their homepage; at least they did this morning on MSNBC—and thank them for allowing a balanced discussion. Obviously Martin did not agree with me but we had a very civil discussion on the issues and I tell you what I have to respect MSNBC for allowing debate and not buckling under the pressure of a loudmouth, Soros-funded group that is simply trying to silence the public debate over important public policy issues, so I will have to come to the defense of MSNBC for not buckling under that pressure. [emphasis added]
What’s more, Perkins’s appearance on Bashir’s show was a textbook example of how MSNBC lends Perkins undue credibility. After Bashir introduced him as a “committed Christian” he was “delighted” to have on to talk about the Rush Limbaugh controversy, Perkins proceeded to falsely claim that Sandra Fluke was testifying about “sexual promiscuity” and asking the government to fund her birth control.
Does MSNBC really think this exchange is a helpful one for its viewers?
We have many guests from a variety of viewpoints who all play roles in the political process. The views of our guests are not those of MSNBC.
But this, of course, is no defense at all. Faithful America isn’t suggesting that MSNBC shouldn’t have guests with a variety of viewpoints, just that those viewpoints shouldn’t include hateful lies.
Tony Perkins doesn’t occasionally get things wrong, he repeatedly uses debunked and discredited research in order to demonize an entire group of people. He’s simply not a trustworthy actor, and lifting him up as such does a disservice to Christians and conservatives alike.
But MSNBC’s viewers don’t learn that context when they see Perkins on television. Not only does MSNBC fail to alert its audience to Perkins’s credibility problems, they openly endorse him. Network anchors consistently treat him like a credible analyst and compliment him as an “honest conservative” whose conscience can be trusted.
The exit polls from Tuesday’s tightly contested Ohio Republican primary closely resemble Michigan’s from last week, with Santorum and Romney’s supporters clearly breaking along religious, ideological and class divides.
Once again, Santorum won white evangelicals (47%, compared to Romney’s 30%), and Romney won Catholics (44%, compared to Santorum’s 31%).
Once again, Romney cleaned up with high-income voters. He beat Santorum by 14 percentage points among those who make over $100K/year and a whopping 29 percentage points among those who make over $200K/year.
Once again, Santorum was the right-wing favorite. He won 48% of “very conservative” voters, compared to Romney’s 30%. Santorum also beat Romney by 9 percentage points among voters who “strongly support” the Tea Party.
Once again, Santorum dominated among anti-abortion voters. Two-thirds of those who say abortion is the most important issue voted for Santorum, and he beat Romney by 16 percentage points among voters who think abortion should always be illegal.
What we have here is a clear divide between the well-heeled establishment and the staunchly conservative base. With Romney now a near-lock to win the nomination, it will be interesting to see if he can broaden his appeal beyond the wealthiest Americans and connect not only with social conservatives, but also with middle- and working-class voters. Given the pitched culture-war battles going on right now, that’s an awfully tall order.
Continuing their campaign demanding that MSNBC stop booking hate-group leader Tony Perkins on their news programming, Faithful America has produced an ad to educate the network’s viewers about the hateful lies the Family Research Council President tells about LGBT people and how frequently the cable network puts him on air.
Shamefully, MSNBC rejected the ad. After Faithful America attempted to purchase time to run the ad on the network, a representative responded:
Thank you for providing the ad and substantiation. Our policy states that we have sole discretion to accept or reject an ad based on its appropriateness. In this instance we are rejecting the ad.
Michael Sherrard, head of Faithful America, responded:
Clearly MSNBC doesn’t want its viewers to know the truth about one of their frequent guests. If network executives consider Tony Perkins’ false and hateful rhetoric about gays and lesbians inappropriate for an ad, then he shouldn’t have any place on their programming.
Here’s the information MSNBC doesn’t want you to see:
Earlier this month Faithful America, Bishop Gene Robinson and a delegation of clergy leaders delivered 20,000 petition signatures to MSNBC headquarters trying to raise this same issue. MSNBC responded to that event by featuring Perkins on air last week.