Voters open to candidates without deep religious faith

NEW YORK (AP) — Religion’s role in politics and public policy is in the spotlight as midterm elections approach, yet relatively few Americans consider it crucial a candidate be devoutly religious or share their religious beliefs.

That’s according to a new poll released Tuesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey finds just 25 percent of Americans say it’s very or extremely important a candidate has strong religious beliefs. Only 19 percent consider it very or extremely important that a candidate shares their own beliefs, and nearly half say that’s not very important or not important at all.

Another notable finding is a solid majority of Americans — 57 percent — want the influence of religion on government policy to extend beyond traditional culture-war issues and into policies addressing poverty.