Less than 20 percent of Americans think popular Fox News television host Glenn Beck is the right person to lead a religious renewal movement, a new poll revealed.
Half of respondents said Beck was the wrong person and the remaining people either said they did not know enough about him or declined to respond, according to the Public Religion Research Institute/Religion News Service Religion News Poll released Thursday.
Even among Americans who have a favorable view of Beck, 45 percent said he is the right person to lead a faith movement.
Beck has higher favorability ratings among Republicans (55 percent), white evangelical Protestants (48 percent), and older Americans over the age of 65 (37 percent).
But the group with the highest favorable rating of Beck (79 percent) consists of people who know he is Mormon and who believe Mormons have similar religious beliefs to their own. Within this group, the majority (53 percent) said he is the right person to lead a religious movement.
On the other hand, those who know Beck is Mormon and think Mormons have different religious beliefs than their own have a lower favorable opinion of him (54 percent) and are much less likely to think he should lead a religious movement (28 percent).
“The disparity between Glenn Beck’s favorability ratings and how people feel about him as a religious leader suggests that people are more drawn to him for political reasons than religious ones,” said Daniel Cox, director of research for PRRI, in a statement. “Many of Beck’s strongest supporters, such as Republicans and white Evangelicals, perceive real differences between their own faith and Beck’s Mormon faith, and this may become a liability in his efforts to lead as a religious figure.”
In the days following Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on Aug. 28 in Washington, D.C., Christian leaders debated whether they should support his movement given that he is Mormon. Conservative Christian leaders James Dobson, Richard Land, and Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., have joined the movement, which focuses on America’s need to turn to God. While Christian leaders made clear that they do not agree with Beck’s theology, they do agree with him on the belief that America is heading in the wrong direction and needs to repent and turn back to God.
Still, Southern Baptist theologian Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., said on The Janet Mefferd Show that he is concerned about the message Christian leaders are sending by standing with Beck. Even though Beck uses evangelical language, the God and the Gospel he refers to is not the same of that of conservative Christians.
“We're talking about very different deities here," said Mohler. "And I think many Christians just have no idea as they were watching that event."
"How many American Christians who are watching that (rally) and resonating with the call for spiritual revival know that the man who is up there speaking, using words about Gospel and God and all the rest, believes that there was a male and a female deity, that the Godhead is a reproductive pair, that eventually we will be divine ourselves if indeed we follow the path of righteousness?" Mohler said.
The PRRI/RNS poll found that only 17 percent of respondents correctly identified Beck’s religion as Mormon. Most Americans (64 percent) believe Mormons have different religious beliefs than their own. These facts suggest that if more people know about Beck’s Mormon faith then more people will also be against him leading the religious movement.
The survey is based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 9-12 among 1,007 adults.