Republicans are most likely to say religion is "very" important in their lives than Democrats, according to a new Gallup report.
Sixty-six percent of Republicans report that religion is very important compared to 57 percent of Democrats. Only 48 percent of Independents agreed.
The Gallup analysis, conducted over the past five years on more than 9,000 Americans, comes as faith is playing a larger role in the 2008 presidential race. Top Democratic presidential candidates are targeting religious groups as was seen in the recent CNN forum that specifically focused on faith and values.
"First of all, my faith, my belief in Christ plays an enormous role in the way I view the world," said former Sen. John Edwards. "But I think I also understand the distinction between my job as president of the United States, my responsibility to be respectful of and to embrace all faith beliefs in this country because we have many faith beliefs in America."
"To many Americans, religion is a very important part of their life and they are interested in how religiosity influences candidates," commented John Green, a University of Akron political science professor and senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
As the personal faith of candidates has become a very public part of the presidential campaign, more than half of Americans overall (56 percent) say that religion is very important to them, according to the Gallup poll. Twenty-six percent report that it is "fairly" important and 17 percent say it is "not very" important.
Women who are Republicans are more likely to say religion is very important (76 percent) than those who are Democrats (62 percent) and than men who are Republicans (58 percent). Forty-eight percent of men who are Democrats ranked religion as very important. Religious women are more likely to be Republican than are less religious women. That also holds true for men in the Gallup analysis.
While the study reinforces the conclusion that there is a significant relationship between being religious and identifying with the Republican Party among whites and other non-black groups, blacks were found to defy this pattern.
According to the Gallup Organization, previous research documented that blacks are the most religious of any identifiable racial or ethnic group in America today. They are also more likely to identify themselves as Democrats.
The percentage of black Democrats who say religion is very important jumps to 83 percent compared to 50 percent of non-black Democrats.
The results are based on nine surveys of approximately 1,000 adults each, aged 18 and older, conducted between May 2004 and May 2007.