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Education, personal experiences and media coverage often have more influence than religion on opinions about poverty, the environment and immigration, explained Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
He said it’s hard to know why people report the influences they do, but deciphering what issues have important religious links and what issues do not is key to understanding how faith factors into American politics.
Among the discoveries he ranked as most interesting was the realization that religion doesn’t necessarily push Americans in a conservative direction. A full 32 percent of those opposed to the death penalty (or 19 percent overall), for example, cite religion as the most important influence in forging their opinion.
Also outlined in the survey is a list of what issues are considered “very important” to voters. Ninety percent said the economy; 88 percent said jobs; 78 percent said healthcare, followed by other issues including terrorism, taxes, energy, Afghanistan and immigration. At the bottom of the list: 43 percent said abortion and 32 percent said same-sex marriage.