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Thursday, April 07, 2005

 

USA Today: Americans 2/1 say religious right too much influence on Bushies

USA Today

Many wary of GOP's moral agenda
Poll: Public disliked Schiavo intervention
By Susan Page
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The controversy over Terri Schiavo has raised concerns among many Americans about the moral agenda of the Republican Party and the political power of conservative Christians, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds.

In the survey, most Americans disapprove of the efforts by President Bush and Congress to draw federal courts into the dispute over treatment of the brain-damaged Florida woman. She died last week.

Some old stereotypes about the two parties have been reversed:

•By 55%-40%, respondents say Republicans, traditionally the party of limited government, are “trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives of most Americans” on moral values.

•By 53%-40%, they say Democrats, who sharply expanded government since the Depression, aren't trying to interfere on moral issues.

The debate over Schiavo has spotlighted the central role “values” issues — abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage and the right to live or die — now play in politics.

Mark Rozell, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia who studies religion and politics, says the case has created a “clear backlash.”

“It's one thing to look at religious conservatives as part of a broad coalition that makes up the Republican Party,” he says. “It's entirely another if people think that religious conservatives are calling the shots in the Bush administration for what was a deeply personal situation.”

But Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition says a poll his group commissioned shows wide support for those who sought to preserve Schiavo's life when the issue is placed “in the broader context of protecting the rights of the disabled.”

He met with members of Congress Tuesday to push for legislation to set “clear guidelines” in such cases.

In the poll taken Friday and Saturday, Bush's job-approval rating is 48%, 3 percentage points higher than in mid-March. His standing on personal characteristics such as trustworthiness remains above 50%.

Still, Americans by 53%-34% say they disapprove of Bush's handling of the Schiavo case. Congress' rating on Schiavo is worse: 76% disapprove, 20% approve.

By more than 2-to-1, 39%-18%, Americans say the “religious right” has too much influence in the Bush administration. That's a change from when the question was asked in CBS News/New York Times polls taken from 2001 to 2003. Then, approximately equal numbers said conservative Christians had too much and too little influence.

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