There's a curious set of numbers in Pew's new survey about faith and politics. Seventy-two percent of Americans think religion is losing its influence on public life, while 48 percent think houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues. Since 2010, both of these numbers have grown by at least five percentage points, and they're accompanied by another interesting data point: 41 percent of Americans say there has been "too little expression of religious faith by political leaders," up from 37 percent in 2010.
In other words, a growing portion of Americans think religion is fading from public life, and many of them want it back.
And although this desire is strongest among religious people and those who identify as Republicans, there have also been bumps among Democrats and people who are atheists, agnostics, or don't identify with a particular faith.
An Increased Desire for Religion in American Public Life
Perceptions are a tricky thing. It's impossible to "objectively" measure religion's role in public life. Influence is ephemeral and intangible and based on a million tiny, shifting data points—evidence of America's faithfulness may show up in a Supreme Court decision and disappear again in a Nicki Minaj video. The sense that faith is becoming less prominent also reflects a general decline in U.S. religious affiliation over time; perhaps people are just up to speed on the latest social science about religion and equate "influence" with strength in numbers.