When it comes to the desired degree of religiosity in presidential candidates, most voters are like Goldilocks tasting bowls of porridge: Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
Of course, what is “just right” in one political cycle may not be in another. Current conventional wisdom holds that many voters want a heavy dose of God-talk. Following the electoral successes of George W. Bush, candidates feel compelled to reassure (if Republican) or reach out to (if Democrat) the so-called “values voter” with professions of faith–however genuine or contrived.
So prevalent is the religion factor on the campaign trail these days that Beliefnet.com and Time magazine have developed the cheeky “God-o-Meter” to help voters sort out who is saying what about religion and why.
From Barack Obama’s “faith tour” of Iowa (needle up) to Fred Thompson’s admission that he doesn’t attend church regularly (needle down), the God-o-Meter tracks the candidates’ often surreal scramble to get God right.
But in the ever-shifting world of presidential politics, conventional wisdom about the need to appear deeply religious may be outdated. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, the two frontrunners, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani, are the candidates viewed as least religious by voters. Both are described as “somewhat religious” by a majority of people.