Poll: Glenn Beck the wrong leader to lead religious movement
(RNS) Glenn Beck's recent "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington focused more on faith than politics, but most Americans don't consider the conservative broadcaster the right person to lead a religious movement — or even know what religion he follows, according to a new poll.
Fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) believe Beck is the right person to helm a religious movement, according to a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll released Thursday (Sept. 16) by Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service.
Half of respondents say he's the wrong person; the rest either don't know or declined to answer.
Beck was only correctly identified as a Mormon by 17 percent of respondents — the same number who think he is either Protestant or Catholic.
This confusion may work to Beck's advantage as an aspiring religious leader, however, since the poll also found that two-thirds of respondent think Mormons have beliefs different from their own, including 41 percent who consider them "very different."
''Perceptions of the Mormon religion have a strong impact on views of Glenn Beck, but only among the relatively small contingent who are aware of his religious affiliation," said Daniel Cox, director of research for PRRI, a nonpartisan research firm in Washington.
Put another way, when people know Beck is Mormon, their views about the Mormon faith directly impact their views about him. People who see affinity with Mormons have a higher regard for him than those who find differences with the Mormon faith.
The results are consistent with other studies about the fast-growing faith's role in public life, including polls about 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.
''Because other surveys show that Mormons are not especially popular with Americans, as a rule, then it's likely that if more people found out Glenn Beck's religious background, that would inhibit them following him," Green said.
Among the small number of respondents who knew of Beck's faith, 37 percent said he is the right person to lead a religious movement — an approval rating that's double the general response, Cox explained, because this cohort already includes many of Beck's fans.
For those who know that Beck is Mormon and also believe that Mormons have different views than their own, the number drops to 28 percent who said he should be a religious leader.
When Beck is correctly identified as a Mormon, his general approval rating also depends on what Americans think of Mormons: Among people who know Beck is Mormon and believe Mormons have religious beliefs different than their own, 42 percent had a negative opinion of him, significantly higher than the 27 percent of the general population.
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The views of Beck and Mormons are generally consistent across political and religious lines; Beck comparatively draws more support from white evangelicals and Republicans than other groups.
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