WASHINGTON -- Most Americans oppose political parties obtaining church membership lists, says a new poll that found bipartisan opposition to a step the Republicans have taken to identify voters.
The Republican National Committee has sought church directories from Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics who support President Bush, a move it said would help them mobilize new voters. Republicans argued that the directories are public documents available to anyone, and the request to church members violated no law.
But religious leaders have expressed concern that the outreach could violate limits on politics in church.
Results of the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, released yesterday, found that Republicans and Democrats were about equally opposed to the practice, with about two-thirds from each party saying they thought it was improper.
Public perception is that the Republicans have stronger ties to organized religion, according to the poll. Some 52 percent said Republicans are friendlier to religion, while four in 10 said Democrats.
Polls have found that four in 10 Republicans consider themselves evangelical Christians and Bush tends to run stronger than Democrat John Kerry among regular churchgoers.
On another question that has dogged the presidential campaign, about two-thirds of those surveyed said Catholic leaders should not deny communion to politicians who take positions at odds with their own. Some Catholic leaders have said they will deny communion to candidates who support abortion rights, including Kerry.
The poll found the presidential race remains close, with Kerry at 47 percent, Bush at 45 percent, and independent Ralph Nader at 2 percent.
The poll of 1,512 adults was taken Aug. 5-10 and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.