President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(RNS) — Most Americans know President Joe Biden is Roman Catholic but there are stark differences — especially based on political party — in how they believe he should live out his faith, a new study shows.

About 6 in 10 U.S. adults (58%) recognize Biden is Catholic, including 63% of those who are Democrats or lean Democratic and 55% of Republicans or Republican leaners. Most others surveyed said they were unsure of his religious affiliation.

The findings were released Tuesday (March 30) in a Pew Research Center report looking at Americans’ views about the faiths of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The survey of more than 12,000 U.S. adults revealed a political divide in agreement on just how religious the two top officeholders are.

Most Americans know President Joe Biden is Roman Catholic but there are stark differences—especially based on political party—in how they believe he should live out his faith, a new study shows.

More than 8 in 10 Democrats (88%) say Biden is at least “somewhat” religious — including 45% who describe him as “very” religious — while almost two-thirds (63%) of Republicans say he is “not too” or “not at all” religious.

Two-thirds of Catholics (66%) and atheists and agnostics (66%) know Biden is Catholic, compared with three-quarters of Jews (75%) and about half or fewer of Black Protestants (46%) and people who describe their faith as “nothing in particular” (43%).

While most respondents were familiar with the president’s faith, they were less so about the religious identity of Harris.

Two-thirds of American adults (65%) said they are not sure of Harris’ religion, while only 12% said she is Protestant. The vice president identifies as a Baptist.

About half of Americans say Harris is “somewhat religious” (38%) or “very religious” (8%), with the other half saying she is “not too religious” (28%) or “not at all religious” (23%).

Equal shares of people in both parties say they do not know her religion (64% each) but, as with Biden, far more Democrats are likely to see her as at least somewhat religious (69%) than Republicans are (19%).

More than 8 in 10 Democrats say Biden is at least “somewhat” religious—including 45% who describe him as “very” religious—while almost two-thirds of Republicans say he is “not too” or “not at all” religious.

Among religious groups, the view that Harris is a religious person is most common among Black Protestants (78%) and least among white evangelical Protestants (20%). There was a similar finding for Biden: 87% of Black Protestants said he was at least somewhat religious, but just 35% of white evangelicals said so.

The findings line up with previous studies that show Black Protestants tend to vote Democratic while white evangelicals lean Republican.

Overall, 64% of U.S. adults say Biden is “very” or “somewhat” religious, an increase from 55% who described him that way in February 2020. There has been a notable increase in the share of Americans who now say Biden is “very” religious.

“But virtually all of this increase has happened among Democrats; among members of Biden’s own party, 13% described him very religious early last year, compared with 45% today,” notes Gregory A. Smith, Pew’s associate director for research and author of the report on the new findings.

He noted members of the president’s party may have heard him mention his faith both on the campaign trail, such as at the Democratic National Convention, and since his election, including during inaugural ceremonies.

Two-thirds of American adults (65%) said they are not sure of Harris’ religion, while only 12% said she is Protestant. The vice president identifies as a Baptist.

The partisan difference in views about Biden continued when respondents were asked about how much the president discusses his faith. Eight in 10 Democrats (79%) said he mentions his religious faith and prayer “about the right amount,” while fewer than half of Republicans (42%) came to the same conclusion.

Even among Biden’s fellow Catholics, partisanship permeates views of Biden’s religion. Nine in 10 Democratic and Democratic-leaning Catholics say they think Biden is at least somewhat religious, including half who say he is “very” religious. Among Republican and Republican-leaning Catholics, by contrast, a 56% majority say Biden is “not too” or “not at all” religious. And while 8 in 10 Catholic Democrats say they think Biden discusses his faith “about the right amount,” barely half as many Catholic Republicans say the same (42%).

Catholic respondents aligned with the two major political parties show especially stark differences in whether the president should be disqualified from receiving Communion in the Catholic Church.

While 55% of Catholic Republicans think the president’s views on abortion should disqualify him from Communion, 87% of Catholic Democrats disagree.

While 55% of Catholic Republicans think the president’s views on abortion should disqualify him from Communion, 87% of Catholic Democrats disagree. About two-thirds of U.S. Catholics overall (67%) say the president should be allowed to receive Communion.

Biden said during his campaign that he would protect Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Shortly after Biden’s election, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed concerns about Biden’s abortion views.

The survey of 12,055 U.S. adults, including 2,492 Catholics, was conducted March 1-7 and has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The margin of error for subgroups, such as Black Protestants, Catholics and Jews, ranged from 1.9 percentage points to 9.8 percentage points.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Pope Francis, in a keynote address to the popular movements, called for a universal basic income and the shortening of the working day. He also praised the protest movement that followed the murder of George Floyd.
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 16, 2021
Sir David Amess, one of the most prominent Catholic politicians in the U.K. Parliament, was stabbed repeatedly by a man who sprinted into his offices at noon Oct. 15.
Catholic News ServiceOctober 15, 2021
I am not a fan of billionaire space flights. But then I watched Mr. Shatner weep like he had seen the face of God when he got back to Earth.
Jim McDermottOctober 15, 2021
Creators Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo deliver a show with impressive emotional range that achieves an honest portrayal of the hardships that many Indigenous communities face.
Keara HanlonOctober 15, 2021