A poll conducted by University of North Florida freshmen unveiled deep divisions among Duval County residents on religious issues ranging from using taxpayer money for faith-based organizations to whether it is wrong for the Episcopal church to name a homosexual as a bishop.
Conducted through a grant from the Florida Center for Public Policy and Leadership, students in the Freshman Interest Group studying politics and religion asked a series of questions of nearly 400 Duval County residents. The poll was conducted through the center’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
Dr. Henry Thomas, chair of UNF’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration and one of the teachers in the FIG, noted that "religion can often heal discord but that it can also exacerbate differences. Therein lies the dilemma we found in our poll results."
The poll reflected mixed opinions on Christian churches providing social services with taxpayer money. A majority, 60 percent, somewhat or strongly agreed with Christian churches providing social services with taxpayer money. However, residents were nearly evenly split on whether using taxpayer money for faith-based organizations violated the separation of church and state. Only 40 percent of residents agreed with Islamic groups providing social services with taxpayer money.
Duval residents appear to have more confidence that faith-based organizations can provide social services. More than six out of 10 strongly or somewhat agreed that faith-based organizations could do a better job than the government in that area. But conversely, residents were almost evenly split on whether financial fraud would increase if faith-based organizations received government grants for social services.
Similar deep divisions were found on the question of whether it was right for the Episcopal church to name a homosexual as bishop. Nearly 47 percent strongly or
somewhat agreed that it was wrong to elevate the Rev. Gene Robinson to bishop of New Hampshire. A similar percentage -- 46 percent -- either somewhat or strongly disagreed that
it was wrong. The Episcopal church’s Diocese of Florida has voted to renounce the elevation of Robinson to bishop.
There was more agreement on whether gay and lesbian individuals can get to heaven. More than 56 percent said a gay or lesbian would be admitted inside the pearly gates, while only 22 percent said it was not possible.
The poll also reflected strong beliefs that the word “God” should continue to be a part of the Pledge of Allegiance. Eighty-four percent strongly disagreed that the words “one nation under God” should be removed from the pledge. Nearly three-quarters said they would feel the same way even if those words were not in the original pledge.
About 55 percent of the respondents said they attended religious services at least once a week.
The poll was conducted between Nov. 12 and Nov. 14. The full results can be found on the Florida Center’s Web page at www.unf.edu/theflorida
NOTE: Dr. Henry Thomas and students involved in the poll are available today for media interviews by calling the Office of News&Publications.
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