Faith Remains a Key Factor for Republicans in Upcoming Election

CLEVELAND -- This 2016 election cycle might mark a major shift in the what the electorate wants in their candidate.

Prayer filled the arena at the RNC as they kicked off their nominating convention this week which is the first thing delegates do each morning, as they gathered to start their day.

Politics and religion have often gone hand and hand in this country, a link that goes back hundreds of years.

“And almost from the beginning of political campaign, issues of religion have been raised about political candidates.  Jefferson for example was labeled an infidel by his opponents.  Peter Cartwright, the Methodist circuit rider, was the person in the 19th century who first accused Abraham Lincoln of not being a Christian because he not a member of any church,” said Bill Leonard of the Wake Forest University, School of Divinity

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in January, as this election season was kicking off.

In it, 51 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if they did not believe in God, only 6 percent would be more likely.

When you look more closely at specific religions, 42 percent would be less likely to vote for a Muslim.

While being Jewish or an Evangelical, a vote that is often considered to be coveted by conservatives, does not seem to sway the vote.

“We have seen serious declines in the number of people across the spectrum who consider themselves practicing Christians.  In a way, religious may be a less vital factor in this year than it was 4 or 8 years ago in the presidential election, because people are choosing to opt out of not necessarily spirituality, but out of engagement in religious institutions, believers, but not belong ears, spiritual, but not religious,” said Leonard.

Donald Trump is not a candidate who talks about religion or his beliefs during his stump speeches and he is not the typical candidate that Evangelicals have voted for in the past, but some say he is the voice they need today.

“I think it's more our actions and so that's what I view him as.  To me if he can do one fraction for our country, what he has done for himself, and others, and i've read about his employees and there is so much praise, and how he has helped people. What he has done for the folks in New York City for the folks effected by 9/11. I am from upstate New York, so I know what he has done for New Yorkers, that is what I look at, I don't look at all the other stuff,” said NC delegate Donna Williams.

In that same Pew Research Study, they asked about how voters viewed the candidates at the time.

Ben Carson topped the list as the one who was considered the most religious followed by Cruz and Rubio.

Hillary Clinton fell in the middle and Donald Trump was last with just 30 percent thinking he was very or somewhat religious.

But Carson is now backing Trump, and Cruz is speaking at his nominating convention this week.

“You've got to think that his speech at the convention will be aimed at evangelical followers, very conservative policy positions.  So even though Donald Trump may not necessarily talk all the talk about conservative issues, the other candidates will, the other speakers,” said David Mclennan of Meredith College.

“We will be the people, Americans together, to restore our nation's sense of moral purpose,” said North Carolina representative Virginia Foxx.

But while Mr. Trump himself may not take on all the conservative religious agenda, the Republican Party platform approved on Monday, does.

The platform includes sections both for the defense of traditional marriage and religious liberty.

For religious scholars, they say this continued emphasis on religion is to be expected, but the traditional fight for so-called Evangelical votes may be fading away.