As the Republican presidential candidates battle over a powerful bloc of evangelical voters, a new poll shows that frontrunner Donald Trump is viewed by his own party as the least religious major candidate in the field.
The survey from the Pew Research Center released on Tuesday shows that 44 percent of Republicans say they believe Trump is “very” or “somewhat” religious, while 47 percent say he is “not too” religious or “not religious at all.”
In contrast, majorities of Republican voters say they view Ben Carson (80 percent), Ted Cruz (76 percent) and Marco Rubio (70 percent) as religious.
Still, more than half of GOP voters (56 percent) say they believe Trump would be a good or great president regardless of his religious beliefs.
Trump has worked to win over evangelical voters in the key early state of Iowa, touting endorsements by Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. He often displays a Bible at campaign events, conceding that the foundational scripture of Christianity is, in fact, even better than his bestseller “The Art of the Deal.” During a news conference Tuesday, Trump again insisted that he is “a religious person.”
But the real estate mogul faces steep competition for evangelical voters from Ted Cruz. Cruz, the son of an outspoken evangelical pastor, has racked up the support of other religious conservatives in Iowa and around the country, including influential Iowa activist Bob Vander Plaats and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins.
Overall, two-thirds of Republicans (64 percent) say that it is “very” or somewhat” important to have a president who shares their religious beliefs, while 35 percent say a shared faith is not important to them.
Trump is also viewed by all adults – not just by Republicans - as the least religious major candidate in the 2016 field.
Six in ten Americans say they do not view Trump as particularly committed to faith, while 30 percent say they believe he is "very" or "somewhat" religious.
Ben Carson is viewed as the most religious candidate overall, with 68 percent of Americans saying he is "very" or "somewhat" religious.
About half - 48 percent - say that Hillary Clinton is religious, while 43 percent disagree.
And four-in-ten say they view Bernie Sanders as religious, compared to 35 percent who do not.