November 8, 2011 / 3:09 PM / in 6 years

Voters find religious belief important in leader

(Reuters) - Two-thirds of Americans believe it is important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, even if those beliefs are different than their own, a survey released on Tuesday found.

The survey of Americans’ attitudes by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found only one in five Americans would object to a candidate whose beliefs were different to their own.

When asked about specific religious faiths and the presidency, 29 percent of Americans would be uncomfortable with an evangelical Christian in the job, 53 percent would be uncomfortable with a Mormon, 64 percent with a Muslim, and 67 percent would be uncomfortable with an atheist as president.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman are Mormons running for president. The remaining Republican candidates are Christian, with some espousing strong beliefs.

Romney and businessman Herman Cain, a baptist, lead the pack in national polls.

Eight in 10 Americans believe creating jobs is the nation’s most important priority, the survey found, while six in 10 said reducing the government budget deficit is critical.

The survey confirmed a majority distrust the solutions being offered in Washington.

President Barack Obama was seen by 44 percent of those polled as having good ideas about how to create jobs, compared to 35 percent backing the approach of Republican leaders in Congress.

Opinions of Obama showed 28 percent pronounced themselves “satisfied” and 5 percent “excited” about his presidency, while 26 percent felt “worried” and 10 percent felt “angry.” Nearly one in three felt “disappointed” in his presidency.

Among a subset of Republican voters who had formed an opinion about the party’s 2012 presidential candidates, Cain led with 73 percent having a favorable view of him, followed by Romney with 66 percent and Texas Governor Rick Perry with 53 percent.

Between late September and late October when the survey was conducted, Romney’s favorable rating dropped 10 points and Perry’s rating fell by 18 points.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday showed the percentage of Republicans who viewed Cain favorably dropped 9 percentage points, to 57 percent from 66 percent a week ago, following allegations of sexual harassment emerged against him.

In another line of questioning reflecting the Occupy Wall Street movement, six in 10 Americans agreed that the nation would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal, while 39 percent disagreed.

Proposals to increase taxes on Americans earning more than $1 million a year was favored by 70 percent of Americans, compared to 27 percent opposed.

The survey polled 1,505 adults between September 22 and October 2, and had a 2.5 percentage point margin of error. (Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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