3 for Thursday: 3 Takeaways from a New Gallup Poll on Religion in the U.S.

Survey-PollThere’s a new Gallup poll on religion and its influence in America. Is it just me or does it seem like every week there is a new poll on religion? Nevertheless, these numbers are always fascinating tells about society. Below you will find three quick takeaways from this survey that are worth noting.

1) Most Americans think religion is on the decline.
According to the Gallup poll, 77 percent of Americans believe that religion “is losing its influence on American life.” The poll does not look at individual religiosity, often measured in terms of church attendance and self reporting, notes Gallup. It is measuring American perceptions of religion’s influence. According to Gallup, this has generally been the opinion of Americans.

2) Not all Americans are in agreement on religion’s influence.
According to this survey, 20 percent of Americans say that religion in America is increasing. Gallup notes that “These perceptions of religion’s influence in American society are not related to Americans’ personal religiosity…In general, highly religious Americans are neither more nor less likely to say religion is losing its influence than those who are not religious. There is, however, a modest relationship between Americans’ ideology as well as partisanship and their views of the influence of religion, with liberals and Democrats more likely than conservatives and Republicans to say religion’s influence is increasing in American society.”

3) Most Americans want more religion.
The last significant number from the poll indicates that 75 percent of Americans think it would help America is more Americans were religious. “Americans who attend church regularly and who say religion is important in their own lives are far more likely than others to say it would be positive for American society if more Americans were religious. Even so, over half of those who seldom or never attend and close to one in three Americans who say religion is not important to them personally still say it would be positive for society if more Americans were religious.”

So there you have it. Perception, of course, is not the same as reality. Most of us have seen the numbers that say that 1 in 5 Americans are unaffiliated religiously. While this is far from saying the majority of Americans are unaffiliated, or that the world in general is about to drop religion—the global south is far different from American society in this area—it is still the kind of intriguing number that—once it gets into the public awareness—can affect perceptions. It is clear that while many Americans are no longer associating with religion, the majority still do and still consider religion a positive element in society.

What would be interesting to see is what Americans mean by religion. When they say that more religion is better, do they really just mean more Christianity?

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