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Survey: Catholics viewed more positively than negatively in US

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J-P Mauro - published on 03/17/23

While the Catholic faith is among the most favored in the nation, Catholics are also some of the least likely to favor their own faith.
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A recent survey, undertaken by Pew Research Center, has revealed the opinions of Americans on various religions in the nation. While the majority of the more than 10,500 respondents reported neutral views toward people who are adherent to any particular faith, the results suggest Americans are more likely to be accepting or tolerant of religions than they are to hold unfavorable views of them.

Respondents were asked to express their views on some of the most active religions in the US, on a scale from very/somewhat favorable, to neutral/unsure, to very/somewhat unfavorable.

On the topic of Catholicism, 34% of respondents said they held positive opinions of the faith, with only 18% reporting negative views and 47% neutral. Mainline Protestants were also generally viewed favorably (30%) or neutrally (59%), with only 10% expressing negative views.

The religion in the US that was most widely viewed favorably was the Jewish faith. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they viewed Jewish people favorably, with only 6% saying they did not favor them. Atheists, Muslims, and Mormons were among the lowest scoring “religions” of the survey, with 20%, 17%, and 15% favorability rates respectively. Around a quarter of respondents expressed negative views of each of these belief-systems.

In general, it was found that respondents were more likely to hold favorable views of their own faith. For example 80% of Jews reported favorable views, with only 2% citing negative views of the Jewish faith. Similarly Mormons, who did not enjoy widespread public favorability, did however reach 80% favorability with their own faithful.

Catholics, on the other hand, were not as quick to respond favorably to their own faith. Only two-thirds (66%) of Catholics hold favorable views of their own faith, with 29% unsure and 4% holding unfavorable views of the faith. The unsure category also includes those who expressed that they did not know enough to form an opinion, suggesting nearly a third of Catholics don’t know enough about their religion to decide whether or not they like it.

While the purpose of the study was analysis and it did not make suggestions on the subject of increasing public favorability of any particular religion, it did find that respondents were more likely to hold favorable opinions on a religion if they know at least one member of that faith. There was, however, a distinct drop in such interreligious mingling since 2019.

In 2019, 91% of respondents said they knew someone who was Catholic, as opposed to 2022, when this figure fell to 88%. These drops were seen almost across the board, with a 4% drop in the number of respondents who know a Jewish person, a 1% drop for both Evangelical Christians and Mainline Protestants, and another 4% drop for Mormons. Atheists were the largest increase, with a 6% rise between 2019 and 2022.

The findings suggest that the more contact one has with any given faith, the more one is likely to hold favorable views of its adherents. This seems to be as true for one’s own faith as it is for faiths of which a person has had little to no contact. It is possible that with greater public awareness of religious practices, as well as internal religious education reform within individual faiths, the topic of religion could become less divisive in the US.

Read the full report at Pew Research Center.

CatholicismFaithUnited States
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