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Pew survey finds influence of religion in US dwindling

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J-P Mauro - published on 03/21/24

While the majority of US adults identified the weakening influence of religion to be a bad thing, most of them still support separation of church and state.

A new survey from Pew Research Center is gauging the perception of US adults about religion in relation to public life. The data, recorded in February 2024, showed the vast majority of those surveyed consider the influence of religion to be waning in public life. Furthermore, just about half of respondents suggested that this is a bad thing. 

Religious influence

A solid 8-in-10 respondents (80%) identified the influence of religion to be weakening in the US, with just 18% believing that the influence of religion is actually growing. Pew notes that 80% is the highest ever recorded when asking this question. 

When asked if this decline in influence was a good thing, 49% said it was not, while an additional 8% believe religious influence is growing and this is a good thing. Taken together it was determined that 57% of US adults have a “net positive” view on religion’s influence in public life.

Meanwhile 13% felt positively about religion’s declining influence and 6% believe religion’s influence is growing, to the detriment of public life. Taken together, it seems only 19% of respondents had a “net negative” view on religion in the public sphere.

The mainstream

In another point of interest, the survey found the portion of US adults who feel their religious views are at odds with the mainstream to be growing. Forty-eight percent of respondents identified “a great deal” or “some” conflict between their religious beliefs and the mainstream, up from 42% in 2020.

Nearly 3-in-10 (29%) now consider themselves to be in a minority group because of their beliefs, and 41% said they avoid discussing religion at all.

Government

When asked about religious values in government and schools, US adults were very divided. The “non religious” and Democrats responded (both at rates of 72%) that conservative Christians go too far. Meanwhile Christians and Republicans both feel that the non-religious left has gone too far; however, these groups were more varied in their responses at 63% and 76% respectively.

As far as the separation of church and state, the majority of Americans (55%) are still in favor of the practice, with only 16% opposed. When asked if the Bible should have precedence over the will of the people when their ideals conflict, 28% said that the Bible should take precedence, while only 19% said the will of the people should win out. Meanwhile, 51% of respondents said the Bible should have little to no influence on US law. 

See more results from this survey at Pew Research Center

Read more about Catholic support for the separation of church and state here.

Tags:
FaithPoliticsUnited States
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