In U.S., Support for Daily Prayer in Schools Dips Slightly
Politics

In U.S., Support for Daily Prayer in Schools Dips Slightly

by Rebecca Riffkin

Many Americans still support proposals concerning religion in schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sixty-one percent of Americans support allowing daily prayer to be spoken in the classroom. Though still solidly above the majority level, this is down slightly from 66% in 2001 and 70% in 1999.

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These data are from Gallup's Aug. 7-10 Work and Education survey.

In the same survey, Gallup asked questions about two other aspects of religion and schools, and the results indicate that more Americans favor allowing prayers at graduation ceremonies and making public school facilities available after hours for student religious groups to use than daily prayer in the classroom.

Three-quarters of Americans (75%) support allowing students to say prayers at school graduation ceremonies, down slightly from 83% in 1999. The 77% of Americans who support making public school facilities available after hours for student religious groups to use is essentially unchanged from 78% in 1999.

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As would be expected, Americans' attitudes toward religion in schools are highly related to their underlying religiosity. Those who seldom or never attend church are split on daily prayer in the classroom, while those who attend church monthly or weekly are generally in favor. Similar patterns exist in terms of attitudes toward prayers at graduation and use of school facilities by student religious groups.

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Opinions on these issues vary by religious preference. Americans who identify with no religion are the least likely to support daily prayer in classrooms, prayer at graduation ceremonies, and use of school facilities for prayer groups. Protestants and those who identify with other non-Catholic Christian religions are more strongly in favor of these ideas than are Catholics.

Republicans in the U.S. are significantly more religious than other Americans, so it follows that Republicans are considerably more likely to favor each proposal on religion in schools than are independents or, in particular, Democrats. A large majority of Republicans favor these proposals, with at least 80% supporting all three. Independents also support the various proposals on religion in schools, but to a lesser extent than Republicans do. A majority of Democrats do not support daily school prayers (45%), but a majority do support graduation prayers (65%) and using school facilities for student religious groups (76%).

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The decline in Americans' overall support for daily prayer in school over time is driven, in part, by a dip in support among Democrats. In 2000, 67% of Democrats supported this idea. This dropped to 59% in 2001 and fell to 45% by 2014. Meanwhile, support among Republicans has stayed consistent, and independents' support increased slightly.

Bottom Line

Religion continues to be important to many Americans. The vast majority of Americans identify with a religion, a majority of Americans say religion can solve today's problems, and three in four Americans see the Bible as the actual or inspired word of God.

Thus, it is not surprising that a majority of Americans are in favor of religion having a larger presence in schools. In fact, previous Gallup research showed that in 2005, three in four Americans supported a constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in public schools. While support for saying a daily prayer in school has dropped slightly since 2001, a majority still favors this idea. There is also widespread support for having prayers as part of graduation ceremonies and for the use of school facilities by student religious groups.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 7-10, 2014, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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