Belief strong, but not monolithic
For more than 60 years, Gallup has regularly asked Americans whether they believe in God, a universal spirit, or a higher power. Over the years, about 9 in 10 Americans have said they believe. But how strong are their convictions?
A recent Gallup Poll* looked a little more closely at Americans' certainty. Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they are "convinced" that God exists; another 12% think God probably exists, but have "a little doubt"; and 4% think God probably exists, but have "a lot of doubt." Only 4% think God "does not exist, but are not sure," and 1% are "convinced" that God does not exist.
While the sample size of the doubters and disbelievers is insufficient to safely delve into any demographic differences, we can learn something about those who are "convinced" God exists.
Women are somewhat more likely to say they're convinced than are men -- 82% to 73%. This is no surprise, as women tend to score higher on most measures of religiosity Gallup has undertaken. Residents of the South are the most likely to express certainty about the existence of God (88%); least likely are Easterners (70%) and Westerners (71%). Those who live in the Midwest fall somewhere in between at 77%. Again, no surprise here: Gallup data demonstrates that Southerners tend to exhibit higher degrees of religiosity than do residents of other U.S. regions. Those who identify themselves as conservatives (87%) are more likely than moderates (76%) or liberals (61%) to say they are convinced.
Naturally, weekly church attendees are particularly likely to be convinced; 94% are certain God exists. Even more interesting is that a solid majority -- 61% -- of those who seldom or never attend church are nevertheless convinced that God exists. In the chicken-and-egg question about whether church attendance is more likely to drive religiosity or vice-versa, these data suggest that, for many Americans, belief in God is a personal conviction, and attending worship is an expression, rather than the cause, of that belief.
These initial responses show that even though belief in God is strong in America, it is not by any means a monolithic faith. Instead, it is streaked with some nuances and varying degrees of certainty. As we ask the question again in the future, the results should lead to more important insights about the status of religion in America.
*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 17-20, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.