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Public Generally Satisfied With Role of Organized Religion in America

Those who are dissatisfied want religion to have less influence

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are divided in their opinions about the current level of influence displayed by organized religion in America today. Thirty-two percent would like organized religion to have less influence "in this nation," 27% would like it to have more, and 39% say that the current amount of influence should be kept as is. During the last three years, Americans continued to say that organized religion should have less rather than more influence. Still, the majority of Americans say that they are satisfied with the role of religion in America. The minority of Americans that feel strongly enough about the issue to classify themselves as dissatisfied tend to want organized religion to have less influence.

Should Religion Have More or Less Influence?

Americans share divided opinions about the influence of organized religion in the United States. Given three choices, Americans split roughly into thirds -- with the largest percentage saying that the influence of religion should stay as it is now, followed by percentages saying that religion should have less influence and that religion should have more influence.

There has been a modest change over time in the responses to this organized religion question. Between 2001 and 2004, Americans were slightly more likely to say that organized religion should have more influence rather than less influence in the country. Since 2005, however, the lines have crossed, and now slightly more Americans say that organized religion should have less influence rather than more influence -- although about 4 in 10 say the current level of influence is fine.

There are differences in these responses by the frequency of respondents' going to church, as would be expected. Weekly churchgoers say that religion should have more influence or stay the same, while those who seldom or never attend church are much more likely to say that religion should have less influence.

Since church-going is strongly related to political party identification, it is perhaps no surprise to find that there are differences in views about the influence of organized religion by political party, as well.

The differences are not substantial, but the basic pattern is clear. The plurality of Democrats want religion to have less influence, while Republicans are more likely to say that the influence of organized religion should stay the same or increase.

Satisfaction with the Influence of Organized Religion

The January survey included a separate question that asked Americans if they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the influence of organized religion today.

Public Satisfaction With the Influence of Organized Religion
Jan. 15-18, 2007

Very
sat.

Somewhat
sat.

Somewhat
dis.

Very
dis.

No
opinion

Total
sat.

Total
dis.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 15-18

22

34

23

16

5

56

39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 9-12

19

36

23

18

5

55

41

2005 Jan 3-5

16

39

24

18

3

55

42

2004 Jan 12-15

17

41

24

14

4

58

38

2003 Jan 13-16

17

42

25

12

4

59

37

2002 Jan 7-9

18

51

19

9

3

69

28

2001 Jan 10-14

17

47

21

11

4

64

32

The prevailing trend for this finding is the change that occurred between 2002 and 2003, when the percentage of people satisfied with the influence of organized religion dropped and the percentage dissatisfied with the influence increased. Since that time there has been little significant change. A majority of 56% of Americans currently say they are satisfied with the influence of organized religion, while 39% say they are not.

The responses to these two questions can be combined to provide a more detailed look at American attitudes on this topic.

It is clear that even among those respondents who say they are basically satisfied with the influence of religion in the broad sense, there is still a desire for some change. One-third of those satisfied still say that religion should ideally have more influence, while fewer say that religion should have less influence.

A majority of those who are dissatisfied with the influence of organized religion in America say that religion should have less influence. In short, those who feel most strongly about wanting the role of religion changed are those who tend to say it has too much influence. Those who are satisfied with the role of religion today tend to be those who -- even though they're currently satisfied -- would like religion to have still more influence.

Influence of Organized Religion

Total
satisfied

Dissatisfied,
want more

Dissatisfied,
want less

Dissatisfied,
keep as now

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 15-18

56

6

23

10

5

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 9-12

55

7

24

8

5

2005 Jan 3-5

55

9

25

8

3

2004 Jan 12-15

58

12

19

7

4

2003 Jan 13-16

59

9

18

10

4

2002 Jan 7-9

69

8

14

6

3

2001 Jan 10-14

64

10

12

10

4

About one in four Americans overall are both dissatisfied with the role of organized religion in American life and want it to have less influence. Only 6% of respondents are dissatisfied with the influence of religion and want more influence.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 15-18, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. 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.

Gallup


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/26311/Public-Generally-Satisfied-Role-Organized-Religion-America.aspx
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