Americans More Likely to Believe in God Than the Devil, Heaven More Than Hell

by Frank Newport

Belief in the Devil has increased since 2000

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Roughly 9 in 10 Americans believe in God or a universal spirit, while fewer than 10% are firm in their belief that there is no God. Eighty-one percent of Americans believe in heaven. At the same time, 7 in 10 profess belief in the Devil and in hell. These updates of Americans' beliefs were measured in a May 10-13, 2007, Gallup poll survey.

The survey contained two different questions about God, each asked of a random half of the survey's respondents.

The first split-sample was asked a straightforward question about belief in God as part of a question that asked about five different religious or spiritual entities:

For each of the following items I am going to read you, please tell me whether it is something you believe in, something you're not sure about, or something you don't believe in. First, ... Next, ... [RANDOM ORDER]?

2007 May 10-13
(sorted by "believe in")

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe in

God

86%

8

6

The other half of the sample was asked this question:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your belief about God -- you believe in God, you don't believe in God, but you do believe in a universal spirit or higher power, or you don't believe in either?

           

Believe in God

Believe in universal spirit

Don't believe in either

OTHER
(vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

78

14

7

*

1

2004 May 2-4

81

13

5

*

1

1999 Dec 9-12

86

8

5

1

*

* Less than 0.5%

A comparison of the responses to these two questions makes it clear that self-reported belief in God varies slightly depending on the alternatives posed in the question. The percentage of Americans who profess a firm belief in God is estimated at 78% when the respondent is allowed the alternative option "a universal spirit or higher power". Firm belief in God increases to 86% when the alternative is "something you're not sure about".

Between 6% and 7% of Americans are willing to tell an interviewer that they do not believe in God, regardless of the way the question is asked.

Americans are less likely to say they believe in other spiritual or religious entities than they are to profess belief in God.

For each of the following items I am going to read you, please tell me whether it is something you believe in, something you're not sure about, or something you don't believe in. First, ... Next, ... [RANDOM ORDER]?

2007 May 10-13
(sorted by "believe in")

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe in

%

%

%

God

86

8

6

Heaven

81

8

11

Angels

75

11

14

The Devil

70

8

21

Hell

69

8

22

More Americans say they believe in heaven than say they believe it its counterpart, hell. And more Americans say they believe in God than say they believe in the Devil. Three-quarters of Americans say they believe in angels.

There has been some change in these measures of belief in the Devil over time. In several surveys conducted in the 1990s, less than 60% of Americans said that they believed in the Devil. The three surveys conducted since 2001 have all shown roughly 7 out of 10 Americans saying that they believe in the Devil. It is important to note, however, that there have been changes in the context in which the belief in the Devil question has been asked. Some older Gallup surveys included the Devil in a list of things such as witches, reincarnation, and ghosts. The three surveys conducted since 2001 have included the Devil in a list of more directly religious entities. These changes make it difficult to ascertain if there has been a real change in belief structures, or if the changes are due more to respondents' views of which "type" of Devil is being discussed.

For each of the following items I am going to read you, please tell me whether it is something you believe in, something you're not sure about, or something you don't believe in. First, ... Next, ... [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. God

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe in

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

86

8

6

*

2004 May 2-4

90

5

4

1

2001 May 10-14

90

7

2

1

* Less than 0.5%

B. The Devil

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe in

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

70

8

21

1

2004 May 2-4

70

10

19

1

2001 May 10-14

68

12

20

*

1996 Sep 3-5

56

8

35

1

1994 Dec 16-18

65

9

26

--

1991 Oct 24-27

52

9

39

--

1990 Jun 14-17

55

8

37

--

* Less than 0.5%

C. Angels

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe in

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

75

11

14

*

2004 May 2-4

78

11

10

1

2001 May 10-14

79

12

8

1

1996 Sep 3-5

72

11

16

1

1994 Dec 16-18

72

13

15

--

* Less than 0.5%

  D. Heaven

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe in

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

81

8

11

*

2004 May 2-4

81

10

8

1

2001 May 10-14

83

10

7

*

1997 May ^

72

20

8

*

 

 

 

 

^ Gallup/Nathan Cummings Foundation and Fetzer Institute Poll

E. Hell

Believe in

Not sure about

Don't believe in

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 May 10-13

69

8

22

1

2004 May 2-4

70

12

17

1

2001 May 10-14

71

13

15

1

1997 May ^

56

22

20

2

 

 

 

 

^ Gallup/Nathan Cummings Foundation and Fetzer Institute Poll



Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-13, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects 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.

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