A Gallup Poll conducted in November and December 2002* was designed to gauge the spiritual commitment levels of Americans. We have previously examined differences according to age and gender demographics; this week, we look at differences in spiritual commitment by marital status, education level, and income.
The 2002 data indicate that full spiritual commitment -- a response of "strongly agree" on all nine items that measure spiritual commitment -- is lowest among singles and highest among those who are separated/divorced/widowed. Within each category, the levels of commitment are higher among those who are members of faith communities.
The low spiritual commitment rate among singles may also be influenced by age. Nearly 6 in 10 people (59%) who are single are between the ages of 18 and 34, and that age group also has a low rate of spiritual commitment.
The rate of full spiritual commitment is higher among married people -- 14% -- but still low enough to suggest that congregations could be doing more to help married couples deal with the stresses and strains of modern family life and make spiritual connections within their marriages.
The percentage of fully spiritually committed individuals is highest (19%) among separated/divorced/widowed people, suggesting that the proliferation of divorce recovery groups, grief groups, and other support groups may be successfully encouraging participants to become more emotionally involved with their faith communities.
The numbers suggest that the prevalence of spiritual commitment tends to drop off among higher income categories, suggesting that as material conditions improve, the perceived need for spiritual resources as a coping mechanism declines. This tendency should concern faith community leaders -- especially because there is little difference between our sample of congregation members and that of the general population in this regard.
Spiritual commitment by education level mirrors that of income: spiritual commitment tends to be lower among those with more education. This is consistent with other Gallup data on religion and spirituality.
While age and stage of life are important considerations in determining strategies for helping members improve their spiritual commitment, congregation leaders should not ignore the importance of education and income. Helping more highly educated individuals understand and appreciate the complexities and nuances of their faith -- rather than focusing on its simplicity -- can be a means of deepening their spiritual commitment. Likewise, helping more affluent members understand the spirituality of abundance can have the same effect.
*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 adult members of a church, synagogue, or other religious faith community, aged 18 and older, and 500 non-members, conducted in November and December 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2.6%.