Religious beliefs of Americans
Ratings of clergy honesty and ethics.
Stable, changing, unexpected beliefs.
Honesty and ethics ratings of clergy and other professions:
The Gallup Poll regularly conducts surveys of the American population to
determine their opinion of the honesty and ethical standards of various
Only one of the professions polled deals with religion. The percentage of
American adults that rate clergy as very high or high in ethics and honesty has
decreased steadily since the mid 1980's:
The increase in 2001 may well have been influenced by the
9/11 attack. Church attendance surged for a brief interval and then
returned to normal figures (40% as reported by the public; 20% in
The sudden dip in 2002 may well have been caused by the
revelation earlier that year of extensive child sexual
abuse by Catholic priests.
Still, the public's rating has a long way to sink before
reaching the level of automobile sales persons (6%) or Members of Congress (9%).
They have a long way to rise before matching nurses (83%).
Gallup stated in 2009:
"In addition to the clergy and bankers, ratings of
stockbrokers have hit a new low, and ratings of business executives, members
of Congress, and lawyers have tied their previous lows."
|% rating high or very high:
|No religious affiliation
|Weekly church attendance
|Nearly weekly or monthly
|Seldom or never
Religious beliefs that are relatively stable:
|Numbers are stable for American adults who:
|met the pollsters definition of
"Evangelical." These dropped by 1%: from 8% in 2000 to 7%
in 2001. This is not statistically significant. 7|
|met the pollster's
definition of being "born again;" numbers remained stable
at 41%, between 2000 and 2001. 8 |
|have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in organized
religion (56% in 1997). 8|
Religious beliefs that are changing:
|The most accurate survey to date shows that
the number of American adults who identify themselves with Christianity
dropped from 86% to 76% between 1991 and 2001. |
|The largest gain of any religious group was among non-believers.|
|Canadian census data shows that the percentage of non-Christians has more than tripled
in that country, from 5% to 17% between 1981 and 1991. The percentage of adults who
consider themselves to be Christian has dropped from 95% to 83% over the same decade.|
|In 1963, two out of three people believed that the Bible was the
actual word of God. Associated with this belief is the concept that
the writings in the Bible are inerrant, and
infallible. By 1999, the numbers had reversed. Two out of three now
regard the Bible as composed of "divinely inspired"
texts or ancient fables, legends and human-recorded moral codes.
|Barna Research reported a sudden drop
between 1997 and 2001 in two factors:|
|Belief in the inerrancy of the Bible,
from 58% to 41%|
|Belief that religion is very important personally; from 87% to 68%|
Unexpected religious beliefs:
|12% of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife!|
|Only 42% of adults were aware that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Jesus.|
|58% of adults believe that the Bible is totally accurate in
all that it teaches. We would have expected this to much lower.|
|More born-again Christians believe in channeling , astrology and
reincarnation than non born-again Christians. 10|
- "Angels are in; Devil & Holy Spirit are out," results of a survey
conducted in 1997-JAN by Barna Research. Accuracy: within 3% points, 19 times out of 20. See: http://www.barna.org/PressAngels.htm
- "Religious beliefs vary widely by denomination," 2001-JUN-25, Barna Research Group, Ltd., at:
- "Annual study reveals America is spiritually stagnant," Barna Research Group, Ltd., at:
- Zoetics poll for Total Living Network. Reported by ReligionToday on
2000-MAR-2. 1000 adults sampled. They found that "viewers are
overloaded with TV preachers and want more entertaining fare."
- Reported in Newsweek, 2000-MAY-1 edition.
- "Annual survey of America's faith shows no significant changes in past
year." See: http://www.barna.org/PressNoSignificantChanges.htm
- 1965 Gallup Poll, described by Charisma. Online at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00/20000225e.htm
- Emerging Trends, 1999-SEP, Princeton Religion Research Center, at: http://www.prrc.com/et.html
- G. Gallup and D. Lindsay. "Surveying the American Religious
Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs," Morehouse Publishing,
(1999). Review/order this
- "Answers to frequently asked questions," at: http://www.barna.org/PageStats.htm
(link may be broken)
- "Number of Americans with no formal religion increasing, survey finds,"
2002-JAN-7, PCUSA NEWS news release.
- "Survey: Majority of Americans OK With Ten Commandments, Pledge in
Public," Religion News Service, 2003-AUG-5, at:
- "Separation of Church and State," Pew Research Center, 2007-OCT-05, at:
- Jeffrey M. Jones, "U.S. Clergy, Bankers See New Lows in Honesty/Ethics
Ratings' Police officers? image recovers," Gallup, Inc., 2009-DEC-09, at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2009. by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-MAY-13
Latest update: 2009-DEC-10
Author: B.A. Robinson