An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults say the importance of religion is shrinking in public life according to a new survey. File photo image credit: fizkes via Shutterstock.

Religion’s role in U.S. life is shrinking, 80% of Americans tell Pew Research

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An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults say the importance of religion is shrinking in public life, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Eighty percent of respondents said religion’s public role is falling, and 49% said that decline is a negative development. Only 8% said religion’s influence is growing and a positive occurrence.

Pew reported that 57% overall hold a favorable view of religion’s role in the public square.

What’s more, 94% said it is “very” or “somewhat” important for a president to live a moral and ethical life, and 64% said it is important for a president to stand up for individuals’ religious beliefs.

Additionally, 48% said it is important for a president to hold “strong religious beliefs,” and 37% said it is important for a president to hold the same religious beliefs as their own.

Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP were twice as likely as Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party to say it is important to share a president’s religious views, 51% versus 25%.

Party affiliation influenced individual views of whether President Biden or former President Donald Trump is very religious, the survey found.

Overall, 13% said Mr. Biden, a Democrat, is very religious. But only 3% of Republicans agreed with that assessment, compared to 23% of Democrats. As for the Republican Mr. Trump, 4% overall said he is very religious, with just 2% of Democrats and 6% of Republicans agreeing with that assessment.

The Pew survey found growing dissatisfaction with the overall trajectory of religion’s place in public life: 48% of respondents said there is a “great deal of” or “some” conflict between their beliefs and those of mainstream culture and the people around them, up from 42% in 2020.

More Americans view themselves as religious minorities in 2024 (29%) than in 2020 (24%). And 41% said it is best to avoid religious discussions if someone disagrees with you, compared to 33% in 2019.

In addition, 72% identifying as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” said conservative Christians have “gone too far” in efforts to control religion in public schools and the government, while 63% of Christians held a similar view of liberals.

Pew, a nonpartisan research organization, said the “losing influence” figure of 80% is “as high as it’s ever been” in the 22 years it has tracked the question.

“I think it’s interesting that people on both ends of the political-religious spectrum expressed some degree of discontent or dissatisfaction,” Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at Pew, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Cooperman said that growing numbers of liberals and conservatives are feeling disenfranchised while they perceive the “other” side is gaining ground.

“There are many people who are in neither camp,” he added.

The new survey found no change in the share of Americans who have heard of Christian nationalism (45%) or view it favorably (5%) from Pew’s September 2022 poll. Similarly, 54% in both surveys said they had never heard of or read about Christian nationalism.

The question of how much influence the Bible should have on American politics has “remained virtually unchanged over the past four years, Pew said. Fifty-one percent said the Scriptures should have “not much [or] no influence” on U.S. laws, while 49% said it should have some influence or “a great deal” of influence.

Republicans and those who lean Republican were more than twice as likely (67%) to say the Bible should influence laws as Democrats and those who lean Democratic (32%).

Last month, Pew surveyed 12,693 U.S. adults, of which 10,642 are members of the group’s American Trends Panel. The remaining 2,051 respondents were drawn from the Ipsos KnowledgePanel, the NORC Amerispeak panel and the SSRS opinion panel, which Pew said were used to ensure sufficient Jewish and Muslim respondents were properly represented.

The embargoed copy of the survey results did not include a margin of error percentage.

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