Despite all the secular influences on their lives, from Hollywood movies to advertising, Americans remain strongly religious. But a new nationwide survey shows that the intensity of their beliefs varies considerably among different religious groups.
White evangelical, born-again Protestants are much more likely to profess an absolute certainty in God's existence than are their counterparts in mainline Protestant churches like the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians.Black Christians, a broad group that includes African-Americans in evangelical, mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, are the most likely to say grace at mealtime, although a clear majority of Americans say they do, too.
White Catholics are the least likely among Christian groups to watch religious television or listen to religious radio stations.
Across the board, more people believe in heaven than in hell.
These findings were taken from a national survey of religious identity and political opinion, "The Diminishing Divide . . . American Churches, American Politics," that is being made public today by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The survey's results were taken from telephone interviews with 1,975 adults nationwide from May 31 to June 9. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The survey found a number of broad similarities in belief and practice between white evangelicals and the more theologically diverse group that comprises black churchgoers. A majority of people who identified themselves as belonging to one or the other of those two groups said they attended church weekly and belonged to a Bible study or prayer group.
Along with its report, the Pew Center included material from other nationwide telephone surveys it did in 1994 and 1995, allowing it to broaden its sample of the population on certain questions, particularly political opinions.
These surveys showed that Jews, who represent about 2 percent of the nation's population, were the most likely of religious groups to say they always voted, with 51 percent making that claim.
In addition, 42 percent of Jews said they believed that all people would answer for their sins on Judgment Day. Seventy-seven percent of mainline Protestants said they believed that, as did 92 percent of Mormons.
The Pew survey found that the one group whose political opinions most closely approximated those of white evangelicals were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Forty-six percent of Mormons said they considered themselves Republicans, as did 41 percent of white evangelicals.