A new poll by RealClear Opinion Research offers a compelling and, for many, likely unsurprising rebuttal to breathless media reports about the decline in religious belief among Americans and the rise of the “nones.”
The survey of 1,000 adults, conducted from December 19-21, found that 85 percent of respondents believe in God – with the same 85 percent also reporting a belief in heaven.
Fifty-eight percent of those polled self-identified as Christian (with 36.8 percent identifying as Protestant and 22 percent as Catholic). Some 2.9 percent identify as Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The poll revealed the pluralistic wealth of religious belief in America: 3.2 percent consider themselves Muslim; 1.9 percent are Jewish; Buddhists account for 1.6 percent; and Hindus make up 0.5 percent.
Despite the clear Christian majority, respect for religious pluralism is strong, with an overwhelming majority of all Americans – 94 percent – saying they believe religious freedom is a fundamental human right.
Despite assertions that so-called “nones” make up a large and growing percentage of Americans, only 3.8 percent of respondents claim to be atheist while only 3.7 percent identify as agnostic.
The religious pessimists are right about one thing: While the RealClear poll did find that those who consider themselves religiously affiliated far outnumber those who do not, regular attendance at worship services is well below where it once was. Only 30 percent of respondents regularly attend a formal religious service once a week or more.
The good news for the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion remains. Large majorities believe that prejudice against Jewish and Muslim people is a very serious or somewhat serious problem in the United States. As RealClear writes, “Americans strongly believe that they have the right to practice the religion of their choice in the manner they choose or not to practice at all.”
With National Religious Freedom Day approaching tomorrow, this poll is a clear reminder that Americans overwhelmingly reject religious bigotry in all its forms. This RealClear poll is an excellent set up for our next report Tuesday on another poll from Becket’s Religious Freedom Index that will drill down deeper into Americans’ beliefs about the freedom of religious expression.
Read more of the RealClear poll’s top-line results here.