PRINCETON, NJ -- Most Americans either support or are not bothered by the annual National Day of Prayer, which President Obama proclaimed will be celebrated on May 6 this year. Those who say religion is important in their lives widely support the day, while the majority of those who say religion is not important say it doesn't matter to them, rather than opposing it outright.
This year's commemoration has involved some controversy as the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private group organizing thousands of events across the country, has made it a goal to promote and publicize Christian prayer specifically.
Americans generally endorse the task force's goal, as 62% say promoting Christian prayer should be a major goal of the events while 36% disagree. Opinions on this matter diverge between religious and nonreligious Americans.
The poll finds Americans in widespread agreement that prayers are heard and responded to -- 83% say there is a God who answers prayers, while 9% believe there is a God who does not answer prayers and 5% believe no God exists.
Americans' support for a National Day of Prayer may also stem from their belief that prayer can be effective for people regardless of what they believe in or how often they engage in the activity.
Specifically, a combined 75% reject the notion that prayer is effective only if done regularly. While those who say religion is important to them are somewhat more likely to believe that only regular prayer is effective, the vast majority of this group still believes this is not the case.
Additionally, 80% of Americans disagree with the idea that prayer works only for those who hold certain religious beliefs. This view is shared about equally by those who say religion is important and those who say it is not important in their lives, but is somewhat at odds with Americans' endorsing the promotion of Christian prayer as a major goal of National Day of Prayer events.
Results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,049 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 1-2, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
For results based on the 497 national adults in the random "Form C" half sample and the 552 national adults in the random "Form D" half sample, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.