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Majority in U.S. Still Say Religion Can Answer Most Problems

Majority in U.S. Still Say Religion Can Answer Most Problems

by Art Swift
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 55% say religion can answer all or most of today's problems
  • 71% of Republicans believe this, 47% of Democrats
  • Protestants, weekly churchgoers most likely to agree

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A slim majority of Americans (55%) say religion can answer all or most of today's problems. Although this percentage has declined substantially over time, it has been relatively stable over the past year and a half and is up from the all-time low of 51% in May 2015.

Majority of Americans Say Religion Can Answer Today's Problems

The current results are based on Gallup's May 3-7 Values and Beliefs poll.

In 1957, a time of greater religious commitment in the United States, 82% of Americans said that religion could answer all or most of the day's problems. As recently as 2002, 66% of U.S. adults expressed the same sentiment. But the measure has declined since then, reaching 51% -- the all-time low -- in May 2015. However, Americans' views on religion's relevance in answering problems have since stabilized in the 53% to 55% range. The broad trend aligns with declines in church attendance and fewer Americans saying they believe in God or a creationist viewpoint.

Meanwhile, the 34% of Americans who today say religion is "largely old-fashioned and out of date" is up from 7% in 1957 and near the all-time high of 35% for this view. The remaining 10% of Americans today have no opinion on whether religion can solve today's problems.

Religious Americans Endorse Religion as a Problem Solver

As might be expected, people's commitment to religion factors into their views of religion's role in solving today's problems. Among those who report attending church every week, 85% say religion answers problems, compared with 33% of those who seldom or never attend. Americans who attend church semi-regularly -- nearly weekly or monthly -- are closer to weekly attenders than nonattenders in their views, with 69% believing religion can help solve today's problems.

When broken down by Americans' religious preferences, 71% of Protestants or other Christians believe that religion can answer most, if not all, problems, while 60% of Catholics believe the same. Not surprisingly, 9% of those with no religious preference believe religion can answer problems, but 81% say it is old-fashioned and out of date.

There are also substantial differences by party identification, as would be expected given the major existing differences in religiosity across partisan groups. In the latest survey, 71% of Republicans say that religion can solve all or most problems, compared with 50% of independents and 47% of Democrats.

Religion Playing a Role in Answering Today's Problems
  Can answer today's problems Old-fashioned and out of date
  % %
Church Attendance  
Weekly 85 5
Nearly weekly/Monthly 69 19
Seldom/Never 33 58
Religious Preference  
Protestant/Other Christian 71 19
Catholic 60 28
None 9 81
Party Identification  
Republican 71 21
Independent 50 40
Democrat 47 41
Gallup, May 3-7, 2017

Bottom Line

Americans' beliefs about religion are evolving. The percentage of Americans who say the Bible is the literal word of God and who believe in creationism are at record lows, and the number of those who say religion can answer all or most of today's problems has declined in recent decades. Still, a slim majority of Americans believe religion can answer problems, a vast majority think that God played some part in the process of human creation, and most believe God also had a role in the contents of the Bible. Religious fervor may be declining, but with these questions, Americans still assert religion and topics relating to religion as having relevance in 21st-century life.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 3-7, 2017, with a random sample of 1,011 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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