From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
RELIGION SEEN AS LOSING IMPACT BUT NOT RELEVANCE
05 May 1996 12:55:40
95106 RELIGION SEEN AS LOSING IMPACT BUT NOT RELEVANCE
by George H. Gallup and Robert Bezilla
Princeton Religion Resource Center
(distributed by United Methodist News Service)
PRINCETON, N.J.--Opinions about the impact of religion in America often
change rapidly and dramatically, but the sense that it remains relevant to
contemporary problems has been remarkably constant for the past 20 years.
In the 1990s there has been a surge of opinion that religion is losing
its influence -- two out of every three people feel this way, according to
surveys by the Gallup organization.
Only 28 percent see the influence of religion increasing.
As recently as 1990 only 48 percent of respondents felt religion's
influence on America was in a downswing, while 33 percent said it was
It was a different story two generations ago. In 1957, surveys said
69 percent of the populace thought religion was increasing its influence
and only 14 percent said it was losing ground.
Religion, like so many institutions, took a big hit during the
turbulent 1970s and the pendulum swung quickly. In 1970, amid the turmoil
of the Vietnam War, 75 percent thought the influence of religion was waning
Young adults under 30 are among those most likely to say religion is
losing its impact -- 80 percent now feel this way.
The sentiment tends to change rapidly, however, because those who are
30 to 49 years of age are the most likely to feel religion is gaining
momentum (33 percent). People in this age group often are most active in
the church as they bring their children to receive religious education.
While there are volatile shifts of opinion about the impact of
religion, belief in its relevance to contemporary problems remains fairly
constant. Currently, 62 percent of the populace believes religion still
can answer all or most of today's problems, a level of response that has
shown no significant change over the past 20 years.
A much earlier survey taken in 1957 found that 82 percent of Americans
thought religion was relevant to the times.
The belief that religion can solve today's problems increases as
people grow older until it peaks among those who are 50 to 64 years old,
with 70 percent holding positive views of religion's relevance.
Residents of the South (74 percent) and of small towns and rural areas
(72 percent) are among those most likely to view religion as a contemporary
problem solver. Most skeptical of its efficacy are urban residents (56
percent) and those who live in the East (56 percent) or West (49 percent).
More women than men believe in religion's relevance, by 68 percent to
55 percent. Protestants more often than Roman Catholics feel that religion
can address today's issues (71 percent to 51 percent).
The findings are based on telephone interviews with a representative
national sample of 3,040 men and women, ages 18 and older, conducted
throughout 1994. The margin of error could be 1 percentage point in either
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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