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American Views of Religious Americans

July 25, 2014

Most religious people don’t care what other people feel about their religious group… supposedly!

The Pew Forum just released a survey of how Americans feel about their own as well as other religious groups… basically how positively or negatively they view them.  Why would they so such a survey?

Probably because people DO care what others think of them. Or at least a lot of us do, regardless if we say to ourselves or others that it doesn’t matter.  (The “doesn’t matter” is usually because what counts, on a conscious level, is getting it right as to views of God, the Bible, etc.) And to the truly mature, the views of most other people really doesn’t matter (but that’s a very small percentage of people, in my understanding).

I won’t spend much time summarizing the interesting Pew survey results – just a couple highlights and refer you to their website’s report here.  Jews, Roman Catholics, and Evangelical Christians are all viewed similarly… and most positively by Americans overall.  Respectively, at 63, 62, and 61 percent.  (The survey was worded such that 50% is neutral, below that, negative.)

What should be noted, however, is that each group, such as Evangelicals and Catholics, are included in the totals, and these two are the largest religious groups in the U.S.  According to the tables on the Pew Forum site, Protestants who reported were broken into three groups: “White evangelical”,  “White mainline” and “Black Protestant”, while only “Evangelical Christian” was listed as a group that people reported on, as to how they felt toward them.  Another important fact is that the size of the reporting group is quite large: 3217 people.

As one would expect, including a sizable number of one’s own group increases its overall favorability quite a bit.  In the case of Evangelicals, for example, their white members rated the group at 82, versus the 61 overall rating.  (Their rating from all others, non-evangelicals, was only 52, slightly above neutral.)

The most negative views of another group happen to go both ways between two not-surprising ones: Evangelicals view atheists at only 25 and atheists view Evangelicals at 28.  That would seem to be explained as each viewing the others’ beliefs as detrimental and/or dangerous.  I doubt that it has a strong interpersonal dimension: the survey also affirms the common-sense view that when you know someone of another group personally, you are more likely to see them positively than you do the group as a whole.

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