Questionable Motives

December 29, 2009

Is this good news?

Filed under: belief,Critical Reasoning,Media,Religion,Skepticim,Society — tildeb @ 3:04 pm

A Gallup poll of Americans’ attitudes towards religion released on Christmas Eve found significant recent increases in those responding either that they have no religious preference, that religion is not very important in their lives, or that they believe religion “is largely old-fashioned or out of date.”

Only 78% of Americans now identify as Christian, while 22% describe their religious preference as either “other” or “none.”

Most of these changes have occurred since 2000 and represent the first significant shift since a sharp decline in religious adherence during the 1970s. Over the last nine years, the number with no religious preference has grown from a level of around 8% to 13%. The number for whom religion is not very important has climbed from just over 10% to 19%. And the number who believe religion is out of date and has no answers for today’s problems has jumped from slightly more than 20% to 29%.

These changes do not appear to have affected the majority of Americans who still consider religion “very important” in their own lives. That figure remains at 56% — roughly the same as for the last 35 years — while 57% still say religion has answers to most of the world’s problems.

The biggest difference is that in the late 1990s, up to 68% of Americans thought religion had answers to the world’s problems — even though only about 60% said religion was personally very important to them. It seems as though over the last ten years a significant number may have gone from believing that religion is a positive factor in the world, even if they’re not particularly religious themselves, to seeing religion in a far more skeptical or even negative light.

So is this good news? Yes it is. That 78% are still living in the dark ages is sobering, but the trend at least is in the right direction.

Re-posted from The Raw Story.


  1. Yep, I agree with you.

    Comment by Ignacio — December 29, 2009 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  2. Where did you get these figures? There are over 2 billion Christians alone!

    Comment by 4amzgkids — January 1, 2010 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

    • Just click on the highlighted words Gallup Poll in the first sentence. I’m sure the IRS would be very interested if there were another 1.7 billion Americans – Christian or otherwise – they didn’t know about.

      Comment by tildeb — January 1, 2010 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  3. I cannot believe this is true!

    Comment by Roulette System — January 2, 2010 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

    • It’s not! Search a poll for world religions – Gallup is a few people making generalizations

      Comment by 4amzgkids — January 4, 2010 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

      • This poll was conducted not for the world but the United States. In spite of your beliefs to the contrary, the trend data lends even more support for the accuracy of polling that reveals the slow decline in the personal importance of religious belief.

        Comment by tildeb — January 4, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Sorry but Gallup will poll a few hundred or even a thousand out of a billion in the US alone – not factual at all.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — January 4, 2010 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

    • Umm… the population of the US where the poll was undertaken is around 307 million ( and click on the Excel 24K highlight.

      Polling data is done by sample. That is why polling always tells you what the margin of error is… usually plus or minus 4% nineteen times out of twenty. That is why trend data is also important… if you poll over time and then all of a sudden you get an outlier result, you can correct for the weird result and redo the poll.

      Wiki gives a good definition and understanding of how polls are done, why they relatively accurate, and some of the pitfalls to look for in polling data. Gallup is one of the most respected polling companies around because their methods are sound and the results quite accurate over time. But don;t take my word for it; go and do a bit of reading at

      So, to be blunt, the poll is probably accurate unless there’s something in particular you find problematic in their methodology.

      Comment by tildeb — January 5, 2010 @ 1:36 am | Reply

  5. “The best known, but not the first or only public opinion poll – originated by Dr. George Horace Gallup (b.1901) a professor of journalism at Northwestern University. Gallup developed his technique about 1933, basing it on carefully phrased questions and scientifically selected samples, and became prominent nationally on predicting the outcome of the 1936 American presidential election, which many other pollsters failed. His poll, operating both at home and abroad, has proved remarkable accurate, but is far from infallible. In the 1948 national elections, for example, Gallup chose the late Governor Thomas E. Dewey over incumbent President Truman.”

    Nothing is perfect with science.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — January 7, 2010 @ 11:19 pm | Reply

  6. “The vast majority of Americans—83 percent—identify themselves as Christian.”

    Comment by 4amzgkids — January 7, 2010 @ 11:23 pm | Reply

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