Americans’ Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines

Belief in Darwin's theory of evolution rises

12:00 AM EST Dec 16, 2013 Rating
  • Tools

New York, N.Y. - December 16, 2013 - A new Harris Poll finds that while a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults do believe in God, this belief is in decline when compared to previous years as just over four in five (82%) expressed a belief in God in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Also, while majorities also believe in miracles (72%, down from 79% in 2005), heaven (68%, down from 75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (68%, down from 72%), the resurrection of Jesus Christ (65%, down from 70%), the survival of the soul after death (64%, down from 69%), the devil, hell (both at 58%, down from 62%) and the Virgin birth (57%, down from 60%), these are all down from previous Harris Polls.

Belief in Darwin's theory of evolution, however, while well below levels recorded for belief in God, miracles and heaven, is up in comparison to 2005 findings (47%, up from 42%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013.

The survey also finds that 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% each believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24% believe in reincarnation - that they were once another person.

Generational & political divides

Echo Boomers are less likely than their counterparts in all older generations to express belief in God (64% Echo Boomers, 75% Gen Xers, 81% Baby Boomers, 83% Matures), miracles (65%, 74%, 76% and 78%, respectively), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (58%, 67%, 74% and 75%, respectively) and angels (59%, 71%, 73% and 68%, respectively.

On the other end of the generational spectrum, Matures are far less likely than any other generation to express belief in ghosts (44% Echo Boomers, 46% Gen Xers, 46% Baby Boomers, 24% Matures), witches (27%, 29%, 28% and 18%, respectively) and reincarnation (27%, 25%, 23% and 13%, respectively).

Turning to the political spectrum, Democrats and Independents show similar levels of belief in most of the tested concepts, with Republicans consistently more likely than either group to express belief in those concepts aligned with the Judeo-Christian belief system; Republicans are less likely than either group to express belief in Darwin's theory of evolution (36% Republicans, 52% Democrats, 51% Independents).

Absolute certainty that there is a God down vs. 10 years ago

In a separate line of questioning, focused on Americans' degree of certainty that there is or is not a God, two-thirds of Americans (68%) indicate being either absolutely or somewhat certain that there is a God, while 54% specify being absolutely certain; these figures represent drops of 11 and 12 percentage points, respectively, from 2003 testing, where combined certainty was at 79% and absolute certainty was at 66%.

Meanwhile, combined belief that there is no God (16%) and uncertainty as to whether or not there is a God (also 16%) are both up from 2003 findings (when these levels were 9% and 12%, respectively).

Outside of specific religious samples, the groups most likely to be absolutely certain there is a God include blacks (70%), Republicans (65%), Matures (62%) and Baby Boomers (60%), Southerners (61%) and Midwesterners (58%), and those with a high school education or less (60%).

Gender of God

There continues to be no consensus as to whether God is a man or a woman. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans (39%) think He is male, while only 1% of U.S. adults believe She is female. However, notable minorities believe God is neither male nor female (31%) or both male and female (10%).

Women, perhaps surprisingly, are more likely than men to believe that God is male (43% women, 34% men), while men are more likely to believe that God is neither male nor female (34% men, 28% women).

God's control over the Earth

There also a continuing - and increasing - lack of consensus as to how much control, if any, God has over what happens on Earth.

A 37% plurality of Americans (including 52% of Catholics) believes that God observes but does not control what happens on Earth - down considerably from 2003, when half of Americans (50%) expressed this belief. Just under three in ten (29%) Americans, including majorities of those who self-identify as very religious (60%) and/or born-again Christians (56%), believe that God controls what happens on Earth.

Religious texts as Word of God

Just under half of Americans believe that all or most of the Old Testament (49%) and the New Testament (48%) are the Word of God, representing declines of six percentage points each from 2008 findings.

Prevalence of Religious self-identification

Just under two in ten Americans (19%) describe themselves are very religious, with an additional four in ten (40%) describing themselves as somewhat religious (40%, down from 49% in 2007). Nearly one-fourth of Americans (23%) identify themselves as not at all religious - a figure that has nearly doubled since 2007, when it was at 12%.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

Want Harris Polls delivered direct to your inbox? Click here!


TABLE 1a

WHAT PEOPLE DO AND DO NOT BELIEVE IN

Please indicate for each one if you believe in it, or not

Base: All Adults

 

Believe In

Don't Believe In

Not Sure

Believe In

Change

2005

2007

2009

2013

2005-2013

God

%

74

12

14

82

82

82

74

-8

Miracles

%

72

15

13

79

79

76

72

-7

Heaven

%

68

16

15

75

75

75

68

-7

Jesus is God or the Son of God

%

68

18

14

72

72

73

68

-4

Angels

%

68

18

15

74

74

72

68

-6

The resurrection of Jesus Christ

%

65

19

16

70

70

70

65

-5

Survival of the soul after death

%

64

16

20

69

69

71

64

-5

Hell

%

58

25

18

62

62

61

58

-4

The Devil

%

58

26

16

62

62

60

58

-4

The Virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary)

%

57

24

20

60

60

61

57

-3

Darwin's theory of evolution

%

47

29

25

42

42

45

47

+5

Ghosts

%

42

37

21

41

41

42

42

+1

Creationism

%

36

31

33

39

39

40

36

-3

UFOs

%

36

35

29

35

35

32

36

+1

Astrology

%

29

50

21

29

29

26

29

--

Witches

%

26

54

19

31

31

23

26

-5

Reincarnation - that you were once another person

%

24

49

27

21

21

20

24

+3

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% because of rounding

-- indicates no change


TABLE 1b

WHAT PEOPLE BELIEVE IN

By Generation & Political Party

Please indicate for each one if you believe in it, or not

Base: All Adults

Total

Generation

Political Party

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Republicans

Democrats

Independents

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

God

74

64

75

81

83

87

72

70

Miracles

72

65

74

76

78

83

71

68

Heaven

68

62

68

74

73

80

66

65

Jesus is God or the Son of God

68

58

67

74

75

83

64

62

Angels

68

59

71

73

68

77

66

64

The resurrection of Jesus Christ

65

55

63

72

74

80

60

60

Survival of the soul after death

64

59

63

68

67

74

63

60

Hell

58

54

58

60

63

74

53

53

The Devil

58

53

60

60

60

69

55

54

The Virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary)

57

48

52

64

67

72

52

53

Darwin's theory of evolution

47

49

48

45

43

36

52

51

Ghosts

42

44

46

46

24

43

45

39

Creationism

36

33

35

38

37

49

30

34

UFOs

36

36

36

37

30

36

37

35

Astrology

29

33

34

26

23

29

31

27

Witches

26

27

29

28

18

27

26

25

Reincarnation - that you were once another person

24

27

25

23

13

18

30

18

 

TABLE 2a

CERTAINTY THAT THERE IS/IS NOT A GOD

Are youâ€_?

Base: All Adults

2003

2006

2009

2013

Change 2003-2013

%

%

%

%

% points

Absolutely/ Somewhat certain there is a God (NET)

79

73

74

68

-11

Absolutely certain that there is a God

66

58

59

54

-12

Somewhat certain that there is a God

12

15

15

14

+2

Absolutely/ Somewhat certain there is no God (NET)

9

11

13

16

+7

Somewhat certain that there is no God

5

6

6

7

+2

Absolutely certain that there is no God

4

6

7

9

+5

Not sure whether or not there is a God

12

16

13

16

+4

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.


TABLE 2b

DEMOGRAPHIC VARIATIONS IN CERTAINTY THAT THERE IS A GOD

Base: All Adults

Absolutely Certain there IS a God

All Adults

%

54

Region

East

%

48

Midwest

%

58

South

%

61

West

%

46

Generation

Echo Boomers (18-36)

%

47

Gen Xers (37-48)

%

51

Baby Boomers (49-67)

%

60

Matures (68+)

%

62

Gender

Male

%

48

Female

%

59

Race/Ethnicity

White

%

53

Black

%

70

Hispanic

%

53

Political Party

Republican

%

65

Democrat

%

50

Independent

%

51

Education

High school or less

%

60

Some college

%

55

College graduate

%

48

Post graduate

%

37


TABLE 3

GENDER OF GOD

If there is a God, do you think of God as male or female or neither?

Base: All Adults

All Adults

Gender

2003

2006

2009

2013

Change 2003-2013

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

% points

%

%

Male

42

36

38

39

-3

34

43

Female

1

1

1

1

--

 

3

Neither male nor female

38

37

34

31

-7

34

28

Both male and female

11

10

11

10

-1

10

9

Do not believe in God/Not sure

9

17

15

19

+10

21

17

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.

  indicates less than 0.5%; -- indicates no change

 

TABLE 4

GOD'S CONTROL OVER EARTH

Do you think Godâ€_?

Base: All Adults

 

 

All Adults

Very vs. Somewhat Religious

Catholic/Protestant/Born Again

2003

2006

2009

2013

Change 2003-2013

Very

Somewhat

Catholic

Protestant (NET)

Born Again

%

%

%

%

% points

%

%

%

%

%

Controls what happens on Earth

29

29

30

29

--

60

35

27

44

56

Observes but does not control what happens on Earth

50

44

43

37

-13

34

49

52

41

37

Neither observes nor controls what happens on Earth

6

8

8

8

+2

2

5

8

5

1

Do not believe in God/Not Sure

15

18

19

25

+10

4

11

13

10

6

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.

-- indicates no change


TABLE 5

WHICH BOOKS REPRESENT THE WORD OF GOD

To what extent do you believe that the following represents the word of God?

Base: All adults

 

 

All Is Word of God

Most Is Word of God

Some Is Word of God

None Is Word of God

Not Sure

All/Most is Word of God

2008

2013

Change 2008-2013

The Old Testament (texts used in the Christian religion)

%

33

16

14

17

20

55

49

-6

The New Testament (texts used in the Christian religion)

%

31

17

15

18

20

54

48

-6

The Torah (the texts used in the Jewish religion)

%

12

11

16

23

39

26

22

-4

The Koran (texts used by Muslims)

%

3

5

15

39

38

9

8

-1

The Book of Mormon (texts used by Mormons)

%

5

4

15

38

37

10

9

-1

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% because of rounding

 

TABLE 6

HOW RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE

Would you describe yourself as . . .?

Base: All adults

 

Total

2007

2008

2009

2013

Change 2007-2013

%

%

%

%

% points

Very religious

21

23

21

19

-2

Somewhat religious

49

45

48

40

-9

Not very religious

19

17

16

19

--

Not at all religious

12

15

15

23

+11

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% because of rounding; -- indicates no change

A Note on the Methodology Used and How It Affects the Results

Other research has shown that when replying to a question administered impersonally by a computer, people are less likely to say they believe in God, or attend Church services when they really don't. It is generally believed that surveys conducted by live interviewers tend to exaggerate the numbers of people who report the socially desirable, or less embarrassing, behavior, and that the replies given to an online survey such as this, are more honest and therefore more accurate.

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States November 13 and 18, 2013 among 2,250 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

J43568

Q1055, 1060, 1065, 1070, 1075, 1340

 

The Harris Poll® #97, December 16, 2013

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

Rate This Article: