NAMB researches Americans’ view of Southern Baptists

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Southern Baptists were viewed favorably by 57 percent of adults interviewed as part of recent research conducted by the North American Mission Board’s Center for Missional Research through Zogby International.

The positive outlook toward Southern Baptists, United Methodists and the Catholic Church was about the same in the survey, while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and Muslims received less favorable ratings, 32 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Southern Baptists received unfavorable impressions from 17 percent of the respondents, while another 24 percent said they were not familiar with Southern Baptists. The NAMB research polled 1,210 American adults across the country.

Southern Baptists made the best impression where they are most prevalent, in southern “Bible Belt” states. Two out of three respondents in the South expressed a favorable opinion of Southern Baptists, compared to only half of respondents in the West and East, where Southern Baptists have a smaller presence.

Catholics were rated more favorably in the East and West, regions where their presence among survey respondents is proportionally greater, according to the research.

The NAMB/Zogby poll indicated that a sizeable number of younger adults either have an unfavorable impression of Southern Baptists or are not familiar with the nation’s second-largest denomination.

About 24 percent of respondents age 18-24 expressed a “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” impression of Southern Baptists, while 39 percent of the 25-34 age group said they were “not familiar” with Southern Baptists.

Middle-age adults think highest of Southern Baptists, with 66 percent of those 55-69 reporting a favorable impression.

Because the word “Baptist” may not always appear in a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church’s name, the research also looked at what the significance of knowing that a particular church is indeed Southern Baptist would have on someone’s decision to visit or join that church.

The survey showed that 31 percent of respondents said this knowledge would positively affect their decision to visit or join that church, while 36 percent said it would have no effect and 25 percent said it would have a negative effect.

Among adults age 18 to 24, more than 40 percent of those surveyed said knowing that a church is Southern Baptist would negatively affect their decision to visit or join that church. But 36 percent of persons 35 to 54 reported that the Southern Baptist label would positively affect their choice of a church.

“The scope of this study stopped short of asking why there are unfavorable impressions of Southern Baptists depending on region or age group,” said Ed Stetzer, senior director of NAMB’s Center for Missional Research in Alpharetta, Ga. “Is it because of the stand Southern Baptists take on marriage as between one man and one woman for a lifetime? Is it Baptists’ consensus belief on the inerrancy of Scripture? Or, are there other factors at work that cause many people to reject our churches? Is it a reputation that has been earned because of issues other than the Gospel? Clearly, more research is needed,” Stetzer said.

For a copy of the research, click on: for a PowerPoint version.

Download Story