Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews viewed warmly

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Americans expressed warmer views toward evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews than toward Muslims and atheists in a new Pew study released Wednesday (July 16).

The Pew Research Center gauged Americans' views of various religious groups and belief sets by surveying 3,217 adults May 30–June 30 in the study "How Americans Feel About Religious Groups."

Among Jewish respondents, Pew found a relatively negative view of evangelicals in particular. On average, Jewish people rated their warmth toward evangelical Christians at 34 on a "feeling thermometer" of 0 to 100, with 0 representing the most negative, and 100 the most positive. Conversely, white evangelicals rated their warmth toward Jews positively, averaging 69, as did black Protestants at 59 on average.

Generally, those surveyed rated evangelical Christians, Jews and Catholics warmly, with ratings averaging about 60; but rated atheists and Muslims more coldly, averaging around 40, Pew reported. The study gaged the perceptions of groups by those within and without each particular faith or belief system, including evangelical Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists and Atheists.

Among all surveyed, the average ratings received by the various groups are evangelical Christians, 61; Jews, 63; Catholics, 62; Buddhists, 53; Hindus, 50; Mormons, 48; Atheists, 41, and Muslims, 40, Pew reported. Evangelicals alone indicated an average thermometer rating of 63 toward Catholics, 39 toward Buddhists, 38 toward Hindus, 30 toward Muslims and 25 toward Atheists, the survey found.

"Religious groups are rated more positively by their own members than by people from other religious backgrounds," Pew reported. "Evangelical Christians receive an average rating of 79 from people who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, compared with an average rating of 52 from non-evangelicals," Pew reported. "Among non-evangelicals, roughly as many people give evangelicals a cold rating (27%) as give them a warm rating (30%).

"The fact that Catholics and evangelical Christians are large groups and view their fellow adherents warmly helps explain why the two groups are among the most favorably viewed groups in the population," according to the Pew report. "The other groups included in the survey constitute much smaller shares of the overall population. As a result, their ratings are very similar whether they are based on the entire population or only on people who do not belong to the group."

Close to half of those surveyed, 44 percent, indicated a warmth on the highest end of the feelings thermometer, higher than 67, toward evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews, Pew noted.

Americans 65 and older reported higher thermometer rankings for evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews, Pew found, while non-Christian groups received their most favorable ratings from Americans under age 30. Still, 18- to 29-year-olds recorded a score of 58 toward evangelicals, compared to a score of 67 for evangelicals among those age 65 and over.

"These patterns may partly reflect that there are more Christians among older Americans than among younger people," Pew reported. "In Pew Research surveys conducted this year, fully 85 percent of Americans ages 65 and older describe themselves as Christians, compared with just 59 percent among adults under 30 (32 percent of whom identify as religious 'nones')."

The study was conducted among a group identified as Pew Research's new American Trends Panel, described as 18.4 percent white evangelical, 18.2 percent white mainline Protestant, 5.2 percent African American Protestant, 19.8 percent Catholic, 5.9 percent agnostic, 3.9 percent Atheist, 21 percent "unaffiliated," and 12.8 percent "nothing in particular."

Study findings are available at http://www.pewforum.org/2014/07/16/how-americans-feel-about-religious-groups/.


Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).