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PICTURES: Courtesy of Pew Research Center

It's a popular belief: The more educated a person is, the less religious he or she likely will be.

And it's mostly right, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center surveys released on Wednesday.

"It's certainly our sense that, if anything, that might be the conventional wisdom that higher levels of educational attainment are linked with religiosity. That said, I am aware there are scholars, sociologists, who in recent years have begun to call that into question," said Gregory Smith, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center.

"This is our attempt to weigh in with data from the Religious Landscape Study."

Americans adults with higher levels of education do report lower levels of religious commitment by most measures, according to Pew's analysis.

"I think the answer is, 'Well, it's complicated.' On the one hand, if you just look at the public as a whole, there's no question people with the highest levels of educational attainment tend to be less religious than those with lower levels of educational attainment," Dr Smith said.

Fewer than half of college graduates, or 46 per cent, say religion is “very important” in their lives, compared with 53 per cent of those who have completed some college and 58 per cent of those with no more than a high school education, according to Pew. College grads also are less likely to say they believe in God "with absolute certainty" and pray daily.

But there are exceptions.

The "big however," Dr Smith said, is that Christians - the majority (71 per cent) of American adults - don't seem to fit the pattern at all.

Christians with higher levels of education (70 per cent, combining all measures) appear to be just as religious as those with less schooling (73 per cent of those with some college and 71 per cent with some high school), according to the analysis. They are almost equally likely at all education levels to pray daily, attend worship services weekly and say they believe in God with absolute certainty.

In fact, highly educated Christians are most likely (52 per cent) to say they are weekly churchgoers, compared with 45 per cent of those with some college and 46 per cent with at least some high school, according to Pew.

Fully three-quarters of college graduates still are affiliated with some religion, not much different from those with some college (76 per cent) or high school (78 per cent), for example, according to Pew. College graduates also report attending weekly religious services at similar rates as Americans with less education.

But more college graduates identify as atheist or agnostic: 11 per cent, compared with eight per cent with some college and four per cent of those with no more than a high school education, according to the analysis. Those aren't large numbers, but Dr Smith pointed out that still makes college graduates almost three times as likely to identify as atheist or agnostic than those who have no more than a high school education.

While none of the numbers are huge, they are statistically significant, he said. Most of the data analyzed comes from Pew's 2014 US Religious Landscape Survey of more than 35,000 Americans reached on randomly dialed cellphones and landlines. The margin of error for results based on the full sample in that survey is plus or minus 0.6 percentage points.