Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.

Most Americans say religion’s influence is waning, and half think that’s bad – poll

United States

As the US continues to debate the fusion of faith and politics, a sweeping new survey reports that most American adults have a positive view of religion’s role in public life but believe its influence is waning.

The development appears to unsettle at least half of the country, with growing concern among an array of religious Americans that their beliefs are in conflict with mainstream American culture.


That’s according to a new survey unveiled on Friday by Pew Research, which was conducted in February and seeks to tease out attitudes regarding the influence of religion on American society.

“We see signs of sort of a growing disconnect between people’s own religious beliefs and their perceptions about the broader culture,” Greg Smith, associate director of research at Pew Research Center, told Religion News Service in an interview.

He pointed to findings such as 80 per cent of US adults saying religion’s role in American life is shrinking – as high as it’s ever been in Pew surveys – and 49 per cent of US adults say religion losing that influence is a bad thing.

What’s more, he noted that 48 per cent of US adults say there’s “a great deal” of or “some” conflict between their religious beliefs and mainstream American culture, an increase from 42 per cent in 2020. The number of Americans who see themselves as a minority group because of their religious beliefs has increased as well, rising from 24 per cent in 2020 to 29 per cent this year.

The spike in Americans who see themselves as a religious minority, while small, appears across several faith groups: white evangelical Protestants rose from 32 per cent to 37 per cent , white non-evangelical Protestants from 11 per cent to 16 per cent , white Catholics from 13 per cent  to 23 per cent , Hispanic Catholics from 17 per cent  to 26 per cent  and Jewish Americans from 78 per cent  to 83 per cent . Religiously unaffiliated Americans who see themselves as a minority because of their religious beliefs also rose from 21 per cent  to 25 per cent .

“We’re seeing an uptick in the share of Americans who think of themselves as a minority because of their religious beliefs,” Smith said.

Researchers also homed in on Christian nationalism, an ideology that often insists the US is given special status by God and usually features support for enshrining a specific kind of Christianity into US law. But while the movement has garnered prominent supporters and vocal critics – as well as backing from political figures such as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia – Pew found views on the subject were virtually unchanged from when they asked Americans about the topic in recent years.

“One thing that jumped out at me, given the amount of attention that’s been paid to Christian nationalism in the media and the level of conversation about it, is that the survey finds no change over the last year and half or so in the share of the public who says they’ve heard anything about it,” Smith said.

About 45 per cent of those polled said they had heard of Christian nationalism or read about it, with 54 per cent saying they had never heard of the ideology – the same percentages as in September, 2022. Overall, 25 per cent  had an unfavorable view of Christian nationalism, whereas only five per cent  had a favourable view and six per cent  had neither a favourable nor unfavourable view.

Researchers also pressed respondents on fusions of religion and politics, revealing a spectrum of views. A majority (55 per cent ) said the US Government should enforce the separation of church and state, whereas 16 per cent said the government should stop enforcing it and another 28 per cent saying neither or had no opinion.

Meanwhile, only 13 per cent said the US Government should declare Christianity the nation’s official religion, compared to 39 per cent who believed the US should not declare Christianity the state religion or promote Christian moral values. A plurality (44 per cent) sided with a third option: the US should not declare Christianity its official faith, but it should still promote Christian values.

When asked whether the Bible should have influence over US laws, respondents were evenly split: 49 per cent said the Bible should have “a great deal” of or “some” influence, while 51 per cent said it should have “not much” or “no influence.”

But things looked different when Pew asked an additional question of those who supported a Bible-based legal structure: If the Bible and the will of the people come into conflict, which should prevail? Not quite two-thirds of that group – or 28 per cent of Americans overall – said the Bible, but more than a third of the group (or 19 per cent of the US overall) said the will of the people should win out.

Here again, opinions have remained largely static, with researchers noting the numbers “have remained virtually unchanged over the past four years.”

Respondents were also asked whether they believed the Bible currently has influence over US laws, with a majority (57 per cent) agreeing it has at least some. But there were notable differences among religious groups: White evangelicals (48 per cent) and Black Protestants (40 per cent) were the least likely to say the Bible has at least some influence on US law, compared to slight majorities of white non-evangelical Protestants (56per cent) and both white and Hispanic Catholics (52 per cent for both). The religiously unaffiliated (70 per cent), Jewish Americans (73 per cent), atheists (86 per cent) and agnostics (83 per cent) were the most likely to agree that the Bible is a significant factor in the US legal system.

The survey polled 12,693 US adults from 13th to 25th February.


sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.



We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.