June 1, 2008

U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices

Chapter 2: Social and Political Views

Relatively few Americans say they look to religion as the primary source of their views on social and political issues. Nevertheless, the Landscape Survey confirms the strong links that exist between Americans’ religious affiliation, their beliefs and practices, and their basic social and political attitudes. Religion may, in fact, be playing a more powerful, albeit indirect, role in shaping people’s thinking than many Americans recognize.

This chapter examines the views of members of the various religious traditions on many of the social and political issues of the day. Where sample size allows, traditions are broken down further by levels of religious commitment according to four important measures – frequency of worship service attendance, importance of religion in one’s life, frequency of prayer and degree of belief in a personal God. The analysis shows that on many issues, the fault lines of American politics run not only along religious traditions but through them.

The religious beliefs, practices and identities of U.S. adults are extremely diverse, but among almost all faiths there is broad agreement about the positive impact religion exerts in society. Most Americans disagree with the notion that religion causes more problems than it solves. Most people who are affiliated with a religion also do not see a conflict between being a devout person and living in a modern society.

American adults are very content with their family and personal lives, with 59% of the public overall and majorities of almost every religious group reporting they are very satisfied with their personal lives. Opinions are more negative when it comes to American politics, however, with 68% expressing dissatisfaction with the way the political system is working and similar numbers expressing dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the country.

Americans report relatively high levels of political engagement. More than half (52%) say they follow politics or public affairs most of the time. There are few substantial differences in self reported interest in politics across religious groups or levels of religious commitment.

But although religion is not strongly tied to political engagement, religion has a more significant impact on American attitudes on a core group of issues. Views on social or cultural issues such as abortion and homosexuality are strongly tied to both an individual’s religious affiliation and level of religious commitment. For instance, while a slim majority of Americans (51%) favor keeping abortion legal in all or most cases, Mormons and members of evangelical churches remain strongly opposed to legalized abortion (70% and 61%, respectively). There is also significant variation within religious traditions, with more highly committed believers holding more conservative positions on these issues.

Not only does religious affiliation influence Americans’ attitudes on important social and cultural questions, it is also closely related to Americans’ basic political orientation. For example, while members of historically black Protestant churches, Jews and people who are not affiliated with a religion are largely Democratic, members of evangelical Protestant churches and Mormons lean more Republican. Further, across several religious traditions, Americans who pray more frequently, attend worship services more often, are more certain in their belief in a personal God or say religion is very important in their lives tend to be more conservative and somewhat more Republican than others.

On other topics covered in the survey, such as views on the role and size of government and foreign policy attitudes, the role of religion is less clear. Differences among religious traditions on many economic issues and foreign policy questions are comparatively smaller. For instance, a majority of nearly every religious group supports stricter environmental regulations and believes the government should do more to help Americans in need. Similarly, most Americans, including majorities of most faiths, say it is more important to focus on problems here at home than to be active in world affairs.

I. Religion and Society

Religion and Societal Problems
Most American adults (62%) reject the notion that religion causes more problems in society than it solves. Majorities of most Christian traditions as well as a large majority of Muslims (68%) reject this idea.

By contrast, nearly half of all Jews (49%) and more than half of Buddhists (56%), Hindus (57%) and the unaffiliated (59%) say religion causes more problems than it solves. A majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses (51%) also say religion causes more harm than good in society. Atheists stand out for the degree with which they believe religion is a problem. Nearly half of all atheists (49%) say they completely agree that religion is more likely to cause problems than to provide solutions in society.

Chapter 2-1

Among the general public and several of the largest religious groups, those who exhibit higher levels of religious commitment are more likely to reject the notion that religion causes more problems than it solves. For instance, three-quarters of Americans (76%) who attend religious services at least once a week reject the idea that religion is, on balance, a negative influence in society, compared with slightly more than half (53%) of those who attend services less often.

The attendance gap on this issue cuts across many religious traditions. There are also differences between those who express certain belief in a personal God and others. For instance, among members of mainline Protestant churches who express certainty in their belief in a personal God, more than seven-in-ten (73%) do not think religion causes more problems than it solves, while those who are less certain in this belief or who hold different views about God are more evenly split on this question. Similar patterns are seen across several religious traditions between those who pray often and those who do not, and between those who say religion is very important in their lives and those who say it is less important.

Chapter 2-2

Conflict Between Religion and Modern Society

Most Americans believe that modern society does not present a challenge to devout believers. The Landscape Survey finds that a majority of adults (54%) with a religious affiliation see no conflict between being a devout religious person and living in modern society. A substantial minority (40%), however, does see a tension. Jehovah’s Witnesses (59%) are most likely to see a conflict between being religious and living in modern society; a plurality of members of evangelical churches (49%) also say this. Jews (29%) are least likely to see a conflict.

The unaffiliated population was asked a different version of this question – whether there is a conflict between being non-religious and living in a society where people are religious. One-third (34%) perceives such a conflict; atheists and agnostics are most likely to say this (44% and 41%, respectively).

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Hollywood vs. Religion?

The perceived conflict between religion and modern society is clearly evident when it comes to views about Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Hollywood and the entertainment industry are often seen as in conflict with the values of certain religious groups, and a significant number of the general population (42%), including a majority of some religious groups, express this view. However, most Americans (56%) disagree with the idea that their values are threatened by Hollywood.

Mormons are by far the most apprehensive about Hollywood: Two-thirds (67%) say Tinseltown and the entertainment industry represent a threat to their values. A majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of evangelical churches agree. Concern is particularly pronounced among the most observant Mormons and members of evangelical churches: 75% of Mormons who attend religious services at least once a week and 60% of members of evangelical churches who attend church this often see the entertainment industry as a threat.

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Majorities of most other religious groups are less concerned about Hollywood and the entertainment industry. However, at least four-in-ten Catholics (43%), Orthodox Christians (42%), members of mainline Protestant churches (41%) and Muslims (41%) say they feel their values are threatened by the influence of Hollywood.

II. Satisfaction with Personal and Public Life

Religion and Personal Satisfaction

Most Americans are very satisfied with their personal lives. Close to nine-in-ten (86%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives, and six-in-ten (59%) say they are very satisfied. Majorities of nearly every religious tradition are very satisfied with their personal lives; only among members of historically black Protestant churches do fewer than half (47%) say they are very satisfied with their personal lives.

Chapter 2.2-1

American adults are even more content with their family lives. More than nine-in-ten (93%) say they are satisfied, and three-quarters say they are very satisfied, in their family lives. Large majorities within every religious group express high levels of satisfaction with their family lives.

The survey finds a link between individuals’ religious beliefs and practices and their satisfaction with their personal lives, with those exhibiting greater religious commitment somewhat more likely to express satisfaction with their lives. Among the various measures of religious commitment analyzed here – frequency of worship service attendance, prayer, importance of religion in one’s life and view of God – attendance appears to have the greatest impact on levels of personal satisfaction. For instance, among members of historically black churches who attend religious services at least once a week, a majority (54%) say they are very satisfied with their personal lives, compared with less than four-in-ten (37%) of those who attend less often. Slightly smaller, but nonetheless significant gaps are also evident among the general public as well as among other religious groups. A similar pattern exists for satisfaction with family life, with those who attend church more frequently being somewhat more likely than others to express high levels of satisfaction with their family life.

Three-quarters of Americans (78%) say they are content with their standard of living or what they can buy or do. However, fewer express a high degree of satisfaction; less than four-in-ten (38%) say they are very satisfied. Perhaps not surprisingly, religious groups reporting high levels of education and income tend to express greater satisfaction with their standard of living. For instance, nearly half of Jews (49%) and Hindus (46%) say they are very satisfied with what they can buy and do, while members of historically black churches (29%) are significantly less likely to express similar levels of satisfaction.

More than seven-in-ten Americans say they are very (32%) or somewhat (39%) satisfied with their level of personal safety from things like crime and terrorism. Mormons (42%), Buddhists (39%), atheists (42%) and agnostics (39%) are among the most likely to say they are very satisfied with their level of personal safety.

Chapter 2.2-2

Satisfaction With American Society and the Political System

Despite their overall feeling of satisfaction with their family and personal lives, only about a quarter of Americans (27%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. Many religious groups register similar levels of displeasure, but a few groups express distinctive views. For instance, Mormons (40%) and Hindus (38%) are among those registering the highest levels of satisfaction. Conversely, members of historically black churches (17%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (10%) are among the least satisfied.

Chapter 2.2-3

Attitudes about the political system are nearly identical to views about the country in general. More than two-thirds of Americans (68%) were dissatisfied (as of summer 2007 when the survey was conducted) with how the political system operates in the U.S.; only slightly more than a quarter (27%) were satisfied. These attitudes were relatively similar across religious groups. In fact, with the exception of Mormons (36%), no more than a third of any religious tradition expressed overall satisfaction with the way the political system was working.

III. Religion and Political Attentiveness

Influences on Political Thinking

When asked about what most influences their thinking about government and politics, a plurality of the general public (34%) says they rely most on their own personal experiences. Roughly one-in-five (19%) say they rely on what they have seen in the media. Only 14% cite their religious beliefs as the most important influence in their thinking about government and public affairs.

Jehovah’s Witnesses (60%), members of evangelical churches (28%) and Mormons (24%) are more likely to rely on their religious beliefs to guide their political thinking than are members of other religious groups. Less than 5% of Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and the unaffiliated say that their religious views serve as their primary guide to politics and public affairs.

Chapter 2.3-1

Americans who pray daily, attend worship services at least weekly, express certain belief in a personal God or say religion is very important in their lives are significantly more likely than others to say their religious beliefs most influence their views on politics. For instance, more than one-in-four Americans (27%) who attend religious services at least once a week say they rely principally on their religious beliefs to guide their thinking about politics, compared with only one-in-twenty (5%) of those who attend less often. It is worth pointing out, however, that even among the most religiously engaged Americans, only minorities cite religion as the primary influence on their thinking about government and politics.

Chapter 2.3-2

Attention to Politics

Roughly half of the general public (52%) and similar numbers of most religious groups say that they follow occurrences in the government most of the time. Among most of these groups an additional third say they follow government activity or public affairs some of the time, with fewer than one-in-five saying they pay attention only now and then or hardly at all.

Certain groups do stand out, however, in their attentiveness to public affairs. More than two-thirds of Jews (68%) and six-in-ten atheists (61%), agnostics (63%) and Buddhists (60%) say they follow politics most of the time. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Jehovah’s Witnesses and the religious unaffiliated. Less than three-in-ten Jehovah’s Witnesses and about four-in-ten of the religious unaffiliated say they follow politics or public affairs most of the time. In fact, more than a quarter of Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%) say they hardly ever pay attention to public affairs.

Chapter 2.3-3

Voter Registration

Nearly three-quarters of adults (73%) in the U.S., including the vast majority of most religious groups, say they are registered to vote. Among Jews and mainline Protestants, more than eight-in-ten (84% and 81% respectively) are registered to vote.

Less than half of Muslims (48%) and Hindus (42%) are registered to vote, although this relatively low level is primarily due to the fact that both groups are made up of a disproportionately large number of immigrants who are not eligible to vote; a quarter of Muslims and four-in-ten Hindus are not U.S. citizens. Jehovah’s Witnesses also have low levels of voter registration. Slightly more than one-in-ten Jehovah’s Witnesses (13%) are registered to vote, but nearly three-quarters (74%) say they are not registered.

Chapter 2.3-4

IV. Religion, Ideology and Partisanship

Ideology

Overall, nearly twice as many Americans identify as politically conservative (37%) as liberal(20%); more than a third says they are politically moderate (36%). But ideological identity varies widely among religious groups. Mormons and members of evangelical Protestant churches are by far the most politically conservative. Majorities of both groups say they are conservative (60% and 52%, respectively), while only about one-in-ten in each group say they are liberal. Half of all Jehovah’s Witnesses offered no opinion of their ideological self-placement.

Members of non-Christian faiths, on the other hand, tend to be much more moderate or liberal. Jews are about twice as likely to be liberal as conservative (38% vs. 21%). Half (50%) of all Buddhists and atheists describe themselves as liberal. Hindus are about three times more likely to be liberal (35%) than conservative (12%).

Catholics and members of mainline and historically black Protestant churches all resemble the population as a whole in terms of their ideological profile.

In general, Americans who place a high value on religion in their lives or who are very active religiously tend to be more politically conservative than other Americans. People who attend religious services at least once a week or pray daily, for instance, are significantly more politically conservative (46% and 44%, respectively) than those who attend services or pray less often (28% and 27%, respectively).

Chapter 2.4-1

Almost twice as many people who say religion is very important in their lives are conservative (46%) compared with those for whom religion is less important (25%). A similar pattern is found among several religious traditions. For instance, among Jews and members of evangelical Protestant churches, the differences between those who pray daily or attend services at least once a week and those who do not is quite dramatic. More than twice as many Jews who pray daily identify as conservative (36%) compared with those who pray less often (16%). Catholics who attend religious services at least once a week are significantly more conservative than those who attend less often (45% vs. 31%), and Catholics who pray daily are also significantly more likely to be conservative than those who pray less often (40% vs. 31%).

Chapter 2.4-2

Partisanship

Chapter 2.4-3

Nearly half of U.S. adults (47%) identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, a third (35%) say they are Republican or lean Republican and about one-in-five (18%) say they are independent, something else or express no partisan preference. Catholics and Orthodox Christians have the same basic partisan composition as the general public.

Mormons are by far the most staunchly Republican group, with nearly two-thirds (65%) identifying with or leaning toward the GOP. Members of evangelical Protestant churches are also significantly more likely to be Republican (50%) than Democratic (34%). Conversely, majorities of non-Christian faiths identify as Democrats, including at least six-in-ten Jews (66%), Muslims (63%), Buddhists (66%) and Hindus (63%).

Members of historically black Protestant churches are more likely than any other group to identify as Democrats (77%). Atheists and agnostics are also strongly Democratic; almost two-thirds of atheists (65%) and agnostics (62%) are Democrats or lean Democratic.

Religious beliefs and practices are not as closely linked to partisan identification as they are to political ideology. It is true that Americans who say religion is very important in their lives, participate regularly in religious activities or express certain belief in a personal God are generally more likely to be Republican than those who do not. However, these patterns vary somewhat by religious tradition and completely disappear among certain religious groups.

Among Catholics and members of historically black Protestant churches, for example, most of these religious traits make little difference in terms of partisan identification. Similarly, there are only small differences in party identification among members of mainline Protestant churches depending on their level of religious commitment. For instance, members of mainline churches who say religion is very important in their lives are only slightly more likely to be Republican than those who say it is less important (44% vs. 38%).

Among Mormons, members of evangelical Protestant churches and Jews, those who attend religious services at least weekly or say religion is very important in their lives are much more likely to be Republican than those who do not share these characteristics. And members of evangelical churches and Jews who attend religious services less than once a week are more likely to identify as Democrats compared with those who attend at least weekly (43% vs. 29% for members of evangelical churches and 69% vs. 47% for Jews).

Chapter 2.4-4

V. Religion and “Culture War” Issues

Government Protection of Morality

The public is divided over the government’s proper role in protecting morality in society. A slight majority (52%) says they worry that the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality, while four-in-ten say that the government should be doing more to protect morality in society. There are stark differences on this question among religious groups as well as by degree of religious commitment.

Chapter 2.5-1

Of all the religious traditions, Mormons, Muslims and members of evangelical Protestant churches are most supportive of an increased role for government in protecting morality in society. A majority of Mormons (54%) and Muslims (59%), and half of members of evangelical Protestant churches, say the government should be more active in this role. Among members of mainline Protestant churches, only a third expresses this view.

In contrast, Jews, Buddhists and the unaffiliated are much more likely to worry about too much government involvement. More than seven-in-ten Jews (71%), and two-thirds of Buddhists (67%) and the unaffiliated (66%, including three-quarters of atheists, more than eight-in-ten agnostics and seven-in-ten of the secular unaffiliated), worry government is too involved in the issue of morality.

Americans who exhibit higher levels of religious engagement are significantly more likely than others to say the government ought to be doing more to protect morality in society. For instance, a majority of members of evangelical churches (52%) who pray daily support an increased government role in protecting morality, compared with four-in-ten (41%) of those who pray less often. Similar patterns are seen among members of mainline churches, Catholics, Jews and Orthodox Christians.

Abortion

Abortion remains a divisive issue in the United States, with a slim majority of Americans in favor of keeping it legal in all or most cases (51%); by comparison, more than four-in-ten (43%) favor making abortion illegal in all or most cases. Most religious traditions in the U.S. come down firmly on one side of the debate or the other. For instance, a strong majority of members of mainline Protestant churches, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and the unaffiliated believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Conversely, a significant majority of Mormons, members of evangelical churches and Jehovah’s Witnesses say that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Catholics, Muslims and members of historically black Protestant churches are basically evenly divided on the question of abortion.

Chapter 2.5-2

Views on abortion not only differ among religious traditions but also within them. Religious beliefs and practices significantly influence views on abortion, with those exhibiting high levels of religious commitment (on measures such as frequency of attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer or importance of religion in one’s life) much more likely to oppose legalized abortion than their less-committed peers. For instance, nearly three-in-four members of evangelical Protestant churches (73%) who attend church at least weekly say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, compared with only 45% of members of evangelical churches who attend church less frequently. Similar patterns are seen among other religious groups, including members of mainline and historically black Protestant churches, Catholics, Mormons, Orthodox Christians and Jews; the more committed members of these traditions tend to be significantly more likely to oppose legalized abortion compared with less-committed members of the same traditions.

Chapter 2.5-3

Homosexuality

Views on homosexuality follow similar patterns as views on abortion, for the general public as well as for religious traditions. Half of all Americans believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society, and four-in-ten say that it is a way of life that should be discouraged. Three-quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses (76%), about six-in-ten Muslims (61%) and roughly two-thirds of Mormons (68%) and members of evangelical churches (64%) say homosexuality ought to be discouraged. The majority of most other religious groups say homosexuality should be accepted by society. This includes Catholics (58%), members of mainline churches (56%), Jews (79%), Buddhists (82%) and the unaffiliated (71%). By contrast, members of historically black churches, Orthodox Christians and Hindus are more divided over the issue of homosexuality. For example, four-in-ten members of historically black churches say homosexuality should be accepted, while 46% say it should be discouraged.

Chapter 2.5-4

As with abortion, there are important links between intensity of religious beliefs and practices and attitudes about homosexuality. Across religious traditions, those who attend services more frequently, pray more frequently, say religion is very important in their lives or express certain belief in a personal God are less accepting of homosexuality than those who are less observant. For instance, seven-in-ten members of evangelical churches who say religion is very important to them say homosexuality ought to be discouraged by society, compared with four-in-ten members of evangelical Protestant churches who say religion is less important in their lives. Even among Jews, who overwhelmingly believe society should accept homosexuality, one-in-three of those who pray every day say that society should discourage it, which is four times the level of opposition seen among Jews who pray less often.

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Evolution

Another issue that divides Americans is the issue of evolution. Overall, the public is evenly divided on the question of whether or not evolution is the best explanation for life on earth, with 48% agreeing that it is and 45% rejecting the notion that evolution best explains the origins of human life. Religious differences on this issue are stark. At least seven-in-ten members of evangelical Protestant churches, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the evolutionary account as the best explanation for the development of human life, while large majorities of Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and the unaffiliated agree that evolution best explains the development of life on earth.

Chapter 2.5-6

Thoughts about whether evolution is the best explanation for life on earth are also closely tied to individual religious beliefs and practices. Across many religious traditions, the more highly committed tend to be less likely to believe in evolution. Among the public overall, nearly two-thirds (63%) of those who attend religious services at least once a week reject the idea of evolution, compared with only a third of those who attend less often. Similar patterns are found across religious traditions. A majority of members of historically black Protestant churches (57%) who attend worship services at least once a week disagree that evolution best explains the origins of human life, while only four-in-ten of those who attend less often hold the same opinion. Among Orthodox Christians the gap is especially pronounced – 35 percentage points.

Chapter 2.5-7

Churches and Politics

The public is nearly equally divided between those who believe that houses of worship should express their views on day-to-day social and political matters and those who say churches should keep out of politics (50% and 46%, respectively).

Views on this issue vary significantly by tradition. Members of mainline Protestant denominations, Catholics and Mormons are split over the issue, while about two-thirds of members of evangelical and historically black churches (64% and 69%, respectively) agree that churches should express social and political views.

Many other faiths are much less comfortable with this intermingling. Large majorities of Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and the unaffiliated oppose church involvement in politics. However, among the unaffiliated there are also stark differences. More than two-thirds of atheists, agnostics and the secular unaffiliated are opposed to the idea that churches should express their views on political or social matters. The religious unaffiliated, in contrast, are split, with identical numbers supporting and opposing this view (47% each). The group with the greatest reservations about mixing religion with politics is Jehovah’s Witnesses; 82% say that churches should not express their views on day-to-day political issues.

Chapter 2.5-8

There are also differences on this issue based on level of religious commitment. For instance, a majority of members of mainline Protestant churches (54%) who say religion is very important in their lives say churches should express their views on political matters, compared with less than four-in-ten (37%) of those who say religion is less important to them. Additionally, a majority of Catholics (55%) who attend worship services at least once a week favor houses of worship getting involved in political debates, but only four-in-ten Catholics (42%) who attend less often agree.

VI. Religion and Economic Issues

Size of Government

Attitudes on social and cultural issues as well as basic political orientation are often closely associated with religious affiliation, beliefs and practices. Views on other political topics, including the economy and views on certain foreign affairs issues, tend to be less closely linked with religion.

The general public is about evenly split between a preference for a smaller government providing fewer services (43%) and a larger government providing more services (46%). A slim majority of Catholics and Buddhists (51% each), and substantial majorities of Muslims (70%), members of historically black churches (72%) and Hindus (59%), support bigger government that offers more services. By contrast, fewer than four-in-ten members of mainline churches (37%) and Mormons (36%) favor a large government.

Chapter 2.6-1

On many social and cultural issues, agnostics and members of evangelical churches find themselves on opposite sides, but on the role of government, a plurality of both groups (48%) say they prefer a smaller role for government. Atheists and the religious unaffiliated are significantly less likely to prefer smaller government (38% and 35%, respectively).

Aid to the Poor

While American adults are more-or-less evenly divided on whether they would prefer a larger or a smaller government, more than six-in-ten (62%) favor the government doing more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt. Indeed, strong majorities of nearly every religious group believe that government should do more to help needy Americans. Only among Mormons do fewer than half (49%) say that government should do more to help the needy; more than four-in-ten Mormons (42%) say the government can’t afford to do much more for the needy.

Nearly three-quarters of Muslims and Buddhists (73% each) and eight-in-ten members of historically black churches (79%) believe that government has an obligation to do more to help Americans in need. Members of mainline and evangelical churches, by comparison, are less supportive of having government do more for the needy, though nearly six-in-ten among these groups (58% and 57%, respectively) also agree that government ought to be more involved even at the expense of incurring more debt. Nearly two-thirds of the unaffiliated (65%) say the government should do more to help the needy, with little variation among the unaffiliated subgroups.

Chapter 2.6-2

Hard Work and Success

Although most Americans believe the government should help needy citizens, they also believe that with hard work most people can get ahead. Two-thirds of the public (67%), including majorities of every major religious tradition, believe that people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard. Less than three-in-ten say hard work is no guarantee of success. Mormons are somewhat more likely than the general public (77% vs. 67%) to say that people can get ahead by relying on hard work, while Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists and atheists are somewhat less likely to express this view (57%, 52% and 54%, respectively).

Chapter 2.6-3

Environmental Protection

There is broad agreement among Americans, and among most religious groups, on the issue of environmental protection. More than six-in-ten Americans (61%) say tougher environmental laws are worth the cost. Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses all mirror the general public on the issue of environmental regulations.

Although a majority of every major religious group in the United States supports stricter environmental measures, there are some differences in degree. For instance, only slim majorities of members of evangelical and historically black Protestant churches (54% and 52%, respectively) support the imposition of stricter environmental laws. Members of non-Christian faiths, by contrast, are much more likely to believe that stricter environmental regulations are worth the economic costs. More than two-thirds of Jews (77%), Buddhists (75%), Hindus (67%), Muslims (69%) and the unaffiliated (69%) support stricter environmental laws. Further, more than seven-in-ten atheists (75%), agnostics (78%) and the secular unaffiliated (72%) say stricter environmental laws are worth the cost, with somewhat lower levels of support for environmental regulation found among the religious unaffiliated (59%).

Chapter 2.6-4

VII. Religion and Foreign Affairs

Isolationism vs. Internationalism

The majority of Americans (55%) believe that the U.S. should concentrate more on problems at home and pay less attention to problems overseas. By contrast, only slightly more than a third (36%) says it would be best for the future of the country to be active in world affairs.

Majorities of most religious groups agree that the U.S. should concentrate more on domestic problems. This is especially true of members of historically black Protestant churches (68%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (64%). Only among Jews and Mormons do majorities say that it is best for the future of the U.S. to be involved in global affairs (53% and 51%, respectively).

Chapter 2.7-1

Overall, the unaffiliated and members of evangelical Protestant churches most closely resemble the general public in their views of U.S. involvement in the world, but among the unaffiliated there are substantial differences between those with a secular outlook and those with a more religious orientation. Atheists are about evenly split over whether it is better for the U.S. to be active in world affairs (46%) and whether the U.S. should focus on problems at home (47%). However, among the religious unaffiliated, the overwhelming majority (65%) says that the U.S. should concentrate on problems at home, compared with only about a quarter (26%) who say the U.S. should be active in the world.

Diplomacy vs. Military Strength

About six-in-ten Americans (59%) say that good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace. Majorities or pluralities of every major religious tradition believe that diplomacy, and not military strength, is the best way to ensure peace.

The religious groups composed of a significant proportion of immigrants are among the strongest supporters of diplomacy as a method to ensure peace. Roughly eight-in-ten Muslims (84%), Hindus (84%) and Buddhists (79%) say foreign policy based on good diplomacy is a better way to ensure peace than military strength, as do nearly two-thirds of Catholics and Orthodox Christians (64% each).

Although Mormons and members of evangelical Protestant churches are less likely than others to favor diplomacy over military strength, pluralities of these groups also take this view (46% and 49%, respectively). On the other hand, close to four-in-ten of these groups (38% and 37%, respectively) say that military strength is a better way to ensure peace.

Chapter 2.7-2

Although there are few notable differences in views on this question that are traceable to differing levels of religious commitment, it is interesting to note that Jews who pray frequently or say religion is very important are significantly more likely than Jews who are less committed on these measures to say military strength is the best way to ensure peace.

Chapter 2.7-3