July 16, 2014

New Pew Research Survey Explores How Americans Feel About Religious Groups

Jews, Catholics & Evangelicals Rated Warmly, Atheists and Muslims More Coldly

Washington, July 16, 2014 — Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are all viewed warmly by the American public, according to a new national Pew Research Center survey. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).


Katherine Ritchey
Communications Manager

Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons each receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer scale (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part of the scale.

These are among the key findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted May 30-June 30, 2014, among a national sample of 3,217 adults who are part of the center’s American Trends Panel, a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults. The new report provides detailed breakdowns – by key demographics, religious affiliation and political leanings – of how Americans view specific religious groups.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Religious groups are rated more positively by their own members than by people from other religious backgrounds. Catholics, for example, receive an average thermometer rating of 80 from Catholics, compared with 58 from non-Catholics. Similarly, 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.
  • Evangelicals hold very positive views of Jews, but Jews view evangelicals more coldly. White evangelical Protestants give Jews an average thermometer rating of 69. Only Jews themselves rate Jews more positively. Despite evangelicals’ warm feelings toward Jews, Jews tend to give evangelicals a much cooler rating (34 on average). When asked about other non-Christian groups, evangelicals tend to express more negative views. White evangelicals assign Buddhists an average rating of 39, Hindus 38, Muslims 30 and atheists 25.
  • Atheists give evangelical Christians a “cold” rating of 28, on average. Atheists give largely positive ratings to several non-Christian religious groups, including Buddhists (who receive an average rating of 69 from atheists), Jews (61) and Hindus (58). Atheists tend to give much cooler ratings to Muslims and the Christian groups asked about in the survey.
  • Christian groups and Jews receive higher ratings from older Americans (those ages 65 and older) than from younger Americans. By contrast, non-Christian groups receive their highest ratings from younger Americans. Adults under the age of 30, for instance, give Muslims a “neutral” rating of 49, on average, whereas older adults give Muslims significantly more negative ratings (42 on average among those ages 30-49, 36 among those ages 50-64, and 32 from those ages 65 and older).
  • Jews are rated most positively by whites; evangelicals and Muslims are viewed more favorably by blacks than whites. Jews receive their most positive ratings from whites, who give them an average rating of 66. Jews also are rated favorably by blacks and Hispanics (with each group giving Jews an average rating of 58). Evangelicals also are rated positively by all three groups; their highest average rating comes from blacks (68). Muslims receive a neutral rating from blacks (49 on average); they are rated more negatively by other groups. These views may be a reflection of the racial and ethnic composition of religious groups.
  • Evangelicals are rated more positively by Republicans than Democrats. Most non-Christian groups are viewed more favorably by Democrats than Republicans. Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party rate evangelicals very positively (71 on average). They also express warm feelings toward Jews (67 on average) and Catholics (66). Democrats and Democratic leaners express warm feelings toward Jews (average rating of 62) and Catholics (61). Buddhists also are rated favorably (57 on average) by Democrats.
  • Knowing someone from a religious group is linked with more positive views of that group. Those who say they know someone who is Jewish, for example, give Jews an average rating of 69 out of 100, compared with a rating of 55 among those who say they do not know anyone who is Jewish. Similar patterns play out for other groups, such as Muslims and atheists.

The full survey report, “How Americans Feel About Religious Groups,” is available on the website of the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project:  http://pewresearch.org/religion.


Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take policy positions. Its Religion & Public Life Project seeks to promote a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs.

Twitter: @PewReligion