Survey: Americans overstate size of religious minorities

The typical American underestimates how many Protestants there are in the U.S., and vastly overestimates the number of religious minorities … Continued

The typical American underestimates how many Protestants there are in the U.S., and vastly overestimates the number of religious minorities such as Mormons, Muslims, and atheist/agnostics, according to a new study.

Grey Matter Research and Consulting asked 747 U.S. adults to guess what proportion of the American population belongs to each of eight major religious groups: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, atheist/agnostic, believe in God or a higher power but have no particular religious preference, and any other religious group.

The average response was that 24 percent of Americans are Catholic, 20 percent are Protestant, 19 percent are unaffiliated, 8 percent are Jewish, 9 percent are atheist or agnostic, 7 percent are Muslim, 7 percent are Mormon and 5 percent identify with all other religious groups.

Respondents were correct on Catholics — 24 percent of the country is Catholic. But according to the 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 51 percent are Protestant, 12 percent are unaffiliated, 2 percent are Jewish, 4 percent are Atheist/Agnostic, less than 1 percent are Muslim, 2 percent are Mormon and 4 percent identify with all other religious groups.

While Protestants make up more than half of the American population, Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, said there are several reasons why there is such a gross underestimation of their numbers.

“Protestant is an umbrella word that people don’t think of,” he said, noting that people are much more likely to identify with individual Protestant groups, such as Baptist, Methodist or Lutheran, rather than with the Protestant tradition as a whole.

Sellers also mentioned that with Mitt Romney running for president as a Mormon and the current emphasis on Islamic-American relations, “smaller faith groups also may be getting disproportionate media coverage.”

Respondents under the age of 35 were even more likely than older participants to underestimate the Protestant population. Dan Cox, research director for the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, said that may be because young people tend to have more friends who are religiously unaffiliated.

“The religiously unaffiliated and non-Christian groups are increasing, but we aren’t close to 30 percent of Americans identifying as unaffiliated or agnostic,” he said. “We are becoming more religiously diverse — that is entirely true — but we’re a long way from any of these numbers.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • PhillyJimi1

    I would still be counted in the Catholic group but I am an Atheist. I am in the closet with my Atheism just because it would break my mother’s heart and create all kinds of problems with the family. I like my family and would not want to create a rift over something as trivial as the myth of a deity that created the Universe and also knocked up a virgin by himself with himself in order to become a soul saving zombie to atone for the fruit eating crimes of the first rib woman who got tricked by a talking snake. If they want to believe that story it is all good, I still love them.

    I do give them subtle reminders to keep them grounded in reality, when they get a little too silly with the “will of god” and/or his “freewill”. It is shocking that otherwise smart and logical people can’t see that you can’t logically be part of god’s “master plan” for all of us and also live in a world under god’s empowerment of “total freewill” for all humans.

  • ThomasBaum

    PhillyJimi1

    You wrote, ” It is shocking that otherwise smart and logical people can’t see that you can’t logically be part of god’s “master plan” for all of us and also live in a world under god’s empowerment of “total freewill” for all humans.”

    I suppose it will be even more of a shock when you find out that God’s Plan is most definitely for everyone and without total freewill there could not be a Plan, only a bunch of puppets on a string or for a more modern look at it, a bunch of preprogrammed biological machines running thru their individual programs.

    I think that a lot of people that believe in God are in for a much greater shock than you though.

  • DRJJJ

    Time Magazine with Einstein in his 50s (see wiki):

    To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? “As a child I received

    instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled

    by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”

    Do you accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can

    read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality

    pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life!”

    Thank’s for acknowledging God has a plan! Yes, Christians are disfunctional, broken sinners-there’s room for one more!

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.