Who is the most influential Christian? You might be surprised

The findings of a new poll show a split, with several prominent people in the running, including the pope and the president. 

Take a look:

A new Barna Group study illustrates that no single Christian leader captures the attention of the nation’s population. When asked to identify the single most influential Christian leader in the U.S. today, two out of every five Americans (41%) are unable to think of anyone who would meet that description.

Billy Graham is the name mentioned most often in response to the unaided survey question (a measure often described as “top-of-mind” awareness). One out of five Americans names the octogenarian evangelist, with 19% of adult residents identifying Mr. Graham as the nation’s most influential Christian leader.

Half as many adults (9%) believe “the Pope” or Pope Benedict to be the most significant Christian leader in the nation. Nearly the same proportion (8%) considers President Barack Obama to hold this prominent role.

One out of 20 U.S. adults (5%) think that Joel Osteen is the most significant Christian leader, more than double the proportion that name Charles Stanley (2%) or Joyce Meyer (2%). A variety of individuals – including pastors, ministry leaders, authors, politicians, and other public figures – are considered the highest ranking Christian leaders by 1% of U.S. adults each. These include: Franklin Graham, George W. Bush, T.D. Jakes, Oprah Winfrey, James Dobson, and Maya Angelou. All other individuals are named by less than 1% of Americans.

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6 responses to “Who is the most influential Christian? You might be surprised”

  1. I guess they consider Catholics to be “notional Christians.” And should we consider the Pope to be a Christian leader “in” the United States, since he has influence in the United States even though he is outside our borders? Well, idiosyncratic categories aside, these are interesting results, surprising because I hadn’t particularly thought about it, but probably about right for where our society is right now.

    Apart from the Pope, should there be a most influential leader?

  2. Obama and the Pope are in a tie? If I were el Papa, I would fire the Vatican PR machine right now…

  3. This clearly shows not only the great loss of Christianity in this country, but worst of all, the meaning of it. Christianity has now been relegated to “If I say I’m a Christian I am, which could mean anything in these times providing it “feels good and doesn’t ask too much, in fact, hopefully asks nothing.”

    It would be interesting to ask the same question with the “unwatered down true definition of Christianity”, starting with radical, counter cultural and self sacrificing, as Christ certainly was.

  4. In addition to what Klaire says above (which I fully agree with) it also shows the fragmented nature of our religious state, fragmented both because of protestant and denomenational splits and the fragmenting of religion from our daily lives.

  5. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen both Osteen and Meyer incorporating very Catholic messages in their television shows lately. Not a fan of Osteen at all, however, although I sometimes enjoy Joyce Meyer, especially now that she seems to have moved away from the name-it-and-claim-it mentality.

    I assume this poll included only living people. I don’t consider any of them all that influential, personally speaking. For me, the greatest Christian influences on my life were C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, among a variety of other fiction writers who were also good at expressing Christian themes without talking AT people. Plus, it’s all in the story-telling, AFAIC.

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