A GROWING number of Americans believe that religion’s influence in their country is on the wane, according to a new survey.
The Gallup Poll, conducted in December, suggests that the recent waning perception that religion is increasing in influence is:
Partially a result of the decline of Republican political strength throughout President George W Bush’s second term.
The report stated:
At the close of 2008, few Americans perceive that religion is thriving in US society, and a relatively small majority believe religion is relevant to solving today’s problems. These perceptions may stem in part from the political climate – characterized by a weakened Republican Party and the incoming Democratic administration – as well as from the overwhelming consensus that the main problems facing the country today are economic.
Just three years ago, half of the US adult population felt the influence of religion on American life was rising. Today, only a little more than a quarter believe so.
The Gallup Poll found that just 27 percent of Americans perceive religion’s influence to be on the upswing while 67 percent of Americans say religion as a whole is losing influence on American life.
Since 2005, the Gallup Poll has recorded a downward trend in those who believe the influence of religion is increasing. The record low for this perception was in 1970 when only 14 percent said religion was increasing in influence at that time.
The last time a majority of Americans felt the influence of religion was rising was in December 2001, just months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when 71 percent said religious influence was increasing – the highest percentage Gallup Poll recorded since 1957.
Previous polls show that there was a long period of doubt about the influence of religion during the Vietnam War era – from 1965 through 1975, according to the Gallup report. Then, in the 1980s, religious influence was perceived as growing when religious conservatism, or the “religious right,” was gaining prominence during the Ronald Reagan presidency.
In other major findings, the percentage of Americans who believe that religion can answer society’s problems is at an all-time low, with only 53 percent saying religion “can answer all or most of today’s problems.”
The poll comes during an economic crisis and at a time when the vast majority of Americans believe the U.S. economy is the nation’s greatest challenge.
Meanwhile, over the last several decades, the percentage of those who perceive religion as “largely old-fashioned and out of date” has been on a continuous rise. The latest poll found that 28 percent believe it’s old-fashioned.
Results of the latest poll are based on interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older.
See full report here.