Palin V.P. Nomination Puts Pentecostalism in the Spotlight

  • September 12, 2008

From the time she was a teenager until 2002, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin attended a church affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal Christian denomination in the U.S. Pentecostalism emphasizes such practices as speaking in tongues, prophesying, divine healing and other miraculous signs of the Holy Spirit, which it believes are as valid today as they were in the early Christian church. Prominent Democrats, including CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee Leah Daughtry and Director of Religious Affairs for Barack Obama's presidential campaign Joshua Dubois, also are associated with Pentecostal Christianity. The Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in the summer of 2007, makes it possible to examine the demographic, religious and political characteristics of Pentecostals in the U.S.

As the Landscape Survey explains in detail, Protestantism can be broken down into three traditions: the evangelical, mainline and historically black church traditions. Pentecostals account for significant numbers within both evangelical and historically black Protestant churches. Taken together, Pentecostals make up 4.4% of the adult population. But they account for 8.5% of all Protestants, including 13% of members of evangelical churches and 14% of members of historically black churches.

Pentecostals display very high levels of religious commitment on such questions as frequency of church attendance. For instance, evangelical Pentecostals are more likely than evangelicals overall - and much more likely than U.S. adults overall - to report attending worship services at least once a week or praying on a daily basis. Pentecostals within both evangelical and historically black churches also are more likely than others in their traditions to report holding a literal view of the Bible, or experiencing or witnessing divine healings.

Pentecostals are more likely than other members of evangelical and historically black churches to express conservative views on abortion and homosexuality. But evangelical Pentecostals are more likely than other evangelicals to prefer a bigger government providing more services over a smaller government providing fewer services. And among members of historically black churches, Pentecostals are noticeably less Democratic than others in this tradition.

Read the full report Palin V.P. Nomination Puts Pentecostalism in the Spotlight on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.