06/23/2008 - In a noon conference call for journalists, Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, together with fellows John Green and Greg Smith, released the second report of the Forum’s path-breaking U.S. Religious Landscape Survey – along with new data added to the interactive website accompanying the project – and answered questions from reporters. Data on the beliefs and practices of American adults reveal that although more than half of Americans say religion is very important in their lives, most hold a non-dogmatic view of their faith, with majorities believing that there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their own faith and that many religions – not just their own – can lead to eternal life.
The survey also shows that while religious affiliation remains closely linked to political views on certain cultural issues such as abortion and homosexuality, a surprising consensus exists among Americans of many religious stripes on other topics covered by the survey, such as environmental protection, foreign affairs and government aid to the poor.
The survey includes interviews with 35,000 American adults and is therefore one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of its kind. Because of the richness of the data, the Forum divided the analysis into three reports. The first report, which focused on religious affiliation, was released in February 2008.
Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
John C. Green, Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Gregory A. Smith, Research Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Luis Lugo: Thank you all for joining us for the second release of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. I’m Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Joining me today are John Green, senior fellow, and Greg Smith, research fellow, here at the Forum. They are two of the principle authors of this report.
This latest release follows the first report on the landscape survey, published in February of this year, which focused on religious affiliation. That report detailed the size of religious groups, the internal changes they are undergoing through conversion and immigration, and the demographics of religion in the United States.
This new report underscores the tremendous diversity that exists in American religion by detailing the wide variety of religious beliefs and practices of the U.S. public. It also looks closely at differences in social and political attitudes between as well as within the various religious groups. As I indicated when we released the first report on the landscape survey, we believe it is the combination of depth and breadth that makes this survey such a valuable resource. In terms of breadth, we interviewed more than 35,000 Americans. That means we’re able to provide information on many of the smaller religious groups that are typically not analyzed in most public opinion surveys, including Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, et cetera.
In terms of depth, there are some 60 questions on religious beliefs and practices and on social and political attitudes. That’s in addition to the many questions on affiliation and demography we analyzed in the first report. Speaking of depth, later this year, we’re planning to conduct a call-back survey or re-contact survey that will delve even deeper into some of the key areas discussed in the first two reports. These include, for instance, conversion, attitudes towards living in a religiously pluralistic society like the United States, and the relationship between religion and political identity.
Read the full transcript or listen to the audio transcript of this press conference on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.