Religion and World Affairs

Trends suggest that religion’s public impact has increased worldwide, with major policy and security implications for the United States and the world. Changes in religious demography, such as the rapid growth of Christianity in the global South and increased Muslim immigration to Western nations, also shape public attitudes and government policies.

The Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project seeks to contribute to a deeper public understanding of religion’s influence on U.S. foreign policy, global political change and global security, through a variety of resources including reports, briefing papers, fact sheets, transcripts of its events and the latest news from media sources. Its goal is to deliver timely, impartial information to national opinion leaders, including lawyers and legal scholars, government officials and journalists.

The project’s 10-country survey on global Pentecostalism illuminated the growth and influence of an important international religious movement. The project’s research provides new insights into how religion shapes international politics, by exploring, for example, the Muslim-Christian divide in Nigeria’s elections.

The Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project does not take positions in policy debates. It is a project of the Pew Research Center, a Pew subsidiary and nonpartisan “fact tank” in Washington, D.C., that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

For more information about the role of religion in world affairs, visit the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.



  • Global Religious Diversity

    Apr 07, 2014 - Several years ago, the Pew Research Center produced estimates of the religious makeup of more than 200 countries and territories, which it published in the 2012 report “The Global Religious Landscape.”

  • Global Survey of Islam

    Apr 30, 2013 - A new Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the globe finds that most adherents of the world’s second-largest religion are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics.

  • The Global Religious Landscape

    Dec 18, 2012 - A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories estimates that 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion is religiously affiliated.

  • The World's Muslims: United in Faith; Diverse in Practice

    Aug 09, 2012 - A new survey of Muslims conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in 39 countries and in over 80 languages sheds new light on beliefs and practices across the globe. Muslims, who comprise nearly a quarter of the world's population, share many core beliefs, but some of their practices and opinions about Islam reveal a diversity of views.

  • The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants

    Mar 08, 2012 - An estimated 214 million people have migrated across international borders as of 2010, a number that would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world if the migrants were counted as one nation. Almost half of the migrants are Christians while a little over a quarter of them are Muslims. While migrants come from a diverse and widespread array of countries, the vast majority end up immigrating to a relatively few areas -- North America, Europe, Australia and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

  • Islam and Politics Dominate Religion Coverage in 2011

    Feb 22, 2012 - The biggest religion stories in the news during 2011 centered on tensions over Islam and the U.S. presidential campaign, with more than half of the politically-focused coverage involving Republican hopeful Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith. Religion and the 2012 election led the list of the top ten religion stories in the mainstream media last year, while six of the other most-covered stories focused at least in part on Islam.

  • Where Christians Are Living Around the World

    Dec 19, 2011 - Christians make up about the same proportion of the world's population today as they did a century ago. But the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds there has been a momentous shift in where they live.

  • Rising Restrictions on Religion

    Aug 09, 2011 - A new report from the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that nearly a third of the world's total population of 6.9 billion live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially between 2006 and 2009.

  • Global Survey of Evangelical Protestant Leaders

    Jun 22, 2011 - A survey of participants in the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization offers a detailed portrait of the beliefs and practices of global evangelical leaders, finding broad consensus on some core theological matters, such as that Christianity is the "one, true faith," but also divisions.

  • Continuing Divide in Views of Islam and Violence

    Mar 09, 2011 - The public remains divided over whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. Political gaps are wide, with most conservatives and Tea Party supporters linking Islam with violence.

  • The Future of the Global Muslim Population

    Jan 27, 2011 - A new Pew Forum report on the size, distribution and growth of the global Muslim population finds that the world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, but it is expected to grow at a slower pace in the next two decades than it did in the previous two decades.

  • Muslim Networks and Movements in Western Europe

    Sep 15, 2010 - To help provide a better understanding of how Muslim movements and networks seek to influence the views and daily lives of Muslims in Western Europe, the Pew Forum has produced profiles of some of the oldest, largest and most influential groups – from the Muslim Brotherhood to mystical Sufi orders and networks of religious scholars.

  • Public Remains Conflicted Over Islam

    Aug 24, 2010 - The poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Aug. 19-22 among 1,003 adults, finds that opinions about Islam are less favorable than in the summer of 2005.

  • The Pope Meets the Press: Media Coverage of the Clergy Abuse Scandal

    Jun 11, 2010 - Newspaper coverage of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal grew more intense this spring than at any time since 2002, and European newspapers devoted even more ink to the story than American papers did, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

  • Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Apr 15, 2010 - A new 19-country survey by the Pew Research Center reveals that the vast majority of people in many sub-Saharan African nations are deeply committed to Christianity or Islam, and yet many continue to practice elements of traditional African religions.

  • Broad Criticism of Pope Benedict's Handling of Sex Abuse Scandal

    Apr 07, 2010 - Amid new revelations of sexual abuse in the Church, Pope Benedict's ratings for handling the scandal have plummeted.

  • Religion in the News: 2009

    Mar 25, 2010 - Pope Benedict XVI and the Obama administration generated the most religion-related coverage in the U.S. press in 2009, according to a new report from the Pew Forum and the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

  • Indonesia's Place Along the Spectrum of Global Religious Restriction

    Mar 18, 2010 - Indonesia is among those countries where societal impediments to free religious practice are highest.

  • Global Restrictions on Religion

    Dec 17, 2009 - This report by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life gauges the level of religious restrictions in 198 countries due both to government actions and to acts of violence and intimidation by private individuals, organizations and social groups.

  • Modest Rise in Concern About Islamic Extremism

    Nov 18, 2009 - According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, just more than half (52%) of Americans say they are very concerned about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the United States, up from 46% in April 2007.

  • Mapping the Global Muslim Population

    Oct 08, 2009 - A new, comprehensive study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion. The report by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life offers the most up-to-date and fully sourced estimates of the size and distribution of the worldwide Muslim population.

  • Religion in the News: 2008

    Mar 16, 2009 - An analysis of mainstream media coverage in 2008 finds that attention to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in April was the single biggest religion story of the year, eclipsing even faith-related controversies surrounding the 2008 presidential election campaign. Overall, religion received about as much coverage as immigration, education, and race- and gender-focused stories.

  • Why Surveys of Muslim Americans Differ

    Mar 06, 2009 - Because Muslim Americans make up a very small percentage of the U.S. public, it is difficult to provide a reliable picture of their views and differences in survey design can crucially affect findings.

  • Religious Groups' Views on Evolution

    Feb 04, 2009 - A breakdown of 12 major religious groups' views on the issue of evolution.

  • Many Americans Say Other Faiths Can Lead to Eternal Life

    Dec 18, 2008 - Following the release of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, commentators wondered what survey respondents - particularly Christians - had in mind when they agreed that "many religions can lead to eternal life." A new Pew Forum analysis finds that a majority of all American Christians think at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life.

  • Global Attitudes Poll Finds Negative Views Based on Religion

    Sep 17, 2008 - Growing numbers of people in several major European countries say they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews, and opinions of Muslims also are more negative than they were several years ago. These findings are from a new Pew Global Attitudes Project report, based on data gathered from 24 countries from regions throughout the world, that examine worldwide religiosity and take a close look at Muslim publics' attitudes toward terrorism, Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Hezbollah and more.

  • Global Anglicanism at a Crossroads

    Jun 19, 2008 - When leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion gather in Canterbury, England, in mid-July for their decennial Lambeth Conference, they will deliberate over the future of a church that is experiencing deep, and perhaps irreconcilable, internal conflicts. These conflicts reflect the profound demographic changes that have taken place in global Anglicanism during the past hundred years.

  • During U.S. Papal Visit, Media Focused on the Shepherd and His Flock

    May 06, 2008 - The relationship between the relatively new pope and the hurting U.S. church was the primary story line in news reports of the pontiff's visit.

  • Pope Benedict's Image Improves Following U.S. Visit

    May 06, 2008 - According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 61% of Americans say they have a favorable impression of the pontiff, up from 52% in late March.

  • Religion in China on the Eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics

    May 02, 2008 - Pew Forum Senior Fellow Brian Grim examines the religious demographics of China and finds that nearly a third of the Chinese public considers religion to be important in their lives. More surprisingly, recent surveys show a high level of interest in religion among Communist Party officials and government employees.

  • On Eve of Visit, Pope Benedict Still Unknown to Many Americans

    Apr 03, 2008 - Report finds 30% of Americans know little about the pontiff. The pope's efforts to reach out to other faiths receive mixed reviews overall but strong support among observant Catholics.

  • A Portrait of American Catholics on the Eve of Pope Benedict's Visit to the U.S.

    Mar 27, 2008 - When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in the U.S. on April 15, 2008, he will be greeted by a flock that is undergoing rapid ethnic and demographic changes.

  • Demographic Portrait of Renewalists

    Jan 17, 2008 - Analysis finds little evidence to support some widespread perceptions about the income level, educational attainment and gender composition of pentecostals.

  • Muslims in America (Fall 2007 Trust Magazine article)

    Dec 14, 2007 - A Pew Research Center survey makes a first-of-its-kind contribution to public understanding of this population.

  • Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream

    May 01, 2007 - The first-ever, nationwide, random sample survey of Muslim Americans found them to be largely assimilated, happy with their lives, and moderate.

  • Notes from the President: Navigation (Fall 2006 Trust magazine)

    Nov 01, 2006 - Introduction to the Fall 2006 issue of Trust magazine by Pew's President Rebecca Rimel.

  • Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentacostals

    Oct 05, 2006 - By all accounts, pentecostalism and related charismatic movements represent one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted surveys in 10 countries with sizeable renewalist populations.

  • The Muslim Awakening of the West (Summer 2006 Trust Magazine article)

    Sep 01, 2006 - A timely forum offers perspectives on the nature of political Islam and how it relates to the United States and the West more broadly.

  • An Uncertain Road: Muslims and the Future of Europe

    Dec 14, 2004 - A 2004 report on the growing Muslim population and culture in Europe.

  • The Sages and the Spirit (Winter 2004 Trust Magazine article)

    Feb 01, 2004 - Religion has not, as secularists predicted, disappeared from human activity--it is stronger than ever. A number of universities are explaining why.

  • Notes from the President: Excellence (Winter 2004 Trust Magazine article)

    Feb 01, 2004 - Experience has taught us at the Trusts that, by supporting innovative thinking and risk-taking, our talented partners will set—and achieve—goals that yesterday scarcely seemed possible.

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