Nearly half of American adults believe the U.S. should be a “Christian nation,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey, although the analysis finds widely divergent views on what the phrase means.
In a report about the survey released October 27, the Pew Research Center said 45 percent of adults—just under two-thirds of whom are Christians—say the U.S. ought to be a Christian nation, while a third of the respondents believe it already is one.
Conducted September 13-18 this year, among 10,588 respondents, the online survey is part of Pew’s American Trends Panel, a nationally representative group of respondents created in 2014 for long-term participation in recurring surveys aimed at gauging public perceptions and attitudes about the role of religion in public life.
Here are some key highlights of the survey:
• Overall, 60 percent of respondents said they believe America’s founding fathers intended the country to be a Christian nation.
• 51 percent of respondents said they think the U.S. should not be a Christian country.
• Even among supporters of a Christian nation, most people (52 percent) say the government should not declare any single faith as an official state religion and that the government should instead encourage moral values shared by multiple religions.
• Among the 45 percent of adults who back the idea of a Christian nation, well over half (28 percent) actually want Christianity to become America’s state faith—and slightly over half (24 percent) of the entire “Christian nation” cohort want the government to advocate exclusively for Christian values.
• 67 percent of respondents said religious institutions should keep out of politics instead of discussing day-to-day social or political issues. This finding backed an October 2021 Pew survey in which an overwhelming majority of respondents expressed support for the long-running official U.S. policy of church-state separation.
• Only 31 percent of the respondents in the 2022 survey favored the idea that faith groups should espouse sociopolitical issues.
• Fully 77 percent expressed opposition to the widespread practice whereby churches and other places of worship endorse candidates for political offices.
“While some people who say the U.S. should be a Christian nation define the concept as one where the nation’s laws are based on Christian tenets and the nation’s leaders are Christian, it is much more common for people in this category to see a Christian nation as one where people are more broadly guided by Christian values or a belief in God, even if its laws are not explicitly Christian and its leaders can have a variety of faiths or no faith at all,” points out the Pew Research survey.
The new survey also reveals that nearly 80 percent of people who back the idea of the U.S. as a Christian nation also want the Bible to have some influence on the country’s laws. In fact, nearly six out of 10 such adults (54 percent) say they think the Bible ought to prevail over the will of the people in cases of conflict between the popular view and the holy word.
A full 32 percent of American adults who want the country to be at least nominally Christian also think that U.S. society is weakened by its being a religiously diverse nation. “Those who want the U.S. to be a Christian nation are far more inclined than those who do not want the U.S. to be a Christian nation to express this negative view of religious diversity,” notes the Pew report.
“Still, among those who say the U.S. should be a Christian nation, there are roughly as many people who say the country’s religious diversity strengthens American society as there are who say it weakens society,” says the report, referring to the 28 percent of respondents who support a Christian nation but also view its religious pluralism as a source of vitality and robustness.
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