December 16, 2011

35RNS: American's View of Southern Baptists Studied

American’s View of
Southern Baptists Studied

BY STAFF                                                                                                         ©2011 Baptist Press

The majority of Americans have a favorable impression of Southern Baptists, according to a recent LifeWay Research study. However, 40 percent of respondents have an unfavorable view of the denomination; more than a third strongly assume an SBC church is not for them; and the negativity is higher among the unchurched.

The LifeWay Research study was conducted in September 2011 after Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, appointed a task force to consider a possible name change for the 166 year-old convention.
The study indicates a segment of Americans have unfavorable opinions of Southern Baptists in comparison to other faith groups. However, with 53 percent being favorable toward Southern Baptists (including 15 percent very favorable), both sides need to be considered, said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay Christian Resources.

"On one hand it does look like the SBC has higher negatives than other faith groups -- and the unchurched numbers are particularly disconcerting," Stetzer said. "But on the other, most people don't seem to be concerned either way because there is a level of indifference to denominations or religion in general."

In fact, two-thirds of Americans are without strong feelings in regard to all the Christian faith groups included in the survey, with a third or less either very favorable or very unfavorable to them.

Respondents were shown the names of five "denominations or faith groups" and asked to "indicate if your impression is very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, very unfavorable, or you are not familiar enough to form an opinion." The study indicates 62 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Methodists compared to 59 percent for Catholics, 53 percent for Southern Baptists, 37 percent for Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and 28 percent for Muslims.

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