We like ourselves! A new Pew Research survey finds U.S. adults feel
most warmly about people who share their religion or those they know as family,
friends or co-workers.
Americans give their highest scores to Jews, Catholics and
Evangelicals on a zero-to-100 “thermometer” featured in the survey, “How
Americans Feel about Religious Groups,” released July 16. They’re nestled
within a few degrees of each other: Jews, 63; Catholics, 62; evangelicals, 61.
In the middle of the chart: Buddhists, 53; Hindus, 50; Mormons,
48. Trending to the chilly negative zone: atheists at 41 and Muslims at
Pew took the thermal reading because “understanding the question of
how religious groups view each other is valuable in a country where religion
plays an important role in public life,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director
of religion research.
Jews, one of the nation’s smallest religious groups, benefit from
cultural, theological and historic ties with Christians — gaining what might be
called a friends-and-family ratings boost.
Meanwhile, America’s largest religious groups, Catholics, and
Protestants, benefit from self-regard. Pew found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that
people rate their own groups higher than others. Still, the groups’ overall
average scores are pulled down by those who don’t share these faiths. Catholics
give themselves an 80 score while non-Catholics give them a 58. Evangelical
Christians score 79 with people who called themselves “born-again” or
evangelical, but only 52 with others.
“People are somewhat polarized about evangelicals,” Smith said. The survey
finds “roughly as many people give evangelicals a cold rating (27 percent) as
give them a warm rating (30 percent).”
“I think it speaks to evangelicals’ prominence in American life. Lots
of people know something about them,” he said.
And, according to the survey, some don’t like what they know.
White evangelicals give their highest warmth score to Jews, 69.
However, all that warmth is not reciprocated. Jews gave evangelicals overall a
much cooler score of 34.
White evangelicals are leery of other non-Christians and downright
chilly toward nonbelievers. They rank Buddhists at 39, Hindus at 38 and
atheists draw 25 — the lowest score of any group.
“And the feeling is mutual,” Smith said. Atheists give evangelicals
overall a rating of 28.
Although atheists overall are cold to Christians, “they’re not
uniformly cold to all religious groups,” said Smith. Buddhists get 69, Jews 61
and Hindus 58.
survey was conducted between May 30 and June 30 with a nationally
representative panel of 3,217 randomly selected adults — 2,849 people answering
the survey online and 368 responding by mail. The margin of error is plus or
minus 2.2 percentage points.