A plurality of Americans says the nation’s churches are too segregated, according to a new Lifeway Research survey that also found that a majority in the U.S. believe race relations have grown more strained since 2016.
The poll, released Tuesday, found that 42 percent of U.S. adults believe “churches in America are too segregated,” while 36 percent disagree and 22 percent aren’t sure. Meanwhile, Americans are split on the question of whether the nation has “come so far on racial relations,” with 46 percent agreeing and 46 percent disagreeing.
Whites and blacks are divided on the questions, with 66 percent of black Americans but 51 percent of white Americans believing the country has “come so far.” That divide also is seen in attitudes about churches: 38 percent of white Americans but 52 percent of black Americans believe churches are too segregated.
In 2014, 74 percent of Americans agreed the nation has “come so far on racial relations.” The newest survey reflects a 28 point decline on that question.
“With a change in methodology from telephone in 2014 to online, we cannot say definitively if this decreased optimism is an actual change in sentiment or increased forthrightness,” said Scott McConnell executive director of Lifeway Research. “Regardless, optimism on race relations is lower than we previously thought.”
The newest survey, of 1,200 Americans, was conducted in September, as the presidential election was in full swing.
A majority of Americans (58 percent) say race relations grew “more strained” after President Trump was elected in 2016. A total of 18 percent say race relations stayed the same, while 11 percent say they improved.
Nearly seven in Americans (69 percent) say racial diversity is good for the country. About one-quarter (23 percent) say it is not.
“This seems to be an area where pastors are influencing those who are in the pews,” McConnell said. “In the 2017 Lifeway Research study, 93 percent of Protestant pastors said every church should strive to achieve racial diversity. Those that attend more frequently are more likely to see diversity as a benefit to our country.”
Photo courtesy: Sarah Noltner/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.