Nearly nine in 10 Americans say they believe in God, although the percentage falls when the question is asked differently, according to a new Gallup analysis.
Eighty-seven percent of U.S. adults answered “yes” in 2017 when asked, “Do you believe in God?” – a number in line with the percentage in 2013 (87) but below the number from past decades. For example, 98 percent in 1967 and 1953 said they believed in God, and 96 percent answered that way in 1944.
But belief in God falls when adults are given three options, according to the analysis. On that question, 79 percent believe in God, 10 percent are not sure, and 11 percent don’t believe in God. Gallup last asked that question in 2016.
The number falls even further when Americans are asked if they are “convinced” that God exists. On that question, 64 percent say they are convinced God exists, 16 percent say God “probably exists” but they “have a little doubt,” 5 percent say God “probably exists” but they “have a lot of doubt,” 6 percent say God “probably does not exist” but they aren’t sure, and 7 percent are “convinced God does not exist.” Gallup last asked that question in 2017.
“The array of Gallup results leads to the conclusion that putting a percentage on Americans' belief in God depends on how you define ‘belief,’” Gallup’s Zach Hrynowski wrote. “If the standard is absolute certainty – no hedging and no doubts – it's somewhere around two-thirds. If the standard is a propensity to believe rather than not to believe, then the figure is somewhere north of three-quarters.”
Gallup, in a 2016 analysis, said it’s unclear what is behind the shifts in percentages.
“Although the results can be taken at face value in showing that fewer Americans believe in God than did so in the past, it is also possible that basic beliefs have not changed – but rather Americans' willingness to express nonreligious sentiments to an interviewer has,” the 2016 analysis said. “Whatever the explanation for these changes over time, the most recent findings show that the substantial majority of Americans continue to give a positive response when asked about their belief in God.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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