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A Vast Majority of Americans Still Believe in God

Though the number of Americans who believe in God has declined some since the 1960s, a vast majority continue to say they believe in a higher power. In 1968, 98% of Americans said they believed in God. Gallup's most recent study found that number remains an overwhelming majority: 89%.

In a study conducted June 14-23, Gallup asked Americans about faith in two different ways, both earning the same result. Asked "Do you believe in God?" and "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?" 89% of those polled said "yes" to both.

Americans' Belief in God Using Different Question Wording
Yes No No opinion
% % %
Do you believe in God? 89 10 1
Do you believe in God or a universal spirit? 89 9 2
GALLUP, JUNE 14-23, 2016

Another version of the question asked in a May 4-8 survey found that 79% said the definitely "believe in" God, while 10% said they were "not sure about" God, and 11% said they "don't believe in" God.

For each of the following items I am going to read you, please tell me whether it is something you believe in, something you're not sure about or something you don't believe in: God.
%
Believe in 79
Not sure about 10
Don't believe in 11
GALLUP, MAY 4-8, 2016

Gallup's 89% result is a 7% drop from 1944 when they first asked the question and a 9% drop from the 1960s, when around 98% of Americans said they believed in God.

Gallup added the modified question including the "universal spirit" as an option in 1976. Over the following decades, the responses to the two versions of the question were close, but not always exactly the same.

Starting in 2001, Gallup has included in some surveys the "not sure about" option, which has continued to get relatively similar results (ranging from 7 to 11%), while the "believe in" response" has declined from 90 to 79% during that time.

When Gallup asked in May about specific spiritual beliefs, the results varied significantly. While 79% said they believed in God, only 71% believed in Heaven, and even fewer, 64%, believed in Hell and the devil, 61%.

Overall, Gallup has found a slight decline in belief in God and the spiritual world since it began asking Americans in the 1940s. "The exact meaning of these shifts is unclear," Gallup concludes. "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."

Below are Gallup's chart showing the results of their God survey from its inception in 1944, followed by the results from 2001 when "not sure about" was added as an option:

160629_God_3a-edited

160629_God_4

Read the full report here.

Survey methods: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 14-23, 2016, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of 1,025 adults interviewed May 4-8, 2016, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

 
 
 

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