Poll: Americans Believe Religion Is ‘Under Attack’ — Majority Says Religion is ‘Losing Influence’ In American Life

Reference: Anti-Defamation League

ADL Findings Highlight Stark Divide on Church-State Separation

New York, NY, November 21, 2005 … Sixty-four percent of the American people believe that religion is “under attack,” according to a new poll released today by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  The poll found that 53 percent of Americans likewise believe that religion as a whole is “losing its influence in American life.”

American Attitudes Toward Religion In the Public Square, a national poll of 800 American adults conducted October 25-30, 2005 by the Marttila Communications Group, also found large swaths of the American public expressing support for a more direct role for religion in the public square, with organized prayer in public school (47 percent), creationism taught alongside evolution (56 percent), and religious symbols such as the Ten Commandments displayed in public buildings (64 percent).

“The findings suggest that American public opinion is starkly divided when it comes to the role of religion in the public square, and that our nation’s proud tradition of church-state separation is threatened as never before,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “Unfortunately, too many people believe that religion is under attack in America, when in fact according to all measurements, religion is stronger in the United States than in any other Western country.”

The survey comes at a time when ADL has begun questioning the role of some on the religious right in seeking to impose their beliefs in the public square while attempting to throw out the constitutional balance that protects our nation’s religious freedom.

Among the main findings of the ADL survey, American Attitudes Toward Religion In the Public Square:

•Sixty-four percent (64%) of those surveyed agree with the statement that “religion is under attack” in America; 32 percent disagree.  Among those identifying themselves as fundamentalist/ evangelical/ charismatic Christians, 80 percent agree; 19 percent disagree.  (view graph)

•Asked if religion is “increasing or losing influence” in American life, 35 percent say that it is “increasing,” while 53 percent believe it is “losing.”  Among evangelical/fundamental/charismatic Christians, 33 percent say it is “increasing,” while 60 percent say “losing.” (graph)

•Sixty-four percent (64%) agree with the statement that “it is important that religious symbols like the Ten Commandments be displayed in public buildings such as court houses,” while 32 percent disagree.  Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 89 percent agree; 9 percent disagree. (graph)

•Fifty-six percent (56%) favor, and 39 percent oppose, the teaching of the biblical story of creation alongside evolution in public schools as “equally valid explanations for the origins of human life.”  Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 70 percent favor teaching creationism, with 28 percent opposed. (graph)

•Asked “which is a more likely explanation for the origins of human life on earth, Darwin or the Bible?,” 57 percent respond “The Bible,” while 31 percent respond “Darwin.”  Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 87 percent say “the Bible;” 7 percent say “Darwin.” (graph)

•On prayer in public schools, 47 percent of Americans believe that “students should be free to express their religious beliefs throughout the school day, including group prayer,” while 44 percent agree with the statement that “public schools should only allow a moment of silence for individual prayer.”  Among fundamentalist/evangelical/charismatic Christians, 69 percent believe that group prayer is appropriate, while 25 percent support individual prayer only. (graph)

•Nearly half the American people (45 percent) agree that “right wing religious leaders are seeking to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else.” (graph)

“The findings of this poll highlight the challenge that we face in this country in trying to maintain the pluralistic, inclusive, tolerant society that has been good for religion, for minorities, and in particular for the Jewish community,” said Mr. Foxman.  “Despite the fact that religion continues to thrive in this country, which has famously served as a haven for the religiously oppressed throughout its history, too many people believe that religion is under attack, and that there should be a fundamental collapse of our traditional church-state barrier.

“It is unfortunate that those who would like to Christianize America seek to use the concerns reflected in this survey toward goals which would turn America into a very different place than the one that has been so open to all religious perspectives,” added Mr. Foxman.

The survey was conducted by the Marttila Communications Group, a Boston-based public opinion research firm that has conducted numerous national surveys for ADL measuring American attitudes on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues.  The margin of error is +/- 3.4 percent.


The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.