Millennials view Evangelicals, Muslims, atheists equally, favor Buddhists

by: Michael Haverluck
Published: February 22, 2017

A recent poll shows that Millennials like Evangelicals as much as they do Muslims and atheists, and that the younger generation is most partial to Buddhists.

Despite the latest round of Islamic terrorism sweeping the United States in recent years, Americans are increasingly warming up to Muslims and atheists in society, with the younger generation viewing them as favorably as they do evangelical Christians – according to a Pew Research Center survey published last week. Researchers conducted the nationwide survey that consisted of 4,248 participants between January 9 and 23, with a plus or minus 2.5-percent percentage point margin of error.

Likeability contest among religions

When combining all American adult age groups, it was found that evangelical Christians did not top the chart. And even though Muslims and atheists were not in amongst the favorites, either, they are increasingly liked by Americans as a whole over the years.

“[O]verall, Americans like Jews and Roman Catholics the most in society, giving them 67 and 66 percent favorability ratings, respectively,” The Christian Post (CP) reported from the Pew poll. “Muslims and atheists remained the most distrusted, but compared to their scores in 2014, enjoyed significant gains.”

In fact, both Muslims and atheists jumped up in the polls over the past three years by nearly 10 points.

“Atheists went from 41 percent likeability in 2014 to 50 percent now, which was the biggest jump in the poll, while Muslims rose from 40 to 48 percent,” CP Reporter Stoyan Zaimov relayed from the study. “Evangelical Christians remained at 61 percent – just above Buddhists and Hindus, although Mainline Protestants scored higher than them, at 65 percent.”

However, findings indicate that every demographic group views people in faith groups more favorably than in previous years.

“The increase in mean ratings is broad based,” Pew researchers explained. “Warmer feelings are expressed by people in all the major religious groups analyzed, as well as by both Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and younger and older adults.”

When breaking down the numbers by age groups and religious affiliation, major differences were found in the results – especially when looking at older adults.

“Older Americans generally disliked Muslims and atheists more than younger Americas, with the 18–29-year-olds rating those two groups higher than any other age group,” Zaimov noted from the Pew survey.

Perhaps due to being more influenced by the education system, media and entertainment industry, younger adults have an extremely different take on Muslims and atheists.

“Millennials gave Muslims 58 percent likeability, with atheists [at] 59 percent – the same as evangelicals and Mainline Protestants, who were also rated at 59 percent,” he added. “What is more, young Americans liked Buddhists the best, at 66 percent, and Mormons the least, with 54 percent.”

Religious and political divisiveness

When it comes to unfavorable feelings toward one another, there is little love-loss between evangelicals and atheists.

“White evangelicals gave atheists only 33 percent likeability, with white Mainline and black Protestant Christians also rating atheists the lowest,” Zaimov divulged. “At the same time, atheists gave evangelical Christians the lowest rating in the entire survey, at 29 percent likeability, with agnostics and the entire Unaffiliated grouping liking evangelicals the least.”

Political preference was also found to draw lines of division when it comes to how American adults view religious groups.

Conservatives were found to have their definite favorites and least favorites.

“Republicans rated evangelicals, Catholics, Jews and Mainline Protestants highly, while atheists and Muslims were near the bottom,” the results showed.

Those of the liberal bent also had their preferences and dislikes.

“Democrats, on the other hand, who voted Jews the highest at 66 percent, liked evangelicals and Mormons the least, at 53 and 52 percent, respectively,” the numbers revealed. “The Democrats rated atheists and Muslims higher than them, at 57 and 56 percent.”

Other detailed and general findings

When Americans personally know someone from religious groups, they tend to think more highly about them.

“Across the board, Americans express warmer feelings toward religious groups when they are personally familiar with someone in the group – consistent with findings from the June 2014 survey,” Pew researchers divulged.

On another note, even though atheists have been gaining in favor of late, it was generally found that they are consistently considered one of the least liked demographic groups in the country. In fact, sociologists at the University of Minnesota conducted a study last September revealing that 41.9 percent of those surveyed believe that atheists are a group that “does not at all agree with my vision of American society.”

The reasoning behind the considerable dislike of atheists is said to have a lot to do with their rejection of core beliefs that most people in society hold dear – such as morality and traditions.

“We find that anti-atheist sentiment is strong, persistent and driven in part by moral concerns about atheists and, in part, by agreement with cultural values that affirm religiosity as a constitutive moral grounding of citizenship and national identity,” researchers at the university concluded.


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