the Web Editors 10-19-2016

A poll by PRRI, published Oct. 19, shows that 72 percent of white evangelical Protestants now believe that immoral behavior by an elected official doesn’t mean the official is incapable of performing their duties. This is a vast increase from the year 2011, when only 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants shared this view.

the Web Editors 07-07-2016

President Obama’s comments come just as the world saw Sterling and Castile, both black men, killed by police officers over the course of two days. Sterling was shot early on July 5 while pinned down by cops outside a convenience store, an incident captured on video. Castile was shot July 6 while sitting in his car, and video taken after the shooting shows him moaning in pain and covered in blood as a police officer brandishes a gun outside the window.

Image via REUTERS/David Ryder/RNS

The 2016 Republican presidential campaign boils with anti-immigrant rhetoric but candidates’ harsh proposals don’t resonate with most Americans, particularly religious believers and young adults.

new analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute, released March 29 finds that many reject harsh proposals such as building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, said Dan Cox, director of research for PRRI.

Jim Wallis 01-14-2016

Most polls don’t matter much. But this one does. A recent Public Religion Research Institute survey has revealed a devastating truth: While about 80 percent of black Christians believe police-involved killings — like the ones that killed Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and so many more — are part of a larger pattern of police treatment of African Americans, around 70 percent of white Christians believe the opposite … that they are simply isolated incidents.

Ryan Hammill 11-17-2015

Image via  /

Even though the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, 72 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. is still in recession, a figure unchanged from 2014. While that figure has remained steady, this year has seen a dramatic spike of discontent regarding economic inequality. Over the past four years, only slight majorities (53 to 55 percent) have agreed that “One of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.” But in 2015, 65 percent of Americans agreed.

And Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly agree, at least on this: The federal government is looking out for the rich. The American Dream, seemingly in question since the Great Recession, is now only an idle daydream for most.

And as Americans give up on the American Dream, they grow more suspicious of immigrants. In 2012, 57 percent of Americans believed that immigrants strengthened the U.S. That number has now, dangerously, fallen below a majority, to 46 percent. And it has gotten personal — more people report being bothered when they encounter non-English speakers.

Jonathan Orbell 07-29-2015
Image via Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock

Image via /Shutterstock

My people — that is, white evangelical Protestants — aren’t good at talking about race.

This fact has been born out by years of social scientific research. A number of years ago, based on thousands of interviews with evangelicals around the country, Christian Smith and Michael Emerson posited that, "evangelicals have a theological world view that makes it difficult for them to perceive systemic injustices in society."

Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t improved much in recent years. In 2014, the Public Religion Research Institute found that two-thirds of white evangelicals agree that black and white Americans receive equal treatment under the law. More than 80 percent of black Protestants disagreed with the same statement.

Apparently, white evangelicals just don’t think race is that big of a problem. And even if we did, we don’t have the conceptual tools necessary to address the underlying, structural forces at play. It’s time for us to start listening. But how? Where do we begin?

With Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Photo via Public Religion Research Institute / RNS

Legal status of, and support for, same-sex marriage in each state. Photo via Public Religion Research Institute / RNS

Most Americans — including people from every major religious group — predict gay marriage will be legalized nationwide when a hotly anticipated Supreme Court ruling is announced later this month.

Among those who favor legalizing same-sex marriage, 80 percent think the high court will rule their way, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released June 11. And among those who oppose gay marriage, 47 percent say that’s the likely outcome, too.

Catherine Woodiwiss 03-27-2015
A couple holding hands. Image via Mirko Tabasevic/

A couple holding hands. Image via Mirko Tabasevic/

When it comes to consensual sexual ethics among millennials, all behaviors are on the table … if the time is right. For the same generation in which no single religious group claims more than about one in 10, there is also little clear generational consensus on sex and reproductive health, a new report finds.

“Across seven behaviors related to sexuality [including: using contraception, sex between minors, unmarried cohabitation], there were no issues for which a majority pronounced them morally wrong in general,” the report, authored by Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox at the Public Religion Research Institute, states.

Millennials prove a regular source of fascination for commentators and other millennials alike. This is the generation that launched a thousand think pieces, and understandably so — in study after study, millennials consistently defy both traditional categories and expected reactive categories alike. (We’re an obstinate bunch.)

When it comes to sex, PRRI’s new release highlights what its authors call “situationalist ethics” — a flexible set of acceptable behaviors. Far from displaying a lack of moral code, the report suggests millennials embracing nebulous but durable moral through-lines that eschew the “whats” of behavior for the “hows” and “whens.” 

For example, in the case of sex between two adults who have no intention of establishing a relationship, millennials are evenly divided for and against (37 percent), with a significant number saying it depends on the situation (21 percent).

When it comes to abortion, most say it depends on the situation (39 percent), though more say it’s morally wrong than morally acceptable. Using artificial forms of birth control is by far the clearest point of agreement, with a full 71 percent saying it’s morally acceptable and another 14 percent depending on the situation — only 9 percent rejecting the use.

The report examines how our generation’s religious, racial, and political diversity is shaping attitudes, but it’s worth nothing how educational attainment is shaping moral frameworks, too. Much of the report’s findings reflect similar attitudes on broad categories across racial and religious lines, while noting some stark differences when broken down by educational attainment. (Not discussed in the report, but well-documented elsewhere — the crucial question of poverty and economic mobility when it comes to sexual norms.)

A polar bear walks along ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Photo courtesy of Florid

A polar bear walks along ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Photo courtesy of FloridaStock/

Most Americans say they feel a deep connection to the wider world.

But all that spiritual stargazing makes no difference in views about the facts of climate change and global warming, a new survey finds.

Just 5 percent of Americans thought climate change was the most important issue in the U.S. today. And religion was a major dividing point on how much — or how little — they think it’s a matter of concern, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

“We asked about spiritual measures such as being in awe of the universe, and you might think it would correlate with views about the universe. But, in fact, they have very little relationship,” said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducted the survey on U.S. adults’ attitudes toward climate change, environmental policy and science.


the Web Editors 09-24-2014
Concerns Over Religious Liberty. Image courtesy Public Religion Research Institu

Concerns Over Religious Liberty. Image courtesy Public Religion Research Institute.

When it comes to concerns over religious liberty, Americans are divided as to which is in more imminent danger: the ability to practice one’s religion without government inference, or the consequences to freedom of others enforcing their own religious beliefs on others. According to the 2014 American Values Survey, released Tuesday from the Public Religion Research Institute, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) say they are more concerned about religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others. An equal number (46) say they are more concerned about the government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion.  

“Differences in Reported Attendance by Survey Mode Among Religious Groups” graph courtesy of PRRI. Via RNS.

“I know what you did last Sunday,” claims the title of a new survey.

You skipped church. And then nearly one in seven of you fibbed about attending.

That’s according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute released Saturday. The study, to be presented at the national meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, was designed to measure the “social desirability bias in self-reported religious behavior.”

The survey finds that many Christians — and unbelievers, too — will exaggerate about attending worship in live phone interviews. However, when asked in an anonymous online questionnaire, people will answer more realistically.

Ben Sutter 11-04-2013
 Mark Poprocki / Shutterstock

Mark Poprocki / Shutterstock

Libertarians do not consider themselves a part of the Tea Party movement, a new study on public religion found.

The study, “In Search of Libertarians in America,” is the 2013 installment of the annual American Values Survey gathered by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and was released last Tuesday.

“Libertarians are significantly more likely to be non-Hispanic white, male, and young,” according to the report. Of the seven percent of all Americans who are libertarians by PRRI’s definition, 94 percent are non-Hispanic whites, 68 percent are male, and 62 percent are under the age of 50.

When it comes to religious affiliation, libertarians tended to be either white mainline Protestants (27 percent) or religiously unaffiliated (27 percent). No libertarians identified as black Protestant and only 11 percent identified as Catholic.

Catherine Woodiwiss 08-29-2013
"Dream by the Numbers" infographic details racial inequality that exists in mult

"Dream by the Numbers" infographic details racial inequality that exists in multiple forms today. Graphic by PRRI.

Yesterday’s “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony in Washington, D.C., honored the nation's substantial advances in racial equality in the fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now-iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

But events this year — from the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act to the House eliminating funding for food stamps to the Trayvon Martin trial — are posing serious challenges to our national progress towards true equality for all.

An infographic from the Public Religion Research Institute, "The Dream by the Numbers," highlights systemic inequalities that still work against communities of color today. The statistics are grim: black communities are unemployed at nearly double the rate of white communities. Fewer than 20 percent of black youth will receive a college or graduate degree. Twice as many blacks lack health insurance as whites. And nearly 70 percent of blacks surveyed mentioned “lack of opportunities for young people” as a top concern for their community.

RNS photo courtesy Barna Group, OmniPoll.

A poll released Wednesday by the Barna Group. RNS photo courtesy Barna Group, OmniPoll.

WASHINGTON — Half of Americans worry that religious freedom in the U.S. is at risk, and many say activist groups — particularly gays and lesbians — are trying to remove “traditional Christian values” from the public square.

The findings of a poll published Wednesday reveal a “double standard” among a significant portion of evangelicals on the question of religious liberty, said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a California think tank that studies American religion and culture.

While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, “they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture,” said Kinnamon.

“They cannot have it both ways,” he said. “This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation.”

Sojourners' 2012-2013 interns.

Sojourners' 2012-2013 interns.

On Tuesday, the religion, policy, and politics project at Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) hosted a forum to release PRRI's fourth American Values Survey (AVS), a large national, multi-issue survey on religion, values, and public policy.

We sent some of our interns to listen in on the findings. Here's what they thought about some of the issues raised by the report.

Cathleen Falsani 10-23-2012

More American Catholics believe their religious leaders should be focused on issues related to poverty and social justice during this election season, rather than spending time and energy on other issues such as abortion, according to a new survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The results of the 2012 American Values Survey demonstrate that American Catcholics -- and the "Catholic vote" -- is far from the monolith some politicians might like to believe they are.

"The survey confirms that there is no such thing as the 'Catholic vote,'" Robert P. Jones, CEO of PPRI and co-author of the report, told Reuters. "There are a number of critical divisions among Catholics, including an important divide between 'social justice' and "right to life' Catholics."

For instance, on the question of the public engagement of the church, the 2012 American Values Survey found important divisions between Catholics who prefer a “social justice” emphasis that focuses on helping the poor and Catholics who prefer a “right to life” emphasis that focuses on issues such as abortion.

Sandi Villarreal 10-08-2012
Silenced young people, doglikehorse /

Silenced young people, doglikehorse /

Young millennials — age 18 to 25 — are more comfortable with an evangelical than Mormon (or atheist or Muslim) president. This, according to part two of the Millennial Values Survey put out by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center.

Nearly six in 10 of those surveyed say they would be comfortable with an evangelical Christian serving as president, while 44 percent would be comfortable with a Mormon.

The numbers line up with those supporting President Barack Obama over Gov. Mitt Romeny at 55 percent to 39 percent — a spread that has actually increased 16 points since March. 

But that won’t necessarily convert into votes. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed are registered to vote, but only half report they are absolutely certain they will cast a vote in November.

The candidates’ religion isn’t the only factor affecting young peoples’ voting patterns. Another issue is a lack of voter engagement in the political process altogether.

“Millennials have a reputation for being the ‘wired’ generation, but when it comes to government, they’re unplugged,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI research director, in the news release Friday. “Across a range of measures, younger millennials indicated that they are disillusioned with the government’s ability to respond to their needs.”

Sandi Villarreal 04-19-2012

College-aged adults are not letting their moral beliefs on social issues filter into their politics.

According to the just released “Millennial Values Survey” by the Public Religion Research Institute and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, adults age 18-24 are much less likely than their parents to cite social issues like abortion (22 percent) or same-sex marriage (22 percent) as critical.

While the group is split on social issues personally, it doesn’t factor into its political reality. For example, while 51 percent believe abortion is morally wrong, 59 percent believe access to abortion should be legal. Likewise, 48 percent believe sex between members of the same gender is morally wrong, but 59 percent favor allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.

The gap is also evident in their religious affiliation. The percent of religiously unaffiliated jumped from 11 percent in childhood to 25 percent now.

Their attitudes toward Christianity paint a picture of possible motives behind the shift. Two-thirds say that Christianity can be described as “anti-gay,” and 62 percent believe present-day Christianity is “judgmental.”

The full survey will be released this morning at Georgetown University. Check back with Sojourners for more coverage of the findings.

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. Follow Sandi on Twitter @Sandi.