Americans warming up to more religious groups

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The Pew Research Center has just released results of a new study showing that Americans are feeling more positive about Muslims, Hindus, Mormons and atheists, a shift occurring across gender, age and political lines:

Asked to rate a variety of groups on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100, U.S. adults give nearly all groups warmer ratings than they did in a June 2014 Pew Research Center survey.

While Americans still feel coolest toward Muslims and atheists, mean ratings for these two groups increased from a somewhat chilly 40 and 41 degrees, respectively, to more neutral ratings of 48 and 50. Jews and Catholics continue to be among the groups that receive the warmest ratings – even warmer than in 2014.

In an election year where evangelicals have been spotlighted more than usual, Americans’ opinions of them did not change, remaining at the same 61 degrees as in 2014.

Just over four-in-ten Americans (44%) feel very warmly toward evangelical Christians, while 38% rate them in the middle of the thermometer and about one-in-five (18%) express cooler feelings toward this group. These ratings also include many people who consider themselves to be evangelical Christians (28% in the sample analyzed); once self-described evangelicals are excluded, a smaller share of non-evangelical U.S. adults (32%) rate evangelicals in the warmest third of the thermometer.

Not surprisingly, Americans tend to have warm perceptions of their own:

Religious groups tend to rate their own group most positively. For example, Jewish respondents give Jews an average rating of 91 degrees on the 0-to-100 scale. Catholics rate their own group at a warm 83. And self-described atheists rate atheists at 82.

White evangelical Protestants rate evangelical Christians as a whole at 81 degrees, and white mainline Protestants rate mainline Protestants at 75. Black Protestants place both mainline Protestants and evangelical Christians in the mid to high 60s.

Episcopalians fared pretty well:

Pluralities of Americans give Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, atheists and Muslims temperature ratings somewhere in the middle of the thermometer. Roughly equal shares rate atheists coldly (28%) as rate them warmly (30%). And slightly more Americans view Muslims in a negative light (30%) than a positive one (25%). Relatively few U.S. adults (9%) rate mainline Protestants (e.g., Episcopalians or United Methodists) coldly. The rest view this group either warmly (46%) or somewhat neutrally (44%).

Read the report here.

Photo: FreeImages.com/César Díaz

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