Professed belief is lower among younger Americans, Easterners, and liberals
More than 9 in 10 Americans still say "yes" when asked the basic question "Do you believe in God?"; this is down only slightly from the 1940s, when Gallup first asked this question.
Despite the many changes that have rippled through American society over the last 6 ½ decades, belief in God as measured in this direct way has remained high and relatively stable. Gallup initially used this question wording in November 1944, when 96% said "yes." That percentage dropped to 94% in 1947, but increased to 98% in several Gallup surveys conducted in the 1950s and 1960s. Gallup stopped using this question format in the 1960s, before including it again in Gallup's May 5-8 survey this year.
In 1976, Gallup began using a slightly different question format to measure belief in a deity -- "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?" -- and found that 94% of Americans agreed. That percentage stayed fairly steady through 1994, and is at 91% in the May 2011 survey.
Young Americans, Liberals, Easterners Least Likely to Believe in God
Responses to the two slightly different question formats from Gallup's May 5-8 survey can be combined to provide a larger sample for subgroup analysis. The results show that belief in God appears to be generally high across most subgroups of the American population.
Belief in God drops below 90% among younger Americans, liberals, those living in the East, those with postgraduate educations, and political independents. However, belief in God is nearly universal among Republicans and conservatives and, to a slightly lesser degree, in the South.
Belief in God Lower When Other Alternatives Offered
Gallup has asked about belief in God using different question wordings in past surveys, all of which give respondents expanded response alternatives. One such question includes the explicit choice of belief in a universal spirit or higher power, while another allows respondents to express doubts about belief in God. Using these questions, the percentages of Americans who say they believe in God without doubts or as separate from a universal spirit have ranged from 73% to 86%.
The percentages who more definitively say there is no God are generally 6% or 7% across these questions, similar to the 7% or 8% who do not believe in God in the questions asked this year. This suggests that most Americans do believe in God, but when given the opportunity to express some uncertainty, a modest percentage opt to do so.
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