Does Christianity — the majority faith in America — have a positive or negative impact over society? Considering the vast majority of the population that claims to have an allegiance to the faith, this is a question worth asking. A new study from Grey Matter Research & Consulting finds both negative and positive perceptions that Americans have about Christianity’s impact on culture.
The study found that there were only two key areas in which strong majorities claim to see Christianity’s benefits in America. Seventy-two percent of respondents claim that the faith system is good for helping poor people in need and for raising children with good morals. Overall, 52 percent report that they believe Christianity helps to keep the U.S. a “strong nation.”
Despite these positives, there are a number of areas where substantial portions of the nation see Christianity has having either a negative impact or no influence at all. For many believers, these perceptions will be met with concern.
In the poll, respondents were provided with 16 issues and were asked if they believe that the Christian faith has a positive impact, a negative impact or no impact at all on each. These issues included: crime, business ethics, the role of women, how people treat the environment, and sexuality, among others.
When it comes to sexuality, an issue that some in the Christian movement have called a losing battle for believers, only 26 percent of respondents said that the faith system has a positive impact. Thirty-seven percent see no impact at all and another 37 percent say that Christianity has a negative impact on the issue.
Here are some of the proportions on key indicators, as presented by Grey Matter:
- The amount of crime in society: 45% positive, 33% no impact, 22% negative
- The amount of poverty in society: 41% positive, 36% no impact, 23% negative
- The amount of violence in society: 39% positive, 34% no impact, 27% negative
- Differences of opinion being discussed in a civil manner: 38% positive, 42% no impact, 20% negative
- Ethics in the business world: 34% positive, 44% no impact, 22% negative
- Participation in politics and voting: 33% positive, 44% no impact, 23% negative
- The amount of substance abuse in society: 33% positive, 43% no impact, 23% negative
- How people treat the environment: 30% positive, 54% no impact, 15% negative
Overall, perceptions surrounding the faith are a mixed bag. If the 16 issues are averaged together, 42 percent of Americans report either a “strongly positive” or “somewhat positive” view of Christianity’s impact. Thirty-seven percent see no impact and 22 percent claim that it has either a “strongly” or “somewhat” negative influence. Grey Matter explains:
If the 16 different areas are averaged together, the typical perception of the Christian faith is that 13% of all Americans believe it has a strongly positive impact, 29% see a somewhat positive impact, 37% see no impact, 15% perceive a somewhat negative impact, and 7% believe the faith has a strongly negative impact on American society.
Consistently, Christianity is viewed very differently by different types of Americans. As might be expected, the biggest differences are by religious belief and participation. Yet Christians are not as positive toward the impact of the Christian faith – nor non-Christians as negative –as might be assumed.
Among people who either attend a Christian church (broadly defined to include Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, LDS, etc.) or who claim their religious identity as Christian, when all of the individual ratings are combined, the average is that 15% rate the impact of Christianity as strongly positive, 33% as somewhat positive, 35% as neutral, 13% as somewhat negative, and 4% as strongly negative. These numbers are very similar to the average rating by the total population, because seven out of ten Americans identify with the Christian faith.
The geographically representative poll took into account 1,011 American adults and is accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points. You can read more about this intriguing study here. What do you think? Does Christianity have an overall positive or negative impact on society? Take our poll: