(RNS) — What do most Americans think of faiths not their own?Not much.
That’s according to a new Pew Research survey that asked 10,588 Americans if they had positive or negative feelings toward other faiths. Between 40% and 60% answered “neither favorable nor unfavorable” or “don’t know enough to say.”
“It may speak to people not liking to rate entire groups of people,” said Patricia Tevington, the lead researcher. ”Maybe there’s some fear of stereotyping.”
But some religious groups ranked higher in Americans’ estimations. Jews, for example, scored fairly positively: 35% of Americans expressed a very or somewhat favorable attitude toward Jews, with only 6% expressing an unfavorable attitude. Catholics, too, got good marks (34% favorable vs. 18% unfavorable), as did mainline or ecumenical Protestants (30% favorable vs. 10% unfavorable).
“More Americans view Jews, mainline Protestants and Catholics favorably rather than unfavorably” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center
Atheists and Muslims scored overall negative views. At the bottom of the list? Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. Only 15% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Mormons, while 25% said they had unfavorable views of them.
As for evangelicals, Americans were divided: 28% had favorable opinions of evangelicals while 27% had negative opinions (44% felt they didn’t know enough to say). But as the study points out, there’s a big difference between the way evangelicals are rated by all Americans (including roughly 20% of U.S. adults who describe themselves as evangelicals) and the way they are rated by Americans who are not evangelicals.
That’s because most religious groups rate themselves highly, including 60% of evangelicals who have favorable opinions of themselves. But when evangelicals were excluded from the question, only 18% of Americans had favorable opinions of this group; 32% had somewhat unfavorable views (49% didn’t register an opinion).
By contrast, mainline or ecumenical Protestants are viewed far more positively than negatively (only 11% of nonmainline Protestants viewed this religious group unfavorably).
“Outside of self-described ‘born-again or evangelical’ Protestants, views of evangelical Christians are more negative than positive in the U.S.” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center
Political partisanship may explain why evangelicals are viewed negatively by non evangelicals. The overwhelming majority of evangelicals identify with the Republican Party and this bloc is usually highly correlated with the so-called religious right.