77% of Americans Think Morality Is on the Decline - and One in Three Think the Bible Is the Answer

More Than Half Believe the Bible Has Too Little Influence in Society, Yet Many Seldom Read It

American Bible Society Releases In-depth Findings in Its Annual State of the Bible Report

NEW YORK, March 26, 2013—A new report released today finds Americans overwhelming (77%) believe morals and values are declining in the U.S. The most-cited cause for the decline? A lack of Bible reading.

The findings are reported in American Bible Society's annual State of the Bible survey released today. The report details Americans' beliefs about the Bible, its role in society, its presence in U.S. homes and more. As in previous years, the survey found that the Bible remains a highly valued, influential force in America.

But beliefs about the Bible and its role in society are becoming increasingly polarized - particularly when the data is examined by age group.

The research also uncovered a significant disconnect in belief versus behavior. While 66% of those surveyed agreed that the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life, 58% say they do not personally want wisdom and advice from the Bible, and about the same amount (57%) read it fewer than five times per year.

The State of the Bible 2013 survey, conducted by Barna Group on behalf of American Bible Society, found that:

  • The Bible continues to dominate both mind space and book retail space as America’s undisputed best-seller.
    - 1 in 6 people reported buying a copy of the Bible in the last year.
    - 80% of Americans identify the Bible as sacred.
    - Americans have plenty of copies at their fingertips—an average of 4.4 Bibles per household.
  • 56% of adults believe the Bible should have a greater role in U.S. society.
  • But actual Bible reading and perceptions about the Bible have become increasingly polarized, with 6 million new Bible antagonists in the last year alone.
  • More than half (57%) of those ages 18-28 report reading the Bible less than three times a year or never.
  • While those ages 18-28 are the least likely age group to read the Bible, they are the most interested in receiving input and wisdom from it on several topics including:
    - Parenting (42%, compared to 22% of all adults)
    - Family conflict (40%, compared to 24% of all adults)
    - Dating and relationships (35%, compared to 16% of all adults)
    - Romance and sexuality (30%, compared to 17% of all adults)
  • In a non-election year, an increasing number of adults believe the Bible and politics do not mix (54%, compared to 49% in 2012). However, 69% still say their faith influences their views on political issues.
  • Full Findings & Infographic of Study Highlights at TheStateoftheBible.com.

"Americans overwhelmingly recognize the decline of morality in our nation," said Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society. "The good news is the Bible is the ultimate instruction guide on how to live a moral life. Unfortunately, more than half of Americans rarely, if ever, read it."

The disconnect between belief and action when it comes to Bible reading is troubling, says Birdsall.

"If we had a cure for cancer, wouldn't everyone with cancer take it? Americans are telling us that the cure for declining morality is sitting on our bookshelves," says Birdsall. "But more than half of Americans are simply letting the cure gather dust."


Interview Opportunities

About American Bible Society:
Headquartered in Manhattan, the 196-year-old American Bible Society exists to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message. One of the nation's oldest nonprofit organizations, today's American Bible Society provides interactive, high- and low-tech resources enabling first-time readers and seasoned theologians alike to engage with the best-selling book of all time. For more information, visit AmericanBible.org.


Survey Methodology:
The State of the Bible 2013 report contains the findings from a nationwide study commissioned by American Bible Society and conducted by Barna Research (a division of Barna Group). Two research methodologies were used for the study; one included 1,005 telephone interviews (including cellphone interviews) with adults in the continental U.S., while the second study consisted of 1,078 online surveys using a nationally representative panel. The use of two methodologies provides a larger sample size for key questions and ensured even greater representation among all age groups. The telephone interviews were conducted Jan. 16–22, 2013, and included U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The online surveys were conducted between Jan. 17–23, 2013. For full survey information, please contact Amy Huffman or Christine Cape at 770.813.0000.