Beliefs Culture Politics

Americans view Jews, Christians warmly; atheists, Muslims get cold shoulder

WASHINGTON (RNS) We like ourselves!

A new Pew Research survey finds U.S. adults feel most warmly about people who share their religion or those they know as family, friends or co-workers.

Americans give their highest scores to Jews, Catholics and Evangelicals on a zero-to-100 “thermometer” featured in the survey, “How Americans Feel about Religious Groups,” released Wednesday (July 16). They’re nestled within a few degrees of each other: Jews, 63; Catholics, 62; evangelicals, 61.

In the middle of the chart: Buddhists, 53; Hindus, 50; Mormons, 48. Trending to the chilly negative zone: atheists at 41 and Muslims at 40.

Pew took the thermal reading because “understanding the question of how religious groups view each other is valuable in a country where religion plays an important role in public life,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of religion research.

Jews, one of the nation’s smallest religious groups, benefit from cultural, theological and historic ties with Christians — gaining what might be called a friends-and-family ratings boost.

Meanwhile, America’s largest religious groups, Catholics and Protestants, benefit from self-regard. Pew found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that people rate their own groups higher than others. Still, the groups’ overall average scores are pulled down by those who don’t share these faiths. Catholics give themselves an 80 score while non-Catholics give them a 58. Evangelical Christians score 79 with people who called themselves “born-again” or evangelical, but only 52 with others.

Americans rated a series of religious groups other than their own on a "feeling thermometer" from 0 to 100 in a new Pew Research Center study.

Image courtesy Bill Webster, via Pew Research Center

Americans rated a series of religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100 in a new Pew Research Center study.

“People are somewhat polarized about evangelicals,” Smith said. The survey finds “roughly as many people give evangelicals a cold rating (27 percent) as give them a warm rating (30 percent).”

“I think it speaks to evangelicals’ prominence in American life. Lots of people know something about them,” he said.

And, according to the survey, some don’t like what they know.

White evangelicals give their highest warmth score to Jews, 69. However, all that warmth is not reciprocated. Jews gave evangelicals overall a much cooler score of 34.

White evangelicals are leery of other non-Christians and downright chilly toward nonbelievers. They rank Buddhists at 39, Hindus at 38 and atheists draw 25 — the lowest score of any group.

“And the feeling is mutual,” Smith said. Atheists give evangelicals overall a rating of 28.

Although atheists overall are cold to Christians, “they’re not uniformly cold to all religious groups,” said Smith. Buddhists get 69, Jews 61 and Hindus 58.

Among the major findings:

  • We like people we know. People who say they personally know someone of another group rated them 10 to 20 points higher. That gap is widest for atheists — falling from a 50 rating by people who know an atheist to 29 by those who say they don’t. Buddhists’ rating falls from 70 to 48.
Americans are more likely to favorably rate members of other religious groups when they personally know members of those faiths.

Image courtesy Bill Webster, via Pew Research Center

Americans are more likely to favorably rate members of other religious groups when they personally know members of those faiths.

  • Age matters. Christian groups and Jews receive higher ratings from Americans ages 65 and older, a group that identifies overwhelmingly (85 percent) as Christian, according to Pew.  But adults under age 30, with fewer self-identified Christians (59 percent), give their highest ratings to non-Christians.
  • Race matters, too. Muslims receive a neutral rating from blacks (49 on average), but Muslims are rated more coldly by whites (38). Although most blacks describe themselves as “born-again” or evangelical Christians, 23 percent of Muslims in the U.S. are black, according to a Pew survey of Muslim Americans from 2011. And 57 percent of blacks say they know someone who is Muslim; among whites, that figure is 34 percent.
  • Party affiliation is another marker for similarity. People like people whose religion aligns with their politics. For example: The average rating Democrats give to evangelicals (a heavily Republican group) is 53, while Republicans give them a tropical 71.

The survey was conducted between May 30 and June 30 with a nationally representative panel of 3,217 randomly selected adults — 2,849 people answering the survey online and 368 responding by mail. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

The Pew results match closely with a similar “feelings thermometer” study in 2007 by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell for their 2010 book, ”American Grace.”

The overall order of warm-to-cold views for religious groups is unchanged between the two studies. However, the exact ratings for groups can’t be compared directly because their methodology differed. (Campbell and Putnam used a phone survey for their research.)

Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame, said he was particularly struck that Pew found “there hasn’t been any real change in views on Mormons in spite of the (hit Broadway play) “The Book of Mormon” and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and all the attention to the so-called Mormon Moment.”


About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues


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  • How much did it cost to produce this educated nonsense that anyone with half a brain could figure out?

  • The approval ratings for non-Christians still look too high to me. They should have grouped them all together under their REAL name: Satanists. Then they would have all got “1” like they deserve!

  • Just out today. 80% of the palis killed in the “gaza violence” were civilian.

    And they haven’t even touched their 1billion dollar stockpile of US maintained and provided arms. News also reported the secret existence of the armament today.

    And yesterday Congress approved an increase in the budget for military “defense” in israel.. So now they can increase the miss percentage of palis by increased carpet bombing volume.

    I wonder what figures like that will do for the perception of the jew? And america.

  • Ronald – I am an atheist. I am not a “Satanist”. I do not believe a “Satan” exists. I do not worship any sort of deity, including a “devil”. I am a nice person, I love my friends and family, and I volunteer in my community. I’ll thank you not to characterize me, and people who share my views, as “Satanists”. It is terribly wrong and grossly unkind of you to do so.

  • Oh dear, Ronald…so gracious in your intolerance… It would be amusing were it not so tragic.You should give atheism a try. Might help to calm you…

  • As more atheists wake up and show themselves, others will recognize them as people just like themselves. Atheist numbers are bound to go up from here.

  • How can I be intolerant? I am a Christian, and even the resident athiest at this web page (Chris Stedman) says taht Christians are “better neighbors” than athiests or other types of pagan. We are nicer and more charitable. So, I cannot be intolerant or bigoted or whatever else liberal athiests call me. I am as sweet as pie.

  • Christians only make better neighbors when they stick to their side of the fence. Which means most of them are lousy neighbors. 🙂

  • Hello Rabbi. I like her to even though her name is Grossman or maybe because it is. My father affected my views on race and of Jews from a early age. My dad came to Atlanta, GA. directly from the farm at age of about nineteen, there he became friends with a Jewish man. In fact the best of friends. This was about 1920. The Jewish people I have met just don’t seem to be mad at everyone like so many Evangelicals.

    I do think the poll should have just stated “Christian” instead of “Catholic or Evangelical Christians”.
    By the Lord bless and keep you.

  • As an Evangelical it is pretty sad to me that Jews view us so poorly. How many Evangelicals have declared that Israel ought to be eradicated from the face of the earth? And yet Jews are colder to Evangelicals than to Muslims.

    The other statistic that saddens me is how Evangelicals feel towards atheists. That just makes no sense.

  • “How many Evangelicals have declared that Israel ought to be eradicated from the face of the earth?”

    Most of them until about the early 1980’s.

    It could also be the blatant sectarian discriminatory conduct Evangelicals engage in when they have a little bit of civil authority. In their attempt to put Christ into everything public, they tend to attack Jews either directly or indirectly.

  • If you want to say that Jews and atheists like yourself dislike Evangelicals because they foist their beliefs on other people both in civic matters and on a personal level, that is plausible enough. But to say that most Evangelicals before the 1980’s wanted Israel eradicated? Either I totally missed something in my study of church history or you just pulled that one out of thin air.

  • But Ronald, you just said that any non-christian should be grouped together and be given a 1. Christ tells you to love your neighbor, not give him or her the cold shoulder.

  • I am saying that antisemitism among evangelicals was pretty much a given for a while. At least before Reagan was able to lure them into the GOP. The whole Christian Zionist thing is a lot more recent than many are willing to admit to. There still is a backhanded element to it where some believe the eradication of Israel will usher in Armageddon/rapture.

  • Yes, per dispensational theology, Israel is in for some rough times ahead. So is everyone else. But if the question had been put to Jews, “Who would you rather have access to a nuclear weapon that could destroy Israel, a random Muslim or a random Evangelical?” I think most Jews would have had the sense to say the latter.

    But you’re right — antisemitism is a pernicious evil that can crop up just about anywhere. Probably not even the Jews themselves have entirely escaped it.

  • Larry, Christianaphobia has been classified by the U.N., and you fit those parameters. Since you don’t want Christians for neighbors, try living in Kiryas Joel, an Hasidic Jewish community. It is considered to have the highest poverty rate in the nation and 40% of them receive food stamps. Most of the men don’t work because they study Torah.

    Or, perhaps, a majority Islamic Dearborn may be more to your liking. I’m not quite sure how they would embrace an alternate lifestyle.

  • Kiryas Joel is located in Orange County, N.Y., fairly close to Manhattan so it would be an easy commute for the nightlife.

  • Leo, you are illiterate. I don’t mind Christians as neighbors if they act neighborly. I just don’t see that happen very often.

    “Or, perhaps, a majority Islamic Dearborn may be more to your liking. I’m not quite sure how they would embrace an alternate lifestyle.”

    What “alternate lifestyle” do you think I am? I AM a loudmouth smug jerk. But is there something else you are trying to insinuate here?

    I don’t have an unreasonable hatred of Christians. I have an abiding love of religious freedom and a low tolerance for mendacious theocratic buffoons. I have compelling rational and secular reasons for being hostile to Christian fundies. They are literally trying to destroy what makes my nation great.

  • ““Who would you rather have access to a nuclear weapon that could destroy Israel, a random Muslim or a random Evangelical?” I think most Jews would have had the sense to say the latter.”

    My guess is you do not know too many Jews. There would be 40 different answers and a host of side discussions on the subject and definition of “random ___ “.

    Most would ask in response, “do we get a third choice of neither of them?”

  • You’re probably right about the choice for a third option. But as far as not knowing many Jews, you’re wrong there — I live in the San Fernando Valley.

  • Jewish attitudes toward Evangelicals probably have something to do with our perception that your friendliness toward us is all leading up to an attempt to convert us, either now or in the second-coming future. The truth is that on most levels, Judaism and Islam are much more similar to each other than Judaism is to Christianity, Evangelical Christianity.

  • Larry, I find your meretricious responses humorous. You make my day. A little more historical research might enable very clear thinking. If it were not for Christians Charles Martel and King John Sobieski, we would probably all be on prayer rugs with very little choice. Perhaps, you would find that palatable.
    Just how tolerate will Islam be when it really becomes a force in this country.
    Observe the Middle East where there is very little freedom of religion, except for Israel.

    However, to group any group into one category seems foolish to me. I know that there are very good, very kind, and sincere Muslims, just as there are Christians.

  • Why does the statistic about how Evangelicals feel towards athiests sadden you? If it is because the rating is too high then I agree with you. We should rate them “0.”

    They are worse than the Muslims, and that is pretty bad. I am temted to say say they are even worse than the gays, but it is hard to say really and there is a lot of overlap there. Athiests have declared themselvs enemies of God and His representatives here on earth. They want to lock us up. They want to EXTERMINATE us if we won’t give up our beliefs. As a scholar, I study about this on Christian educational sites like World Net Daily and News Max..

    It is WAR between us and the athiests. THEY have declared war. We must fight back and WIN.

  • @Liz,

    The only way to stop religion is by teaching people that religion is nonsense. Only then might it be abandoned. It cannot be outlawed.

    Singling out Islam is unfair.
    The entire pantheon of gods
    is an assault on humanity.

  • Liz, You’re on the right track. You are probably quite familiar with Bruce Bawer’s book, “While Europe Slept.” and his latest “Surrender.” This are based on his experiences in Northern European countries, where he has lived. They are a profound, and yet easily read warning.

  • @ronald,

    You said, “Atheists want to EXTERMINATE us
    if we won’t give up our beliefs”


    Atheists are not ‘declaring’ any such nonsense!
    What an embarrassment to see such hatred
    and foolishness from a grown man!

    You said, “THEY have declared war!”

    More foolishness.
    Do you not understand anything?
    Atheists do not believe in God – that is it! Atheists make no claims!

    Most of us care about human beings
    and freedom of religion AND separation of church and state.
    We care about freedom to express any religious belief!

    Yes, I happen to be anti-theist
    because religion promotes needless hatred.
    Like the hatred in your little speech!

    YOU are unaware
    that The Good Samaritan may have been an ATHEIST?

    YOU would be ENSLAVED, IN JAIL, SICK or DEAD without the power of Atheism to protect you EVERY DAY – don’t forget it!


    FIRST – Why are Atheists so good?

    Less than HALF of each Religious dollar goes to anything useful. What waste! While Religion wastes billions of dollars building houses of superstition and publishing holy books full of hatreds
    against other religions….

    ATHEIST organizations – as in GODLESS – are saving the world:

    Doctors Without Borders,
    The Foundation Beyond Belief
    Goodwill Industries,
    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
    Warren Buffet Foundation,
    Oxfam International,
    Rotary International,
    American Red Cross,
    SEED foundation, United Children’s Fund,
    Sierra Fund, National Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy,
    Treatment Action Campaign, Women’s Defense League
    US Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers,
    Plan USA, Tanzanian Children’s Fund
    National Academy of Science,
    The ACLU….etc.

    Atheists spend BILLIONS
    on saving lives!

    SECOND – We Atheists go further to promote education
    and culture to enhance quality of life.

    Atheists have done MORE for humanity
    than any other group:

    While religious people pray for cures – Atheists create medicine.
    While religious people pray for food – Atheists improve agriculture
    While religious people burn witches – Atheists promote reason.
    While religious people ban condoms – Atheists distribute millions saving countless lives from AIDS.
    While religious people burn books – Atheists develop the internet and technology.
    While religion oppresses women and creates poverty – Atheists have emancipate women and spread wealth.

    While religious people kill over imaginary Gods…
    Atheists create Church/State separation to save everyone
    from government funded religious warfare!

    such as that from Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin was the religious freedom you enjoy under the Constitution of the United States ever possible. The US CONSTITUTION still remains the ONLY ATHEISTIC constitution in the world and

    The Scientists working to understand climate change
    are almost entirely Atheist.

    While Christians and Muslims fill the prisons,
    the Atheist population in prison is statistically ZERO.

    Meanwhile, What does Religion do?
    It feeds a few thousand poor people
    while spending billions of dollars apologizing for an invisible God
    who never shows up to save the 17 MILLION CHILDREN
    who will starve to death THIS YEAR ALONE !

    While ATHEIST SCIENTISTS do the heavy lifting
    of saving lives and making this world better….

    Monks, Priests and Imams
    live in the dark corners and argue against science
    and work to PREVENT THE TRUTH



    Paul Newman (his atheist charity Newman’s Own raised $370 Million)
    Steven Wozniak
    James Randi
    Langston Hughs
    Steven Hawking
    Pat Tillman
    Linus Pauling
    Thomas Edison
    Clarence Darrow
    Andrew Carnegie
    Francis Crick
    The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr
    Charles Schultz (creator of Peanuts, Charlie Brown Christmas)
    Jacques Yves Cousteau
    Abraham Lincoln – “The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion.”
    Bertrand Russell
    Richard Stauss
    Roger Ebert
    Richard Feynman
    Barbara Forrest
    Linus Carl Pauling
    Maurice Sendak
    Helen Keller
    Noam Chomsky
    Mark Shasha
    Warren Buffet – Billionaire philanthropist
    Jonas Salk (discoverer of the Polio vaccine)
    Paul Kurtz
    Andy Rooney
    David Hume
    Steven Weinberg
    Peter Higgs
    James D. Watson
    Ray Romano
    Ted Williams
    Scott Joplin
    Marlene Deitrich
    Butterfly McQueen
    Billy Joel
    Steven Pinker
    Sigmund Freud
    Bruce Lee
    Bill Nye
    Susan B. Anthony
    E.O. Wilson
    Alan Turing
    William Shatner
    Marlon Brando
    Noam Chomsky
    Katherine Hepburn
    Helen Mirren
    Andrew Carnegie
    Richard Branson
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Kai Nielson
    Gene Wilder
    Virginia Wolf
    Charlie Chaplin
    Richard Rodgers
    Arthur Schleshinger Jr.
    Frida Kahlo
    Ernest Hemmingway
    Carl Sagan
    Robert Wright
    Michael Martin
    Peter Singer
    Jerry Coyne
    Jennifer Michael Hecht
    Victor Stenger
    Martin Amis
    Philip Roth
    Ian McEwan
    Michael Shermer
    Oscar Wilde
    Frank Zappa
    Mark Zuckerberg
    Jamie Hyneman
    George C Scott
    Andy Rooney
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Daniel Radcliffe
    Carl Sagan
    Daniel Ratcliff
    Penn and Teller
    Arthur Miller
    Barry Manilow
    Kevin Bacon
    Burt Lancaster
    George Orwell
    Steve Jobs
    Mark Twain
    George Carlin
    Rodney Dangerfield
    Adam Savage – Mythbusters
    George Bernard Shaw
    Simon de Beauvoir
    Isaac Asimov
    Thomas Paine
    Gene Roddenberry – creator of Star Trek
    Rod Serling – creator of The Twilight Zone
    John Stossel
    AC Grayling
    Brian Eno
    Leonard Susskind
    Stephen Jay Gould
    Dan Dennett
    Thomas Mann
    Noel Coward
    Philip Pullman
    Richard Leakey
    A.C. Grayling
    Lawrence Krauss
    Jodie Foster
    Stephen Fry
    Mick Jagger
    Margot Kidder
    Larry King
    Keira Knightley
    Brad Pitt
    Sam Harris
    David Jon Gilmour
    Robyn Williams
    Stanley Kubrick
    Neil DeGrasse Tyson – Physicist
    Richard Feynman – Physicist
    Buckminster Fuller
    Gene Kelly
    Paul Robeson




    Evangelicals sent $100 Million last year
    to Israeli settlers taking Palestinian lands to “CAUSE” the second coming of Jesus!

    Religion is so over-rated it is disgusting.

  • @ronald,

    Take your meds!

    Only a delusional idiot would think
    Atheists like PAUL NEWMAN are somehow a problem to society.

    ‘Newman’s Own’ has raised $370 MILLION DOLLARS
    to help people around the world.

    Most Christians are oblivious to the amazing generosity and general GOODNESS of ATHEISTS
    because their Pastor’s brains are made of Duck Crap

    Religion is cruel, ignorant nonsense.

  • @LEO,


    That is profound ignorance.
    In a country where
    Corporations can be





    Church and State Separation is disappearing.
    Disgraceful, superstitious nonsense insists on speaking louder than sanity!

    Thanks to your church contributions
    this revolting ignorance is well funded and it
    runs rampant in the country!

  • Hey ronald, you have been MAX-SLAPPED !

    @ATHEIST MAX —excellent retort to someone who was desperately asking for it. Christophobial persecution?? what next from this crowd?

  • ‘Christianophobia’ – The terror nonChristians feel when they wake up in the USA.

  • Leo,
    Religion is the problem across the board not just muslims. You can’t deny them their faith while you insist on carrying around your own faith. Your ‘proof’ of your god is just as lame as their proof of their god ; faith.

  • @sirwinston,

    How about from 10 million declared Atheists
    to 30 million Atheists
    in the last 5 years in America (Pew Research).

    And some of them are former clergy.

  • The dude has a point. Atheists are all around & I happen to think more atheists are coming out of the closet and that feeds a rush to the church exits. Why should anyone hang on to something that clearly has no basis in fact when the world is just laughing at the folly of it?

    Does God exist? Who cares? and why would it matter if god himself seems more interested in hiding than showing himself? The religion theories keep getting pushed out – but no matter what anyone says or how it is positioned, the claims do not survive even 10 minutes of thinking about it. And if questioning the existence of god is itself a sin what is that but a con game?

  • Jamie, I would not dream of denying anyone the right to his faith. I’ve simply stated that there is NOW, in our century, movements within Islam whose aim is to conquer the west. I also stated that one cannot judge individual Islamists in that manner; there are many good, sincere and very well intentioned people among Islam.

    Admittedly religion can and has been a problem. Most of this factor is due to human nature’s innate twistedness to distort. Look at many people without religion who commit heinous crimes. Look at how people like Lenin and Idi Amin misused power in government. Unfortunately, human nature is not always what we would like it to be. If all religions were wiped off the face of the earth, there would still be problems because people would find something else to use, e.g., difference in tribal affiliations.

  • Atheist Max, I don’t believe the many people that you cited are atheists, but rather some are agnostics. Also, I believe that Einstein made positive quotes about God. I will look into this matter.

  • @Leo,

    ATHEISM = “I do not believe in a god”
    AGNOSTIC = “I do not know if there is a God.”

    Atheism is only about belief – Atheism allows for the possibility that a God may exist. But the atheist does not believe in it. The Atheist rejects the idea of pretending that a god exists while he cannot believe.

    Agnosticism is only about knowledge. Agnostics do not know and so they do not believe.

    Every Agnostic is an Atheist. Every Atheist is an Agnostic.
    If one says “I don’t know if God is real” then there is already no belief.

    “I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit preist I am, of course, and always have been an Atheist.”
    – Albert Einstein,
    Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr.,
    July 2, 1945

    Einstein was an ATHEIST.

  • Leo, You are not understanding me. If you ask a Muslim why he believes in Allah he will tell you that he cannot do it without faith. Which means he pretends that it is real. Because the muslim has no evidence. If a muslim asks you how you can believe Jesus rose from the dead your answer is no better than his. You have no evidence Jesus did any such thing.
    so you have to say you believe because you have faith (you are pretending it could be real).
    faith is just pretending. you are no better than muslims or hindus or Jews. They are just pretending too. And they say so every time they say the word ‘faith’.
    An atheist is most honest. we see no reason to believe and faith is not an option because it is just lying to yourself.

  • Theophilus I beg to disagree. I am Jewish and though not particularly observant in the traditional sense, I believe I am a spiritual person who believes that the God of the Bible remains and real and living God for all who want people to be good to one another. I have great admiration for Evangelicals and their commitment to their faith; one another and mankind. While I may not subscribe to their theological point of view, I am yet to meet one who I did not find to be a good person. And while I know there are “moderate” muslims out there, I don’t hear their voices. The lump Christians and Jews of all stripes together as “infidels” and commit the most heinous acts in the name of their “allah”. I have spent a number of years studying their koran, the hadditha and the sira. islam is a sick cult founded by a pedophile and is, in my view, a threat to Christians and Jews of all viewpoints and denominations whether or not they exhibit political empathy to the muslims. Their koran tells them not to take Christian nor Jew for their friend.

  • Ronald… I can feel the sarcasm rolling off you. Well played sir… well played.

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