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Most Americans Believe in the Devil, Hell, Survival of Soul
User ID: 163036
12/03/2006 01:40 AM
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Even 67 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents...
A full 68 percent of Americans believe in the devil, while 20 percent do not and 12 percent are unsure, according to the May 2001 poll that was released Feb. 25. In 1999, 85.5 percent of Americans told Gallup they believe in God.
Seventy percent of Catholics believe in the devil, compared to 79 percent of Protestants and 83 percent of self-identified members of the religious right. Republicans, at 79 percent, are the most likely to believe in the devil, compared with 67 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents. Southerners are the most likely to believe, at 79 percent, followed by Westerners at 69 percent, Midwesterners at 64 percent and East Coast residents at 56 percent. The devil has found the strongest belief among rural Americans--78 percent--compared to 64 percent of suburbanites and 66 percent of urban dwellers.
Republicans and conservative Christians are the most likely Americans to believe in the devil, according to a Gallup report. Belief in the lord of the underworld roughly mirrors the country's general religious profile, yet the devil transcends categories that typically determine religious attitudes, such as age, religiosity and education.
Belief in "the devil" is as high as it's been since pollsters started to inquire, according to two polls released this week.
A poll released yesterday by Harris Interactive showed that 68% of Americans believe in "the devil." A Gallup poll, also released this week but based on surveys conducted in 2001, came up with the same 68% number, the highest figure they've recorded since they started asking the question in the 1950s. The previous high for Gallup was 1994 (65.5%); in some years, the numbers dropped as low as 51% (1991) and 60% (1968). In most decades, the rate hovered between 55% and 62%.
Both surveys found that while belief in the devil is higher among those with less education, most highly educated people also share that belief. A staggering percentage of people with postgraduate degrees believe in the devil--55% according to Gallup and 52% according to Harris--as do 66% of urban dwellers (Gallup).
Neither of the polls attempt to define what people mean by "devil." Gallup did try to dissect that question in 1978, when they found that 34% of respondents believed in the devil as a "personal being who directs evil forces and influences people to do wrong." In the same poll, 36% of people said they believed the devil was an "impersonal force that influences people to do wrong."
The Harris poll also covered a variety of other issues, such as angels, miracles, and reincarnation. Here, too, the results tend to shatter some of the stereotypes held by New York media types, who tend to think only uneducated Southerners believe in the really hardcore aspects of religion.
Although the analysis accompanying the online Harris survey stressed that religiosity increased as education decreased, that misses the far more interesting point--the strong religiosity of even the well-educated. Specifically, most people with post-graduate degrees believe in:
Survival of the Soul After death (78%)
The Virgin birth (60%)
The resurrection of Christ (64%)
Across age and education, however, belief in the devil varies less. Seventy percent of adults ages 30-64 said the devil is real, along with 66 percent of adults ages 18-19. Similarly, 70 percent of high school graduates say the devil is real, along with 68 percent of college graduates. Fifty-five percent of people with postgraduate degrees also believe. "Religion has ceded its civil authority, and religiosity has declined somewhat in American society. So we might expect belief in the devil to have largely evaporated," said Gallup contributing editor Jennifer Robison. "It hasn't. Regardless of political belief, religious inclination, education or region, most Americans believe that the devil exists."
User ID: 165233
12/03/2006 06:29 PM
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