Pew Research: Americans Are Warming to Their Religious Neighbors

How do you feel about your Christian, Muslim, or Jewish neighbors? Do they generate warm or cold feelings? A Pew Research study released this week asks this question and there’s good news; Americans are warming toward their neighbors.

In 2014, Pew Research ran its first temperature of America’s religious landscape by asking individuals whether they felt warm or cold feelings toward prominent religious groups. At that time, the warmest feelings on the thermometer (ranging from 0 to 100) were for Jews (63), with most Christians—Catholics (62), mainline Protestants (62), evangelicals (61)—as slightly cooler. Mormons were a chilly 48.

At the bottom in 2014, and perhaps with little surprise in a U.S. context, were Atheists (41) and Muslims (40).

The new 2017 Pew Research study, however shows a significant and positive shift in feeling for every group except evangelicals, who remain unchanged.

Some of the largest shifts in warmer feelings were for non-Christian groups. Muslims (48) and Atheists (50) moved from chilly to neutral positions. Hindus, who were at very neutral temps in 2014 (50) found significant gains in 2017 (58). Similarly jumps for Buddhists took them from 53 (2014) to 60 (2017).

Studies like these are subjective, of course, but temperature ratings for emotions remain an interesting method for getting at the social state of America, especially during a highly partisan political climate.

One point that stands out the most: both the 2014 and 2017 studies show that individuals feel warmer toward religious groups when they personally know an adherent.

So maybe it’s time to join an interfaith mixer, as eliminating irrational fears of others might be just a handshake away.

Photo Credit: Peter Hershey (CC0)