April 28, 2010

Poll: Region’s residents claim to be very religious

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinoisans claim to be very religious, according to a poll taken recently by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

A majority (51 percent) of the respondents said they attended religious services every week. Another 13 percent said they attend almost every week.

This level of weekly church attendance significantly exceeds comparable levels of weekly church attendance nationally. National polls generally indicate claimed weekly church attendance to be about 40 percent.

These results illustrate why southern Illinois is often considered to be a part of the Bible Belt, which is mostly centered in the South,” said John S. Jackson, a visiting professor at the Simon Institute, who was one of the co-authors of the poll.

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming religious identification is Christian -- 92 percent. This left 3 percent of the respondents who claim “some other” religious identification and 5 percent who indicate that they have no religious identification. These three categories can be compared to the statewide results from an earlier poll conducted by the Institute where the results were 77 percent Christian, 1 percent Jewish, 4 percent Other and 16 percent Unaffiliated.

In the recent Southern Illinois Poll, 14 percent of the Christian respondents claimed the Roman Catholic designation leaving the remainder of the Christian group divided into a wide variety of Protestant categories. Of those, Baptists led the way with 32 percent and they were divided as follows:

  • 61 percent of the Baptists were Southern Baptists
  • 13 percent were Independent Baptists
  • 3 percent were American Baptists
  • 1 percent were National Baptists
  • 11 percent were identified as “Just Baptist”

The next highest categories of Protestants were Methodists at 11 percent and the Lutherans at 9 percent. The “Non Denominational” churches were also well represented at 6 percent of the respondents in that category. They were followed by the Pentecostals, the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterians at 3 percent each.

Overall, the sample contained 54 percent of the religious identifiers who called themselves “Evangelical” or “Born Again” Christians and 46 percent who did not accept that designation.

Interestingly, when asked a number of questions concerning the mixing of religion and public policy, the results indicated considerable support for the separation of the two. For example:

  • 53 percent oppose and 36 percent favor the government giving grants to religious charities that offer people non-religious social services.
  • 82 percent oppose and only 10 percent favor the government giving grants to religious charities that offer people social services that encourage them to change religions.

Southern Illinois may be very religious and attend church extraordinarily regularly; however, a majority of the residents seem to be very skeptical about breaking down the wall of separation between church and state in this manner,” said Jackson.

The poll of 401 registered voters in the 18-county area of southernmost Illinois was taken April 5 to 13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. The interviews were conducted for the Institute by Customer Research International of San Marcos, Texas. It reports no Illinois political figures as clients and was paid with non-tax dollars from the Institute’s endowment fund.

Click here for complete poll results.

(For more information, contact John Jackson at 618/453-4009 or at jsjacson@siu.edu.)

(Note: The “Simon Poll” and “Southern Illinois Poll” are applying to be the copyrighted trademarks of the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University. Use or publication of these polls is encouraged - but only with credit to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIUC.)