Few respondents acknowledge having a basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism.

Americans hold overly positive views on Christianity, but are not as approving in their assessment of other religions, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

The online survey of a representative national sample of 1,024 American adults also shows that almost half of respondents regard Islam as a religion that encourages violence.

Views on Religions

Four-in-five respondents (83%) generally have a favorable view of Christianity, while at least two-in-five feel the same way about Judaism (47%) and Buddhism (43%).

Only one third of respondents (35%) hold a favorable view of Hinduism, followed by Islam (23%) and Sikhism (16%). More than half of respondents (52%) hold an unfavorable view of Islam.

Understanding of Religions

While 91 per cent of Americans claim to have a good basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of Christianity, less than half are knowledgeable about five other religions: Judaism (43%), Islam (34%), Buddhism (31%), Hinduism (22%) and Sikhism (8%).

Friends

Nine-in-ten respondents (92%) have at least one friend who is a follower of Christianity. Two-in-five (39%) have a friend who is a follower of Judaism, and one-in-five know a follower of Buddhism (21%) or Islam (also 21%). Fewer Americans reported having a Hindu (14%) or Sikh (4%) friend.

Marriage

Four-in-five Americans (83%) would find it acceptable for one of their children to marry a follower of Christianity, and almost half (47%) feel the same way about a follower of Judaism. Considerably lower proportions would find it acceptable for their child to marry a follower of Buddhism (38%), Hinduism (33%), Islam (28%) and Sikhism (25%).

Violence and Peace

Only 10 per cent of respondents believe Sikhism and Christianity are religions that encourage violence, and even fewer feel the same way about Judaism (7%), Hinduism (7%) and Buddhism (6%). More than two-in-five respondents (45%) believe Islam is a religion that encourages violence, while one-in-four (25%) describe it as a peaceful religion.

Measures

Seven-in-ten Americans (70%) flatly reject the application of sharia (or muslim law) in certain areas of the United States, and almost four-in-five (78%) disagree with allowing men to marry more than one woman, based on their religious beliefs. Half of respondents (50%) support the notion of allowing employees to miss work on religious holidays that are not days off for the rest of the workforce.

Analysis

Christianity is regarded very positively by Americans, with Judaism and Buddhism also receiving some sympathetic reviews on the favorability and marriage questions. There is a low level of familiarity when it comes to Hinduism and Sikhism, with large proportions of Americans accepting that they do not have a basic understanding of the teachings and beliefs of these religions. Out of the six religions evaluated, Islam is regarded as violent by a sizeable proportion of Americans, and is also the only one to elicit unfavorable views in more than half of respondents.

Download full tables with regional, age, gender, education, income and party ID breakdowns here.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

CONTACT:

Mario Canseco, Vice President, Communications & Media Relations
+877 730 3570
mario.canseco@angus-reid.com

Methodology: From September 14 to September 15, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,024 American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the United States. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.