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U.S. Teens More Likely than Adults to Believe in God, Heaven and Angels

Only 43% of American teens believe in Darwin's theory of evolution

NEW YORK, March 13, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent Harris Poll of U.S. adults (ages 18 and older) found belief in God (74%), while strong, to be in decline when compared to previous years; the same held true for many other building blocks of the Judeo-Christian belief system, while belief in Darwin's theory of evolution (47%) was on the rise. But what about the next generation of Americans? As it turns out, belief in God (80% teens vs. 74% adults), heaven (78% teens vs. 68% adults) and angels (74% teens vs. 68% adults), among other foundational religious beliefs, are higher among U.S. teens (ages 13-18) than among their adult counterparts.

Harris Poll Logo.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 712 U.S. teens (ages 13-18) surveyed online from February 12-24, 2014 using the Harris Poll YouthQuery omnibus platform. (Click here for complete results, including data tables)

Belief in miracles (76% teens vs. 72% adults) is also stronger among U.S. teens than among adult Americans, as is belief in the devil (65% teens vs. 58% adults) and in hell (64% teens vs. 58% adults). Teens are also more likely to believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God (74% teens vs. 68% adults) and to believe in the resurrection of Christ (70% teens vs. 65% adults). On the other hand, teens are less likely than adults to believe in Darwin's theory of evolution (43% teens vs. 47% adults).

Gender & age differences
Female teenagers are more likely than their male counterparts to believe in God (84% females vs. 77% males), along with several of the traditional concepts of the Judeo-Christian belief system, including heaven (82% females vs. 74% males), miracles (81% females vs. 71% males) and angels (81% females vs. 67% males).

Turning away from religious concepts, Female teens are also more likely to believe in ghosts (53% females vs. 39% males), while their male counterparts are more likely to believe in UFOs (35% males vs. 27% females).

Breaking out findings by age, older teens (ages 16-18) are more likely than their younger counterparts (ages 13-15) to believe in Darwin's theory of evolution (48% older teens vs. 38% younger teens). This could be a byproduct of their likely having a few more science classes under their belts by their late teens – though this fails to explain older teens also being more likely to believe in astrology (41% older teens vs. 32% younger teens).

Absolute certainty that there is a God on par with adults; differences emerge by gender
In a separate line of questioning, focused on U.S. teens' and adults' degree of certainty that there is or is not a God, nearly seven in ten Americans in both of these groups (69% teens, 68% adults) indicate being either absolutely or somewhat certain that there is a God, while 54% of each group specify being absolutely certain.

  • Absolute certainty that there is a God is significantly stronger among female teens (58%) than among their male counterparts (49%).
  • Male teens, meanwhile, are roughly twice as likely as their female counterparts to hold the admittedly minority viewpoint of absolute certainty that there is no God (11% vs. 6%, respectively).

Gender of God
Unlike U.S. adults, teens display a consensus as to whether God is a man or a woman, with the majority (53% teens vs. 39% adults) believing that He is male, with notable minorities believing God is neither male nor female (24% teens vs. 31% adults) or both male and female (7% teens vs. 10% adults); only 1% of U.S. teens and adults alike believe She is female.

Younger teens are more likely to believe that God is male (58% ages 13-15 vs. 49% ages 16-18), while older teens are more likely to believe that God is neither male nor female (28% ages 16-18 vs. 20% ages 13-15).

Click here for more information regarding the Harris Poll YouthQuery platform.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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A Note on the Methodology Used and How It Affects the Results
Other research has shown that when replying to a question administered impersonally by a computer, people are less likely to say they believe in God, or attend Church services when they really don't.  It is generally believed that surveys conducted by live interviewers tend to exaggerate the numbers of people who report the socially desirable, or less embarrassing, behavior, and that the replies given to an online survey such as this, are more honest and therefore more accurate.

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 12 and 24, 2014 among 712 teenagers (aged 13-18) using the Harris Poll YouthQuery omnibus platform. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #25, March 13, 2014
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll.  Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.

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Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll
[email protected]  

SOURCE The Harris Poll

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