UU World editors invited readers to answer survey questions to compare themselves to a new Pew Research Center “religious typology” analysis.
On August 29, Pew Research Center released a study using cluster analysis to define seven American religious “types,” based on sixteen questions its researchers asked of 4,729 Americans in December 2017 about their religious beliefs and practices. The types identified by Pew were given shorthand names such as “Sunday Stalwarts” and “Solidly Secular.”
Curious to know how Unitarian Universalists might compare to the random sample, UU World editors took advantage of a tool provided by Pew to set up a group survey and used a Facebook post to invite UUs to respond to it. At the time of writing, nearly 2,000 people have taken the group quiz, and the results demonstrate how atypical UUs are among the U.S. population.
Two-thirds of UU respondents fall into two of Pew’s types: Solidly Secular (34%) and Religious Resisters (34%). (The general public came in at 17% and 12%, respectively. Exact percentages of UU respondents may change, but the results have been consistently within a percentage point or two since the first few hundred respondents.) While Pew characterizes these two types as nonreligious, UUs are vastly more likely than the general public to attend religious services (38% attend once a week compared to 16% for the general public) and to be active in religious or spiritual organizations (64% vs. 19%). Our respondents, however, are less likely to pray: 60% pray “seldom” or “never” compared to 34% of the general public. No UU respondents fell into Pew’s "God-and-Country Believers” group.
Our respondents characterize themselves as spiritual at a higher rate than the general public, but slightly less religious. 99% say it is not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values (vs. 66% of general population). 74% do not believe in heaven (vs. 28%), and 92% do not believe in hell (vs. 38%).
UU respondents say they find meaning and fulfillment in all sources the survey asked about at higher rates than the general public.
Our respondents are far more likely than the general public to believe that “churches and religious organizations do more harm than good for American society” (48% vs. 21%).
While many commenters on our Facebook post were bemused at the type the quiz placed them in or questioned the methodology, others felt the results were a fair approximation.
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Kenneth Sutton is managing editor of UU World.
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