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Pew survey’s unusual finding: upswing in religion’s influence

PRINCETON, N.J. (BP)–Although church attendance has returned to the four-in-ten levels of last spring, a survey by The Pew Research Center indicates the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks “have increased the prominence of religion in the United States to an extraordinary degree.”

“Fully 78 percent now say religion’s influence in American life is growing — up from 37 percent eight months ago and the highest mark on this measure in surveys dating back four decades,” the Pew Center reported from a Nov. 13-19 survey of 1,500 individuals age 18 and above, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In a 1957 Gallup survey, 69 percent of those surveyed said the influence of religion was increasing, the Pew Center stated, but that view has never exceeded 45 percent since.

Another significant finding: Favorable views of Muslim-Americans rose to 59 percent from 45 percent in March of this year. Among conservative Republicans, the favorable view of Muslims climbed to 64 percent, up by 29 percentage points since March.

Other findings:

— 44 percent of the Nov. 13-19 sample said they are praying more, although the number had spiked to 69 percent immediately after the terrorist attacks, in Pew polling from Sept. 13-17. The Pew Center observed, however, that “evidence suggests that it is largely those already highly religious who are saying they have increased their religious activity even further.” The number of people who regard religion as “very important” to them personally, meanwhile, was virtually unchanged, at 61 percent, from the previous March.

— 54 percent of parents described themselves as trying to spend more time with their children, compared to 37 percent in the overall Pew sample.

— Asked whether the terrorist attacks are a sign “that God is no longer protecting the United States as much as in the past,” 73 percent of the overall sample rejected that possibility as did 63 percent of white evangelical Protestants.

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