• Scotland: Lessons for Effective Ministry in a Post-Christian Context

    Scotland: Lessons for Effective Ministry in a Post-Christian Context

    August 27, 2015— Can the Christian community flourish in a post-Christian context? This is the main question behind a landmark study of the state of faith and effective ministry in Scotland—the first of its kind for Barna Group outside of North America.

  • 2015 Sees Sharp Rise in Post-Christian Population

    2015 Sees Sharp Rise in Post-Christian Population

    While the United States remains shaped by Christianity, the faith’s influence—particularly as a force in American politics and culture—is slowly waning. An increasing number of religiously unaffiliated, a steady drop in church attendance, the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, and the growing tension over religious freedoms all point to a larger secularizing trend sweeping across the nation.

    But how do the numbers stack up? Is America, home to the largest Christian population in the world, actually becoming a “post-Christian” nation? In a recent study, Barna Group analyzed 60,808 interviews conducted over a seven-year period to measure irreligion in American cities. Currently, 78% of Americans describe themselves as “Christian,” but in order to dig deeper than just self-affiliation, Barna Group looked at a variety of key faith indicators for both belief and practice.

    To measure a person’s level of irreligion, Barna Group tracks 15 metrics related to faith (you can find the full list of 15 at the end of the article). These factors speak to the lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year, or have not read the Bible in the last week.

    These kinds of questions—compared to ticking the “Christian” box in a census—get beyond how people loosely identify themselves (affiliation), and get to the core of what people actually believe and how they behave as a result of their belief (practice). These indicators give a much more accurate picture of belief in America.

    To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet 60% or more of the factors (nine or more out of 15 criteria). “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 80% or more of the factors (12 or more of these 15 criteria). Read more about Barna’s post-Christian metric.

    Where Are We as a Nation?
    Whether one believes this decline of “Christian America” calls for a time of lament, or presents great opportunity (or both) for the church, one cannot help but accept the changing landscape. In just two years, the percentage of Americans who qualify as “post-Christian” rose by 7 percentage points, from 37% in 2013 to 44% in 2015. Across the United States, cities in every state are becoming more post-Christian—some at a faster rate than others

    Find out which American cities ranked as the most “Post-Christian” in 2015—
    and see where you city stands >


    Post-Christian Metrics
    To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet 60% or more of the following factors (nine or more). “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 80% or more of the factors (12 or more of these 15 criteria).

    1. Do not believe in God
    2. Identify as atheist or agnostic
    3. Disagree that faith is important in their lives
    4. Have not prayed to God (in the last year)
    5. Have never made a commitment to Jesus
    6. Disagree the Bible is accurate
    7. Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
    8. Have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
    9. Agree that Jesus committed sins
    10. Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
    11. Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
    12. Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
    13. Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
    14. Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
    15. Do not participate in a house church (in the last year)

    About the Research
    The data reported in this article are based on telephone and online interviews with nationwide random samples of 60,808 adults conducted over a seven-year period, through 2015.

    The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is plus or minus 0.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All non-institutionalized adults in the 48 contiguous states were eligible to be interviewed and the distribution of respondents in the survey sample corresponds to the geographic dispersion of the U.S. adult population. Some interviews were conducted in Spanish, but the vast majority of the interviews were completed in English.

    All telephone interviews were conducted by Barna Group. All households were selected for inclusion in the sample using a random-digit dial technique, which allows every telephone household in the nation to have an equal and known probability of selection. Households selected for inclusion in the survey sample received multiple callbacks to increase the probability of obtaining a representative distribution of adults. Regional quotas were used to ensure that sufficient population dispersion was achieved. There were also minimum and maximum ranges placed on the distribution of respondents within several demographic variables that were tracked during the field process to ensure that statistical weighting would not be excessive. When a particular attribute reached one of the parameters, the sampling selection process was varied to preclude individuals who did not meet the necessary demographic criterion, with the interviewer seeking a person from the same household who fit the desired criterion. Up to 30% of telephone interviewing was conducted on cell phones in the data represented in States.

    Online interviews were conducted using an online research panel called KnowledgePanel® based on probability sampling that covers both the online and offline populations in the U.S. The panel members are randomly recruited by telephone and by self-administered mail and web surveys. Households are provided with access to the Internet and hardware if needed. Unlike other Internet research that covers only individuals with Internet access who volunteer for research, this process uses a dual sampling frame that includes both listed and unlisted phone numbers, telephone and non-telephone households, and cell-phone-only households. The panel is not limited to current Web users or computer owners. All potential panelists are randomly selected to join the KnowledgePanel; unselected volunteers are not able to join.

    The survey questions pertaining to faith and demographics were analyzed in reference to two different geographic perspectives: by DMA and by state. The label “DMA” stands for Designated Market Area and represents a unique geographic area that also serves as a commonly accepted media market as defined by The Neilsen Company. DMAs have been configured so that the entire U.S. is assigned to one, and only one, of 210 DMAs. These are based on the television viewing habits of the residents in each county.

    While there are 210 DMAs, this report contains data for 117. These are the areas in which Barna had a sufficient number of completed surveys with people from a given market. In most markets, we had a sample of 150 or more; a few smaller markets had a minimum of 100. We used the same minimum-level criteria for the states analyzed in this report.

    Some calculations include data from The Nielsen Company/Local Television Market Universe Estimates and the U.S. Census Bureau.

    © 2015, Barna Group

  • Friendships Are the Top Thing People Love Most About Their Cities

    Friendships Are the Top Thing People Love Most About Their Cities

    July 29, 2015—“There’s no place like home,” repeats Dorothy as she taps those famous ruby slippers together. The place to which she so desperately longs to return is Kansas, that little corner of the world she calls home. One might imagine the Depression-era dustbowl of Kansas is no match for the wonders of Oz, but it’s the place she feels rooted, attached and secure.

  • Putting Down Roots: Most Americans Plan to Stay Where They Are

    Putting Down Roots: Most Americans Plan to Stay Where They Are

    July 15, 2015— Leslie Knope’s endearing enthusiasm for her beloved town of Pawnee in NBC’s Parks and Recreation may be rubbing off on the rest of us, because an increasing number of Americans are “going local.” From food to clothing to breweries, locally owned and locally grown have become premium labels. Whether it’s an objection to corporate franchising, a push for more local jobs or a desire to utilize local resources more sustainably, “going local” stems from a real sense of attachment or belonging to place.

  • Christians React to the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: 9 Key Findings

    Christians React to the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: 9 Key Findings

    July 1, 2015—— On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This landmark decision was met with both celebration and sorrow as Americans on both sides of the debate voiced their opinions on the decision. A new Barna survey conducted in the wake of the ruling reveals nine key findings that will help make sense of where Americans stand—and what’s next in this divisive conversation.


Capital at DawnApril 5, 2011 - A new national survey of registered voters conducted by the Barna Group reveals that the issues that will most affect the candidate people support for President in the 2012 election are most likely to be those affecting their personal security and comfort.

The matters that are likely to have the least impact on their choice of candidate are moral issues.

The issues most likely to influence which candidate voters embrace in the 2012 presidential election are health care (which 64% said will have “a lot of influence” on the candidate they choose), tax policies (60%), terrorism (50%) and employment policies (50%).

A second level of influential issues included immigration policies (45%), education policy (44%), the wars in the Middle East (43%), and America’s dependence upon foreign oil (38%).

The issues noted as being least likely to influence how voters feel about potential candidates tended to be those with distinct moral underpinnings. Those matters include domestic poverty policies (37%), abortion (27%), environmental policy (26%), and gay marriage (24%).

Faith Impacts Views
The survey data showed that there are also substantial differences in the importance attached to various issues based upon a person's faith commitments.

One of the critical voting segments in America is born again Christians, who have represented nearly half of the votes cast in the most recent presidential elections. The interests of born again voters are distinct from those of non-born again adults: there were statistically significant differences in interest levels between those two segments regarding eight of the 12 issues in the survey. In each case where there was a gap between those groups, born again adults were more likely to consider the issue in question to have “a lot of influence” on their candidate selection. The largest gaps related to domestic poverty policy (19 points), terrorism (16 points), abortion (15 points), and dependence on foreign oil (15 points). Unexpectedly, there was no difference in the importance attached to the gay marriage issue between these two groups.

An interesting comparison considers the views of two segments sometimes considered to be at opposite ends of the faith continuum: evangelical Christians and Spiritual Skeptics (e.g., atheists and agnostics). There were statistically significant differences of opinion between the two groups on nine of the twelve issues examined – and, in most cases, those differences were huge. The two groups were more than 20 percentage points apart in relation to the importance of taxes, terrorism, immigration, abortion, and gay marriage. In all nine of the instances of significant differences, evangelicals were more likely than Skeptics to classify the issue as one that will have a lot of influence on their candidate selection in 2012. (See the accompanying table for specific data.)

Issues Influencing Candidate Selection
Question: Many issues will be discussed during the presidential campaign. Please indicate how much influence the candidates’ positions on the particular issues listed will have on your decision of who to vote for in 2012. (INFLUENCE SCALE: a lot, some, not too much, none.)

Another intriguing comparison is between mainline and non-mainline Protestants. There were significant differences between these two groups on nine of the 12 issues studied. The only issues on which the two groups saw eye-to-eye were health care (the top-ranked issue for both segments), education, and wars in the Middle East. The biggest gaps related to gay marriage (deemed to have a lot of influence on their candidate selection by 40% of non-mainline Protestants, but among only 17% of the mainliners) and abortion (highly influential for 43% of the non-mainline group but just 19% of the mainline adults).

The data show that the adults who attend mainline Protestant churches had a response profile that was strikingly similar to that of Skeptics on the moral issues gauged. For instance, relatively few people from each group said gay marriage was important in their candidate selection (17% of mainliners, 20% of Skeptics), as was also true regarding abortion (19% of mainliners, 20% of Skeptics) and domestic poverty (32% of mainliners, 29% of Skeptics).

Protestants and Catholics have become more similar to each other in political matters over the past several decades. On the 12 issues measured in the survey, there were significant differences between these two groups regarding only two issues: abortion and gay marriage. In both cases, Protestants were more likely than Catholics to indicate the issue would play a meaningful role in their candidate selection process. Overall, 35% of Protestants and 25% of Catholics said a candidate’s abortion position would greatly matter to them; one-third of Protestants (33%) and only one-fifth of Catholics (19%) said gay marriage policy would substantially affect their candidate decision.

Major Changes Since 1992
The Barna survey also revealed seismic shifts in the issues that move voters since the 1992 election. Six election cycles ago, the most influential issues were drug law enforcement (listed by 80% of adults as having a lot of influence on their choice of candidate), economic matters (79%), crime reduction and prevention (78%), public education (78%), and health care (75%).

During the intervening 19 years, people’s concerns have changed dramatically. Health care has risen in relative importance (it is currently the top-ranked issue among those studied) but has declined in absolute significance (down 11 percentage points).

Tax policy has doubled in the percentage of adults listing it as a significant influence on candidate selection. In 1992, only three out of every ten adults considered tax policy to be a major influence; today, six out of ten adults rate it as such.

Employment policies have risen in significance by 14 points; educational policy has risen more modestly (five points); the impact of candidates’ abortion position has not changed; and environmental policy has dropped substantially in its influence (down 19 points).

Looking at the role of faith on people’s perspectives, the accompanying table provides some interesting views on the changes that have occurred. Among evangelicals, the impact of health care and abortion on their candidate selection is the same today as it was 19 years ago. However, major shifts have occurred related to employment policy (down 21 points), education policy (down 42 points), and environmental policy (down 28 points).

Catholics have undergone some transitions in their priorities, too. All six of the issues studied in both 1992 and 2011 showed significant drops in influence. The largest of those changes related to education policy (down 26 points), abortion (down 32 points), and environmental policy (down 35 points).

Among Protestants there were significant shifts concerning five of the six issues. The only issue that has not seen a notable change in priority was employment policy. The largest shifts related to education policy (down 18 points) and environmental policy (down 20 points).

Several observations about the findings were offered by the director of the study, George Barna.

“One of the most significant transitions in the past 20 years has been among Catholics. For instance, in the early 1990s, Catholics were among the standard bearers for opposition to abortion. Today, however, the influence of abortion on the voting preferences of Catholics has waned and is more similar to that issue’s level of influence on Skeptics than to the degree of influence it has on candidate choice among Protestants.

“On the other hand,” Barna continued, “evangelical Christians distinguished themselves by their consistency. The issues that mattered to evangelicals in 1992 are the same issues that matter to them today. Some analysts have suggested this means evangelicals are out of touch with the times and are stuck in the past. A more realistic interpretation is that evangelicals’ perspectives have remained stable because they are based on a worldview that does not shift with the ebb and flow of cultural preferences and fads.”

George Barna also noted that the survey in 1992 revealed nine issues which at least 60% of adults said would influence their candidate selection a lot, but just two issues that reached that level in the 2011 study. Asked to explain the large difference the former political campaign manager and pollster for numerous political campaigns offered several options. “First, realize that we are not yet in the thick of the 2012 election cycle. We are still a good eight months away from that, so we are likely to see an increase in people’s attentiveness to the issues and a rise in the stated influence of various issues. Second, in the past two decades we have seen a startling rise in the complexity of society and the fragmentation of people’s lives. Individuals are now less likely to follow a broad slate of issue positions. They focus on two or three matters of primary concern and give only passing attention to the rest. Also, Americans are staggering under the tidal wave of information. With each new election cycle we have seen fewer and fewer people who are truly versed in the nuances of numerous issues. Instead, they are more aware of personality traits and aspects of candidate appearance and confidence. Presidential elections have become more of a personality driven media event than a policy forum. Thirty-second sound bites sometimes represent the totality of what voters know about a particular issue.”

Disclosure: Barna Group is not under contract with any of the potential presidential candidates.

About the Research
This report is based upon online interviews conducted in the Barna Group OmniPoll ℠. This study consisted of a random sample of 1,021 adults selected from across the continental United States, age 18 and older, February 10 through February 18, 2011. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the aggregate sample to known population percentages in relation to several key demographic variables.

The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population operated by Knowledge Networks. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, Knowledge Networks provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection. People who already have computers and Internet service are permitted to participate using their own equipment. Panelists then receive unique log-in information for accessing surveys online, and then are sent emails throughout each month inviting them to participate in research.

"Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."

"Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."

Protestant mainline denominations includes American Baptist Churches in the USA; the Episcopal Church; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Presbyterian Church (USA); the United Church of Christ; and the United Methodist Church.

Non-mainline denominations are Protestant churches other than those included in the mainline category described above.

About the Barna Group
Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from the Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.

© Barna Group 2011.

Copyright Disclaimer: All the information contained on the barna.org website is copyrighted by Issachar Companies, Inc., 2368 Eastman Ave. Unit 12, Ventura, California 93003. No portion of this website (articles, graphs, charts, reviews, pictures, video clips, quotes, statistics, etc.) may be reproduced, retransmitted, disseminated, sold, distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, circulated, or commercially exploited without the prior written permission from the Barna Group.