New Research Shows that the Pandemic has Strengthened Religious Faith by 28%
The Pew Research centre reports that more Americans than people in other advanced economies Say COVID-19 has strengthened Religious Faith. Nearly three-in-ten U.S. adults say the outbreak has boosted their faith; about four-in-ten say it has tightened family bondsHow we did this
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause deaths and disrupt billions of lives globally, people may turn to religious groups, family, friends, co-workers or other social networks for support. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in the summer of 2020 reveals that more Americans than people in other economically developed countries say the outbreak has bolstered their religious faith and the faith of their compatriots. Nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) report stronger personal faith because of the pandemic, and the same share think the religious faith of Americans overall has strengthened, according to the survey of 14 economically developed countries. Far smaller shares in other parts of the world say religious faith has been affected by the coronavirus. For example, just 10% of British adults report that their own faith is stronger as a result of the pandemic, and 14% think the faith of Britons overall has increased due to COVID-19. In Japan, 5% of people say religion now plays a stronger role in both their own lives and the lives of their fellow citizens. Majorities or pluralities in all the countries surveyed do not feel that religious faith has been strengthened by the pandemic, including 68% of U.S. adults who say their own faith has not changed much and 47% who say the faith of their compatriots is about the same. Some previous studies have found an uptick in religious observance after people experience a calamity. And a Pew Research Center report published in October 2020 showed that roughly a third (35%) of Americans say the pandemic carries one or more lessons from God. When it comes to questions about strength of religious belief, the wide variation in responses across countries may reflect differences in the way people in different countries view the role of religion in their private and public lives. European countries experienced rapid secularization starting in the 19th century, and today, comparatively few people in Italy (25%), the Netherlands (17%) or Sweden (9%) say that religion is very important in their lives.1 East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea have low rates of religious affiliation and observance – at least by Western-centric measures. The state of the pandemic during the summer 2020 survey period Pew Research Center’s survey was conducted June 10 to Aug. 3, 2020, when all of the countries surveyed were under social distancing and/or national lockdown orders due to COVID-19. Even though the coronavirus is a global pandemic, not all countries have experienced the disease in the same way. During the fielding period, Australia, Japan and the United States had rising numbers of infections, while Italy and some other European countries had started to recover from the large number of cases reported in April and May. Nearly all countries surveyed experienced significant spikes in infections and deaths in the fall and winter. The worsening of the pandemic, including tightening restrictions after the survey was conducted, may have affected views of faith and family since the summer of 2020. Attitudes also may continue to shift as the pandemic evolves. Nevertheless, if the differences between the U.S. and other economically developed countries on religion-related questions have deeper roots, they may persist even as the pandemic wears on, and the same may be true of differences between demographic groups within countries. The United States recently has experienced some trends toward secularization, including a growing share of the population that does not identify with any religion and a shrinking share of people who say they regularly attend a church or other house of worship. Still, religion continues to play a stronger role in American life than in many other economically developed countries. For example, nearly half of Americans (49%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 20% in Australia, 17% in South Korea and just 9% in Japan.In nearly every country surveyed, those who say religion is very important in their lives are more likely to say both their own faith and that of their compatriots has grown due to the pandemic. Americans’ greater proclivity to turn to religion amid the pandemic is largely driven by the relatively high share of religious Americans (In several countries, those who say religion is somewhat, not too or not at all important to them personally are less likely take a clear position either way on how their faith has been affected by the pandemic.) Religion is just one of many aspects of life that have been touched by the pandemic. Family relationships, too, have been affected by lockdowns, economic turmoil and the consequences of falling ill. Many in countries that were hit hard by initial waves of infections and deaths in the spring say their family relationships have strengthened. That is the case in Spain (42%), Italy, the UK and the U.S. (41% each). In the U.S. and in several other countries, younger adults are especially likely to say they feel a stronger bond with immediate family members since the start of the pandemic. These are among the findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted June 10 to Aug. 3, 2020, among 14,276 adults in 14 countries. Americans most likely to say COVID-19 bolstered religious faith, though majorities around world see little changeIn 11 of 14 countries surveyed, the share who say their religious faith has strengthened is higher than the share who say it has weakened. But generally, people in developed countries don’t see much change in their own religious faith as a result of the pandemic. A median of 10% across 14 developed countries say their own religious faith has become stronger as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, while a median of 85% say their religious faith had not changed much. Among the countries surveyed, the U.S. has by far the highest share of respondents who say their faith has strengthened, with about three-in-ten holding this view. By contrast, in Spain and Italy, two of Western Europe’s more religious countries, roughly one-in-six people say their own religious faith has grown due to the pandemic. In Canada, 13% say their religious faith has become stronger because of COVID-19. And in other countries surveyed, one-in-ten or fewer report deeper faith due to the coronavirus outbreak.