Before plunging into other data, The Guy offers colleagues a few preliminary thoughts on news reporting about this survey, which follows a similar Ipsos project in 2017, and whether instead it’s wiser to just keep the report on file for selective later use where pertinent.
The “26-country average” used by Ipsos lumps together all its findings, suggesting numbers like the 47% who see “more harm” represent the entire global population.
The Guy thinks these numbers may be too sketchy to tell us much. Indeed, one footnote has the head-scratching explanation that the averages were not adjusted on the basis of nations’ varied population sizes and are therefore “not intended to suggest a total result.”
Also, although this is indeed an ambitious globe-sweeping effort by a major player in polling, Ipsos surveyed only South Africa on the African continent where churches are expanding, only Hungary in Eastern Europe, and only Turkey among many nations where Islam dominates. Oh yes, and then there are the huge omissions of China and Russia, presumably because reliable polling there is so difficult.
A few technical points. We are not told the “response rate” but if it’s as low as 10% or 20%, which is often the case with polls these days, accuracy can be iffy despite reported low margins of error. Much of the polling was online, also thought by some experts to yield debatable numbers. In several nations, those sampled had to be more urban than the general population, and thus more educated and affluent.
Then there’s the issue of sample sizes. Though an impressive total of 19,731 adults took part, that breaks down to only 500 people in 15 of the nations, for example representing 133 million people in Mexico.
All that said, if we downplay the exact numbers, Ipsos sketches interesting broad-brush scenarios. As a very loose generalization, the U.S. remains fairly devout among western industrialized democracies, with Western Europe ever more post-Christian and Canada falling in between, while “Global South” countries continue to be notably religious.
Respondents were asked whether they believe “in God as described in holy scriptures” such as the Bible or Quran. No surprise, Japan was by far the lowest in affirming that concept, but just behind was South Korea even though it has seen expansion of many Christian churches. Next came Western Europe, led off by The Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Britain. In the U.S., a slim 51% majority affirmed that belief.
When individuals were asked if they attend “a place of worship” monthly or more often, Hindu India was far ahead of the other 25 countries, followed by a religiously variegated list of South Africa, Thailand, Brazil and Turkey. The U.S. again ranked in the middle at 11th place, with 28% reporting such frequency.
Other assorted numbers: Belgians had the lowest belief in heaven (22%), surpassing even Japan (28%). How come? Brazil, South Africa, Colombia, Turkey and Singapore ranked highest in belief that “God or higher forces allow me to overcome crises” and similarly in saying belief “gives meaning to my life.”
On whether religious practices are important in “the moral life” of their nations, top rank went to Thailand, India, South Africa, Brazil, and Singapore. The same countries’ citizens also think religious people are “happier.” Majorities in India, Thailand, Turkey, South Africa, Singapore and Brazil agreed that “my religion defines me as a person.”
South Korea, Germany, and Japan ranked notably low in those who agreed that “I am completely comfortable being around people who have different religious beliefs than me.” High multi-faith comfort levels were expressed in South Africa, Singapore, Australia, the U.S. and Canada.
The full report has considerable data comparing countries and beliefs by age sectors that warrant a careful look.
Ipsos contact: Nicolas Boyon, U.S. senior vice president for public affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org or 646–309-4879).