Americans view churches more positively than universities or media, Pew study finds

(Wikimedia Commons/Eric Pancer)Front fascade of St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center has found that Americans view religious institutions more positively compared to other institutions such as labor unions, banks, colleges, or the media.

The report, released on Monday, revealed that 59 percent of Americans continue to view the church as an institution which has a positive impact, while 26 percent see it as one with a negative impact.

The church's ratings are more than twice as high as the media, which is viewed positively by 28 percent of Americans and negatively by 63 percent.

While 55 percent of the public still view universities in college positively, an increasing number or Republicans are expressing negative views about the educational institutions. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believe that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the nation, compared to 45 percent last year. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, 72 percent say that the educational institutions have a positive effect.

The report noted that little has changed in the public's view about the impact of the church during the political shifts over the past few years.

The study found that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to view the church negatively. Forty-four percent of Liberal Democrats believe that the church has a negative impact on society, compared with 40 percent who view the churches positively.

Overall, 73 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners believe that churches have a positive effect, compared with 50 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

The religiously unaffiliated were the least likely to view the church positively at 34 percent, compared to 80 percent of white evangelical Protestants, 66 percent of black Protestants and 61 percent of white Catholics.

The Pew study was conducted nationally from June 8–18, in which 2,504 adult respondents were interviewed.

Last year, a Gallup poll indicated that the church has been ranked among the most-trusted institutions, just below the police and the military, despite having dropped to a record-low 41 percent confidence rating.

Gallup reported that the public trust in the clergy has also declined from 61 percent in 1977 to 44 percent in 2016.

"For the fourth year in a row—in a nation where religion is an important part of life for three-fourths of the population — less than half of Americans think religious leaders have high ethical standards," Gallup said.

"Meanwhile, two groups of professionals linked to the bitter political battles of 2016 — college teachers and journalists — are at or near their all-time lows, with views split along partisan lines," it continued.

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