• A new poll finds that the share of Americans who say patriotism and religion are “very important” to them has fallen sharply, as has the share who value involvement in their community, hard work, and having children. While in 1998, 70 percent of respondents deemed patriotism to be very important, that proportion is now 38 percent, according to the new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll. Twenty-five years ago, 62 percent said religion was very important; now only 39 percent do. The survey found that the only priority “that has grown in importance in the past quarter-century is money, which was cited as very important by 43 percent in the new survey, up from 31 percent in 1998.” Only 58 percent of people responding to the Wall Street Journal poll said “tolerance for others” was very important; four years ago, that number stood at 80 percent, reports The Spectator magazine (March 28). But in an article in Commentary (March 27), Abe Greenwald cautions against pronouncing doom for American religion and society. He notes that when “asked to rate these values, respondents could choose from ‘very important,’ ‘somewhat important,’ ‘not that important,’ or ‘not important at all.’ If you tally the ‘very important’ and ‘somewhat important’ percentages and compare them to the combined ‘not that important’ and ‘not important at all’ ones, it’s a clear win for tradition and conservative values. On patriotism, it’s 73 percent to 27 percent; on religion, 60 percent to 40 percent; on having children, 65 percent to 33 percent. And on marriage, 70 percent to 28 percent.”On his blog The Intersection (March 28), Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini expresses some doubts about the poll’s results. He writes that the “dramatically different results we see from 2019 and 2023 are because the data was collected differently. The March 2023 survey was collected via NORC’s Amerispeak, an extremely high-quality online panel. In the fine print below the chart, we can see that data from previous waves was collected via telephone survey.” Ruffini writes that the 2023 survey probably does a better job at revealing the true state of patriotism, religiosity, community involvement, and so forth, since respondents are more likely to report their true views online rather than over the phone to pollsters. But he concludes, “The problem is that the data from previous waves were inflated by social desirability bias—and can’t be trended with the current data to generate a neat-and-tidy viral chart…”


  • A new study finds that while sex scandals involving megachurch pastors have an effect on church attendance and giving to the congregation, such “shocks” are relatively short-lived and do not have a spillover effect on charitable giving. In a paper presented at the March meeting of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture at Harvard University, which RW attended, Angela Cools of Davidson College looked at areas within 10 miles of megachurches experiencing a sex related scandal involving their senior pastor. Using the Cooperative Election survey on religious practice and IRS data, she found that there was a five percent drop in attendance and a one percent decrease in congregational contributions. But the effect of this shock to attendance and giving was short-lived, lasting for about two years. Cools did not find that a growth in secular contributions replaced the loss of church contributions. She noted that in some ways the effects of the Protestant megachurch scandals were similar to those caused by the Catholic priest sex scandals, but due to the decentralized and congregational nature of megachurches, their scandals were local rather than national shocks, making them more short-lived and with less broad implications.

    Source: Allen Browne, Seeking the Kingdom.


  • A new survey highlights the importance of the chaplain’s role in a society with a growing rate of religious disaffiliation. Brian Grim, on his Religious Freedom and Business Foundation website (March 18), reports on the survey, which was conducted by Wendy Cadge and Amy Lawton of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. The researchers found that 18 percent of American adults had been in contact with a chaplain, with the majority of such interactions taking place in healthcare settings. The authors note that a “chaplain may be the only religious professional available to many people” as religious affiliation declines. But the survey found that the “American public does not have a common understanding of who or what a chaplain is,” or how to access them. The survey also found that most people were the primary recipient of the chaplain’s care (56 percent of respondents) and/or encountered the chaplain as a visitor or caregiver (55 percent). Chaplains commonly supported care seekers through prayer (81 percent) and listening (80 percent). The most commonly discussed topics were death and dying (53 percent), dealing with loss (51 percent), and dealing with change (49 percent).
    (The study can be downloaded at:

    Source: Chaplaincy Innovation Lab.


  • A new study finds that religiosity in Poland increased in areas dominated by government controlled populist media and decreased where alternative media was dominant. The study, conducted by Seyhun Orcan Sakalli of King’s College, London, and presented in a paper at the recent meeting of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture at Harvard University, was conducted against the backdrop of the emergence of the populist government in Poland in 2015. The government took control of much of the media, using it for propaganda, with TVN television as its main channel for airing populist and Catholic views. Polska TV represents a more liberal viewership, airing news more critical of the Catholic Church, such as coverage of the priest sex abuse crisis.

    Shares in the television market in Poland in 2013 (source: Truszek, Wikimedia Commons).

    Sakalli looked at areas of the country where each network had the most viewers and found that religious participation increased in places where TVN was strong and there was no alternative media, while decreasing in areas where Polska TV was dominant. Sakalli said that in general secularization had been gradually increasing in Poland before 2015, but there has been a reversal in these areas of populist media coverage. To test the relationship between the media and religiosity, Sakalli ran an experiment where subjects were exposed to both populist and independent media, which featured videos critical of the church. Those exposed to the independent media decreased their trust in the church and reported lower donations and participation in Mass. The experimental effects were strongest among rural populations, he noted.