July Religion & Politics Tracking Survey
Overall, Americans report limited use of technology for religious purposes, both inside and outside of worship services.
- Nearly half (45%) of Americans report using Facebook at least a few times a week, but few Americans incorporate technology into their practice of worship. Among Americans who attend religious services at least a few times a year, roughly 1-in-10 (11%) report posting status updates on their Facebook page or other social networking site about being in church. Ten percent of Americans report that they have used a cell phone to take pictures or record video during worship, and 7% say they have sent or read email during services.
- Outside of religious services, most Americans are not relying on technology to connect to religious leaders and institutions or to generally practice their faith. Thirteen percent of Americans say they have downloaded a podcast of a sermon or listened to a sermon online. Fewer than 1-in-10 Americans report following a religious or spiritual leader on Twitter or Facebook (5%) or joining a religious or spiritual group on Facebook (6%).
White evangelical Protestants are significantly more likely than other major religious groups to use technology for religious purposes.
- Nearly 1-in-5 white evangelical Protestants (19%) report having posted a status update on their Facebook page or other social networking site about being in church, compared to 6% of white mainline Protestants and 2% of Catholics.
- One-quarter of white evangelical Protestants say they have downloaded a podcast of a sermon or listened to a sermon online, compared to fewer than 1-in-10 white mainline Protestants and Catholics (6% each).White evangelical Protestants are also more likely than white mainline Protestants or Catholics to report that their church uses technology or social media.
- Four-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say that their church has an active Facebook page or website where people interact, compared to 29% of white mainline Protestants and 13% of Catholics.
- Nearly half (49%) of white evangelical Protestants and about 4-in-10 (39%) white mainline Protestants say their church uses television or multimedia screens during worship services, compared to 11% of Catholics.
Younger Americans are much more likely than older Americans to use technology and social media for religious purposes.
- Overall, younger Americans are significantly more likely than older Americans to use social media networks like Facebook. Nearly 4-in-10 (37%) younger Americans (age 18-34) say they use Facebook several times a day, while about 6-in-10 (59%) seniors (age 65 and up) say they never use Facebook.
- Younger Americans are also more likely than older Americans to report that they use social media during worship services, or to say that they connect with their pastor or other religious leaders and institutions via social media.
- Younger Americans are significantly more likely than older Americans to report following a religious or spiritual leader on Twitter or Facebook (9% vs. 1%), or to say they have joined a religious or spiritual group on Facebook (10% vs. 1%). Younger Americans are more than twice as likely to say that they have downloaded a podcast of a sermon or listened to a sermon online (17% vs. 8%).
- Younger Americans are also much more likely than older Americans to have sent or read emails during a worship service (16% vs. 3%), posted status updates on Facebook or other social networking sites about being in church (16% v. 3%) or used a cell phone to take pictures or record video during a worship service (20% v. 3%).
- Younger Americans are also more likely to report that their congregations use and encourage the use of social media and technology.
- More than 1-in-5 (22%) younger Americans say their religious leader uses Twitter or Facebook regularly, compared to 10% of older Americans.
- More than 1-in-4 (26%) younger Americans say that their church or place of worship encourages them to use social media to post photos or share information with others, compared to 9% of older Americans
- Close to 4-in-10 (36%) younger Americans say that their church or place of worship has an active Facebook page or website where people interact, compared to 19% of older Americans.
- Four-in-ten (40%) younger Americans say their church or place of worship uses television or multimedia screens during worship services, compared to 23% of older Americans.
When asked how they characterize their religious identity on Facebook, Americans are most likely to say they identify simply as “Christian.”
- Among Americans who use Facebook, half (50%) say they do not describe their religious beliefs at all on their Facebook profile. One-in-five (20%) Americans say that their religious identity on Facebook is “Christian,” while 9% identify as Catholic, 8% identify as another Protestant denomination, 6% identify as “something else,” and 4% identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular.
- White evangelical Protestants (53%) are more likely than white mainline Protestants (32%), the religiously unaffiliated (8%), and Catholics (3%) to identify simply as “Christian” on Facebook.
The survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between July 25, 2012 and July 29, 2012 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,026 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (312 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. In addition to sampling error, surveys may also be subject to error or bias due to question wording, context and order effects.
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