In addition to the political divide, there is also an age gap between those supportive of a more important role for religion. In 10 of the countries surveyed, older adults (over the age of 50) favor an increased role for religion at notably higher rates than younger adults (between 18 and 29).
While a minority of people in the US and around the world voice opposition to an increased role for religion in society, considerably more believe the importance of religion in their countries is indeed on the decline.
A median of 37 percent say religion plays a less important role in their countries today than it did 20 years ago, while 27 percent of respondents say religion now plays a more important role. (About 1 in 5 say there has been no change.)
Countries around the world differ sharply in the perceived rise or fall of the importance of religion in the last two decades. For instance, only a fraction of the populations of Spain (7%) and Japan (8%) say religion has grown in importance. The trend is the reverse in Muslim-majority Indonesia where, as noted above, 83 percent of people agree that religion has taken on new importance in society.
The recent Indonesian election proves the point, as first results appear to have returned President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to another term in power, this time with a 76-year-old Muslim cleric as his running mate. Political and religious conservatism is on the rise in the Southeast Asian nation, the fourth-most populous country in the world, where the Christian former governor of Jakarta, popularly known as Ahok, was only recently released from prison after serving a two-year prison sentence on charges of blasphemy.
Also in the Global South, large percentages of respondents in the Philippines (58%), as well as Nigeria (65%) and India (54%) noted above, believe religion impacts their lives and societies more now than it did two decades ago. Notably, strong majorities in each of these countries also say religion is very important in their personal lives.
In the West, people in North America and Europe are very likely to say religion’s role in society has diminished in the last 20 years. In the US, nearly 6 in 10 (58%) say religion plays a less important role in the country than it did at the turn of the century. About half of Europeans (52%) say the same of their own countries.
The study also found that most people believe diversity and gender equality have increased in their nations over the past 20 years while family ties have weakened significantly. About 1 in 5 believe there has been no change on these aspects of society. Opinions were less divided than on the religion questions.
Pew researchers concluded that “people are strongly in favor of increased gender equality but share more tepid enthusiasm for increased ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. And despite secularization trends, most across the 27 countries surveyed do not oppose a more important role for religion in their society.”
Countries surveyed include the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Italy, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.