According to a massive new report from the Pew Research Center that queried more than 30,000 people across 27 countries, almost three times as many Americans say they would view “a more important role for religion” in the US as a positive change (51%) versus a negative change (18%).
In general, that sentiment is shared around the globe—at the same rate. Across all countries surveyed, a median of 39 percent of respondents favor religion becoming more important in society, while only 13 percent oppose it.
Only 5 of the 27 countries surveyed have populations in which those opposed to religion playing a more important role outnumber those in favor. All 5 are in Europe: Sweden (51%), France (47%), the Netherlands (45%), Germany (35%), and Spain (38%), where an openly atheist prime minister was elected last year amid concerns over his vows to remove religious symbolism from institutions and religion from school curriculums.
In the African nations of Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Tunisia, along with other countries in the global south such as Indonesia and Brazil, the idea of religion gaining more importance in society is viewed favorably by large majorities of the population.
“The vast majority of Nigerian Muslims (88%) are in favor of a more important role for religion, while a smaller majority of Christians (61%) say the same,” stated researchers. “However, it’s important to note that roughly a quarter of Christian respondents (26%) say there has been no change in the relative importance of religion in Nigeria, compared with 5% of Nigerian Muslims.”
With religious tensions and restrictions continuing to rise worldwide, as analyzed by Pew, this latest report offers a window into how citizens in affected nations feel about religion gaining prominence.
Nigeria, where approximately half the population identifies as Christian, is ranked No. 12 on the 2019 World Watch List (WWL), a report from Open Doors ranking the countries where it is most dangerous to be a follower of Jesus. A full 65 percent of all Nigerians say religion is gaining importance in their country, and 74 percent favor it taking on an even greater role.
In India, ranked No. 10 on the WWL and where Christians comprise less than 5 percent of the population, half of all Indians say religion has grown more prominent in their society (54%) and half favor its continued rise (53%).
Indonesia may present the starkest case. Ranked No. 30 on the WWL, 83 percent of all Indonesians say religion has taken on more importance in the last 20 years. Only 6 percent say religion has faded. In the island nation, 85 percent want religion to continue to ascend to a more prominent place, the greatest percentage of any nation measured. Only 4 percent would like to see religion in society scaled back.
Especially in North America, Europe, and Australia, whether or not people want to see religion take on a more significant role in society is strongly linked with another social factor: political ideology.
Americans who identify as somewhat or very conservative, for instance, are 42 percentage points more likely that left-leaning Americans to favor an increased role for religion in society. That is by far the largest political divide between the political right and left across all countries measured.